Pixar, Tornados and Rattlesnakes

Red Rocks

I’ve recently returned from North America, where I spent much of June touring with Peter Gabriel and his New Blood Orchestra. A mighty multimedia production featuring cover versions (from the 2010 album Scratch My Back) by the likes of David Bowie, Paul Simon and Arcade Fire alongside PG’s own back catalogue, all arranged by the ridiculously talented John Metcalfe (of Duke Quartet and Duretti Column fame). A 48 piece band fronted by many of London finest musicians was conducted by Ben Foster, with vocals provided by the amazing voice of PG, daughter Melanie and Ane Brun.

After arriving late in San Francisco, many of us spent our first morning as guests of Andrew Stanton (writer and director of Finding Nemo and WALL-E) at Pixar Studios.  We were treated to a behind the scenes tour to see how the 1,200 strong production company lives and works, visiting two ‘Alice in Wonderland’ rooms along the way - revealing cocktail bars behind a tiny door that required crawling to enter and a James Bond style revolving bookcase.  When I next have my office renovated I am going to call Pixar!

We kicked off the 12 date tour at the Greek Theater, Berkeley and as the video screen ascended to reveal the audience, an overpowering smell of local herb greeted us. We bused on to the Santa Barbara Bowl, which has a nifty Fred Flintstone/Bedrock style finish to it, before heading to Denver (the mile high city), for my first experience of Red Rocks a natural amphitheatre set on the edge of the rockies. This venue was first used back in the early 1900’s and has since played host to the biggest names in rock n roll. A small group of us spent the morning climbing up into the hills, for a truly sensational panoramic view of Denver. After a slightly nervous decent, led by our intrepid cellist, Caroline Dale we reached the venue again, where we were greeted by four park wardens, who had been watching us for sometime. It appears we missed a sign, went off the beaten track and should have realised that we were in the land of rattlesnakes, mountain lions and bears!  The gig that night was ‘awesome’, and our first set was accompanied by a huge thunderstorm.


On to Texas, for consecutive shows in Dallas and Houston, where the temperature was 100 and rising. Texas had the most entertaining hotels of our trip; a glitzy downtown spot in Dallas where the ladies were enhanced and the martinis were best served poolside, followed by a country club where you caught yourself a ride on a golf buggy to get to your room - I’ve never been to centre parks but I am guessing there are similarities.

We headed north for more great gigs in Kansas City and Chicago, where we were then stranded as five tornado warnings, a closed control tower and tannoy announcements asking us to stand away from the windows, stopped us from flying to Toronto, missing PG’s party (he got crew but no musicians) and our planned journey to Niagara Falls. After shows in Toronto and Boston, where my local technician was Nexus’ (legendary percussion group) road manager and greeted by Neil Grover (who made me some amazing new tambourines for this tour) we headed for Philadelphia by Amtrack, which gave us our only brief glimpse of New York as we headed south through Brooklyn.

Two new arrangements had been added to this (the fourth, New Blood) tour Biko – PG’s telling of Stephen Biko, leader of the black consciousness movement in South Africa, who died in police custody in 1977 – which closed the first set throughout the tour, and Secret World which was added for the first time in Philly. Both had plenty of drums in, but still no drum kit.

The tour finished with shows in the tiny town of Saratoga Springs, up state New York and headlining the opening night of Milwaukee’s summer festival, to our largest audience of 20,000. Another tour finished, and thanks to the hardest working crew we made it across this amazing country without hitch. As we traveled I found myself recalling Jack Kerouac’s descriptions of these great cities from On the Road, and can’t wait to be back in the US early next year for more adventures.

Your comments

I can’t believe you actually witnessed pixar’s brilliant works! I want to check them out too. I’m a pixar fanatic and having to spend some time with the director himself of Wall-E is fantastic. I sure wish I could have the experience as well.

By Rosie Yeoman on

Dude, you did really a good job and hopefully I’m impressed through your journey sharing. Posted picture seems to me also marvelous so that I appreciate you a lot.

By Mark Waugh on

Leave a comment

* Indicates a required field

Comment form

Please enter the word you see in the image below: *