Matthew Sullivan’s final blog post from London, sweet London. We believe more pints are drank, more bangers and mash consumed.
Matthew, please, take it away.
Woke up early and jet lag is about gone. Outside – rainy like Seattle and peaceful. Opened the boat hatch to see a family of tiny ducks swimming on by. This place is like heaven. Started the morning right with a fresh pot of tea brewed by Martin. Learned that a good brew consists of “one tea bag per person plus a fourth for the pot” while Martin and Hazel debated how long to brew – “5 minutes” (Hazel) or “10 minutes” (Martin).. It was a battle. Being American and not knowing my tea, I kept quiet.
We walked down to Camden Market – checked out some over priced records, nice smelling fried food, and some giant robot statue (kinda like a 20 foot Robocop). Time flew by so headed for the tube and grabbed a prosciuto sandwich. The tube was all f’d up – no trains heading east and I tried jumping on the Northern Line but went the wrong way, turned around, and got off at King’s Cross. Picked up a copy of Time Out London with a glowing preview of tonight’s show! The guy at the newstand pointed me to the #63 bus which was packed due to the tube madness. Climbed on board and met some locals who helped a brotha out. Brits really are some of the nicest people on the planet. Finally hit Rodriguez’s hotel. He looked great. Big smile and a fresh haircut (“I invited the hairdresser to the show, she’s bringing her husband once she finds a babysitter. Do you have an extra CD for her!” Me: “of course!). The dood is an angel. We grabbed his guitar and hit the taxi for the Barbican and sound check!
Met Chris, Charlie, and Allison who run the Barbican and they kindly filled us in on the history of the place – built on a piece of land that was heavily bombed by the Nazis around ’41. Years later, the city decided to make an artist center as a gift to the city – multiple concert halls, film theaters, museums… Impressive spot. Kinda like a beautiful concrete jungle. Hard to imagine.
Sound check went well but I ended up missing most of it. Rodriguez pulled me aside asking for one big favor – if I could rush out and grab some roses so he could say thanks to his daughter, Tinku, and Allison. I wandered on out and found a flower shop in a local mall. Grabbed the roses and quickly split. Charlie, thanks for the help with the flowers. I woulda been up shit creek without your mad flower skills.
We chilled for a bit, pizza with Will at In House Press and his super cool girlfriend Amra. Will works at a brilliant Manchester based pr company who handle the UK publicity for many of our releases – Rodriguez, Monks, Stephen John Kalinich, Black Angles… In the past 9 months, Will lined up more Rodriguez press than humanly imagineable – MOJO, Uncut, Guardian, Independent on Sunday, Evening Standard, Time Out London, Dazed and Confused, Record Collector, Shindig, the Observer Music Monthly… There’s nothing even left. The guy is a madman, incredible publicist and one of my favorite people on the planet. He gives crap directions if you’re lost though so stick to your map. Before the pizza hit the table, I realized that I needed more flowers so found the coolest cab driver – nice man from Bangladesh who has been in London for 20 years. He drove like the wind and finally found an open Sainsbury’s grocery store. Got the goods and we took off for pizza time. We chowed down on Will’s favorite, Hawaiian Pineapple (good stuff and recommended for LOST season finales).
Looked at the time and it was 730 so we grabbed another black cab and hit the venue. Worked out the merch – thanks to Harry from our uk distro SRD for bringing the CDs. Fujiya and Miyagi were playing at 815 and sadly I missed their full set, running around like a psychopath. Called Regan to check in. Rodriguez was chilling at the hotel before the big gig, thinking he had until 935 while actually scheduled for 905. They rushed on down. At the venue, we nervously paced but in classic Rodriguez fashion you never know what to expect, other than spontaniety. Gotta love it. And the man ends up playing one of the greatest gigs of his life. Incredible turn out. Before he came on, the crowd was screaming, cheering him on. The vibe was out of this world. The man walks on stage and everyone goes absolutely mental. He grabs the mic, says thank you to Regan, Tinku, and Allison who come out and grab the flowers. Allison hid under a table backstage so her co-worker wandered out and picked up the flowers.
The show kicked off with “Can’t Get Away”, a bonus cut on the Coming From Reality reissue. Magical! I felt like I was about to start bawling like a baby but these are tears of joy, matey. I have never heard Rodriguez’s voice sound so perfect in a live setting. Literally just like the fucking record! He played them all… “Like Janis”, “Forget It”, “Inner City Blues”, “I Wonder”, “Sugar Man”… And a few with some killer live horns – London based guys Jimmy, Sid, and Harry – true professionals. “Crucify Your Mind” was especially gorgeous. Really dug the drummer of the band as well. I spent most of the show either screaming or drooling with my mouth open. I think people were blown away that a man well into his 60s who recorded these songs 40 years ago was still this good. He ended up busting out two encores, including a Duke Ellington cover (I asked Rodriguez the name of the song but he couldn’t remember. Will find out though). Fantastic cover! The crowd gave him an enormous standing ovation. Truly a beautiful moment.
Backstage was the usual good times – smoke, drink and plenty of smiles. Met Juan from !K7 and Quinton at Strut – nice guys. Tried heading back to the hotel bar but we got horribly lost. Finally found the hotel and hotel bar. In the bar, Rodriguez played a few songs with friend and fan Paolo Nutini. Bar closed so we all headed upstairs to hang out. More insanity ensued until 430 or so. 6 hours later, Rodriguez and Regan flew back home to Detroit for a quick break before he lands at Sea-Tac airport in 2 weeks. Cannot fucking wait. Well, we headed back to the boat, listened to some records, ate some toast and slept like a rock.
What a fucking night! Still reeling from it all and so thankful I flew out. Tempted to somehow get back for his UK summer festival appearances at Green Man and Big Chill.