It's been a while since the last blog, and a few things have happened in the interim. Our road trip around Blighty took a brief detour across the... hmm, if the States are "across the pond", where's France? "Across the stream"? "Athwart the creek"? Sorry, it doesn't do to digress so early. Basically we decamped to Paris for a week of TV appearances and a show at The Zenith.
The first bit of promo was pretty surreal. We actually have a really great team in Parlophone France, and we trust them to book us for promotional performances appropriately. On this occasion however we arrived at the TV studio to discover we had been booked to play a cookery show. Ok, why not? What could go wrong on a cookery show? We walked onset to find our trusty crew Ian, Andy and Brucey looking worried.
None of the backline -drums, amps etc- had arrived, and the show was going live in two hours. The last band to play the show had mimed, and there was still a crappy drumkit in the studio, with deadened drum heads and silent cymbals designed for such appearances. Brucey, in a moment of inspiration, stopped the TV crew from removing the kit and equipped it with real drum heads and cymbals. Creative manoeuvre, but the kit still sounded awful. They managed to source some amps last minute, but these too were crappy. Better than nothing of course, and I marvelled with a mixture of amusement and anxiety at the guys' resourcefulness. Time quickly ran out though and we didn't get to soundcheck. Adding to the oddness, the little stage they crammed us onto was inches away from the table where the guests were enjoying the results of the cookery, and some TV-land whimsical chat. Then, during the wine and cheese, unceremoniously bundled on we proceeded to massacre Nothing Comes To Nothing. The makeshift drumkit and improvised amplifiers were insanely loud. I think I saw the glazing in one guest's eyeglasses crack. Dear viewers, we present Babyshambles. An aid to digestion.
A few more bits of French telly followed over the next few days, most notably a great show called Taratata, hosted by the charismatic Nagui. For whatever reason, the programme has just become an entirely online show, and the edition we played was the internet-only premiere. This apparently was a big deal, and Parlophone France were delighted they asked us to play. We've played this show before, its a bit like a French ...Later with Jools Holland. Filmed in the round, its odd because each band member is placed on a different spot in the studio. I'm surprised such a cool and popular show has become an Internet only entity, not least because its still being filmed in the same huge television studio, and the production hasn't been downsized at all. No one here seems to think the change is a bad thing though. A sign of things to come?
It was fun spending a few days in the city with the band; we revisited a few of the haunts we became familiar with earlier this year while recording the album, traversing the metropolis by foot- Adam and Stephen weren't too keen on my suggestion of using Velib, the Parisian Bikeshare system. Citing the Jazz approach to driving the traffic here seems to favour as the main deterrent, I quickly agreed. The last thing we need right now is another bike-car incident. Besides the usual parks and galleries, during our walks we found a wonderful art space called 104. Described as a 'space for artistic creation', it occupies a vast 19th-century building on the rue d'Aubervilliers that used to house Paris's municipal undertakers. Spooky. The site was saved from developers by Roger Madec, the mayor of the 19th, who's made its renovation the centrepiece of a massive project of cultural and urban renewal. As far as I could make out, artists here are allowed to develop any kind of work, on the understanding that the space they are making or rehearsing it in will be open to the public eye. What a great idea! The fruits of their work are then shown at one of four annual 'festivals' held in the space. The day we went we saw some actors rehearse a play, alongside three girls practicing what looked like a fusion of acrobatic contortion and interpretative dance. At the other end of the atrium professional skateboarders slugged at cans of larger and glided around bizarrely shaped quarter pipes and funboxes: a mini skatepark that looked like it had been build by MC Escher.
The show at The Zenith went well, though everyone was more nervous than usual. This wasn't helped by a last minute problem with one of the guitars, delaying the show by 20 minutes. As always with pre-gig butterflies though, as soon as the first chord was played we relaxed and enjoyed ourselves. There were a few surprises, namely Dust On The Road, a duet with Céline Cipolat, one of Peter's ballerinas. Celine was later joined by her partner Octavie Escure, and the pair pirouetted around us when we opened the encore with another surprise addition, For Lovers. The latter included a beautiful extended piano intro by Stephen, an impulsive suggestion of Peter's, seconds before we went back on. Whether this was spontaneous artistic muse or an excuse for Peter to finish his cigarette we'll no doubt never know, but it was definitely a moment. Stephen wasn't the only one thrown a curveball- Peter sprung Unbilo-Titled and There She Goes (A Little Heartache) on us, neither of which Adam had ever played before. Why not try them for the first time in front of four thousand French fans? To his infinite credit Adam played them near perfectly, thanks in part to a secret code of gestures we've developed. I could go into these, but that would be telling, wouldn't it?
The next morning I said goodbye to the gang and flew to Gothenburg, where I spent a couple of days exploring on my own. I DJ'd a night there called Modern Lovers, and met and spoke to many drunken Swedes. I enjoyed Gothenburg, with its trams, bike lanes and salted liquorice. Also Fever Ray is from there, so its actually hallowed ground.
Tomorrow we pick the tour back up in Sheffield. Tonight we're all going to watch Peds play a solo acoustic set at the Brixton Jamm, then jumping on the bus to The Steel City. The Leadmill is definitely a more natural environment for us than a French cookery show.