I am writing this sitting by the pool at our hotel in Mexico (fully clothed – it is a cloudy day), four hours before preparing to leave for the airport and return to my wonderful new (half-restored) home. A peaceful moment in which to reflect on a very successful tour. A few quick observations :
i) The band at the end of the tour is not the same one that began it.
I have witnessed a few moments in the growth of this band. In Japan 2015, I noted that it had a quality that raised it “above like and dislike”. Great artists – or indeed great players in any field – transcend such subjective judgement. In the presence of Charlie Parker, Mingus or Coltrane, it surely would have been irrelevant that “I don’t like jazz”, even if you are unable to understand the exact vocabulary they are using. Crimson moved forward again in Europe last year, and came of age at the first show in Mexico. When Robert first formed this band, I suggested to him that (with one proviso) this would become a classic line-up and one of the most popular Crimsons ever. Until now, that has remained my personal opinion. In Mexico, it seemed that it ceased to be a matter of opinion and has become more like a matter of fact.
ii) I am appallingly unsuited to touring.
What madness possessed me to suggest that I would come on tour!? At the start the stage manager, Jason Birnie told me that many sane people go mad after three weeks. Bill Rieflin told me that everyone believes that they will have down-time to do other things (edit future releases, write a new Vicar book). But just touring is all you can do. Thankfully, my daughter Iona who arranges the Royal Package has also accompanied the tour, which has made this a very special time. Daughters are also very blunt with their fathers when they start twitching and talking to themselves! Despite the above, I have no doubt that this is the right place for me at present – and will be doing the Royal Package throughout the autumn leg.
The last week in Mexico City has been reinvigorating. Having an extended stay in one place means that many of us have had the chance to escape the bubble and visit the national art gallery, the palace, the cathedral, the museum of Anthropology, The Picasso/Rivera exhibition, as well as a day at the Teotihuacan pyramids. The fans gathered round the hotel are extraordinarily passionate, but mostly respectful. The music of King Crimson has a huge resonance here: the promoter told me that we sold almost twice as many tickets as Bruce Springsteen (although perhaps “Born in the USA” is not the perfect song at present). On the second night, we had one remaining unclaimed ticket in the second row. Having decided that we should give it to a fan in one of the less good seats at the back of the balcony, I climbed up there (almost in need of an oxygen tank), and was surprised by the number of women who had come alone – although I realised that I could hardly walk up to a woman, ask her if she was alone, and offer to give her a better seat right down the front… So I needed to choose a solitary man. I made my choice more difficult by deciding that I would pick someone who was not wearing a bootleg T-shirt, which excluded 90% of the available candidates, but I eventually made someone’s day. The last two shows did not quite sell-out – they were rammed in the cheaper seats at the back, but there were a few spaces in the more expensive seats near the front. So Santa Claus, in the form of our promoter and agent, made a few people’s day (which reminds me that there was a rumour on the tour bus that Clint Eastwood had died, an example of either fake news or divorced reality – I have only now checked and discovered he remains firmly with us). Time to go home!