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by Simon Bell

Part One

I had originally intended to call this article the Gluhwein, Grappa and Red Bull tour but as events unfolded it became apparent that to have four different line-ups on one tour was unique even to the Shortlist, and for obvious reasons it became ‘The Tale Of Four Shortlists’.

After spending most of a hugely enjoyable summer acting as part-time roadie to full-time raconteur and drummer par excellence Henry Spinetti I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to attempt the whole three week European tour during November/December and so after some manipulating of holidays, phone calls to Germany to check if Detlef (Ted) Schampera was doing the tour in his camper van and the best wishes of a very understanding family, I travelled down to Dover on November 27th to meet up with Simon Grocott (the real roadie and all-round decent bloke) and we set off in the equipment van for Aschaffenburg. After a long trip across Belgium and Germany we arrived in Aschaffenburg early on the morning of 28th November. Finding the hotel wasn’t the problem, finding a room was. Apparently the rooms were booked from 12 o’clock on the 28th and not from the 27th as was required by the advance party. After driving across Europe for 12 hours Simon was not in a mood to sit in the van until 12 o’clock so we took a double room and left it to Bernie the tour manager to sort the matter out the following day.

Aschaffenburg as I have mentioned in previous articles is one of my favourite towns and the Colos-Saal is probably my all time favourite venue. And so after meeting up with Detlef and spending some time looking around the town, which mainly consisted of sampling the delights (i.e. Gluhwein) it was soon time to get the gear into the Colos-Saal. On the trip over Simon had asked me if I would take care of certain things during the shows as he had five guitars, a fiddle and a mandolin to tune and as such he didn’t have time to attend to the dressing room environment, towels, set lists, onstage drinks, Rogers bag and song book etc. He explained it would be a great help if I would take care of these things for him. But most importantly don’t forget to tape up Roger's microphone as he has a tendency to pull the mic lead out of the mic.

The load in was hassle free and the equipment was in place and ready for a reasonably trouble free soundcheck. The band decided that they couldn’t have two Simon’s in the crew so for the duration of the tour I would go by the name of ‘Fred’. After the soundcheck it was time for a brief kip in the dressing room and the long wait for the show.

Now putting some tape around Roger’s microphone may seem to be a simple enough task but nobody actually told me which kind of tape to use or the quantity, and so in my desire to make the mic secure I stuck it on with a couple of twists of gaffer tape, little did I know that bollocking number one was heading my way. The band ambled onstage and kicked off, Simon immediately gestured to me that something was wrong with the mic, I couldn’t see what the problem was as I was sitting stage right congratulating myself on getting the lads onstage reasonably smoothly for my first gig. I stuck my head around the curtain for a better view and I could see Roger attempting to get the tape off the mic whilst hurling a stream of abuse towards the totally innocent Simon. A local Frankfurt area TV station that was filming the first couple of numbers as a news item captured all this. I spent the entire gig trying to be helpful and hope that after an excellent show Roger would forget my error. Which he did, until the following day when he aimed a comment my way, not an insult but just enough to let me know that the incident hadn’t been forgotten.

After a sound nights sleep in Ted’s camper van we spent the day travelling down to Austria for the following nights show in Worgl. What kind of a place was Worgl? well it is a ski resort with nice architecture, a nice Italian restaurant and snow, lots of snow. The show itself was in a modern theatre called the Komma. Again it was an easy load in and after a short soundcheck we partook of the hospitality of the theatre manager who informed us that he was our ‘gofer’ but as there was little or no ‘gofering’ to be done he settled down and practised his English.

Worgl, (Austria), Komma / 30.11.01

Set: No Mules Fool, Slow Down/Cat Called Kokomo, Kiss My Soul, Downbound Train, Moth To A Flame, Prisoner, Weavers Answer, Habits Of A Lifetime, 18 Wheels And A Crowbar, ‘X’-Town.

Encore: Oh Brother, Shank/Toenail Draggin’, Shortlist.
Encore: Jesus And The Devil, Midnite Child.

Opening with ‘No Mules Fool’, and an explanation that “it’s because the album does, but we usually don’t”. Roger greeted a sizeable crowd. After easing through a couple of numbers the band went up a couple of gears and Henry Spinetti drove the band through ‘Downbound Train’. Now I have to admit that I find Henry’s playing on this number totally absorbing (the rest of his playing is not that bad either) and I have sat night after night watching him keeping time with that infectious beat. I had asked him how he would describe the beat ”It’s just a shuffle” is his response, yeah Henry it’s just a shuffle! Tonight he drives them even harder, Gary Twigg, eyes closed, almost leaning against his bass cabinet responds and pushes harder, Roger drops a vocal in when and where he thinks fit. This song is always the high spot of the set and tonight’s version is no exception. “He’s a prat but his songs are good,” remarks Roger on the merits of Chuck Berry. ‘Prisoner’ with slightly extended sax solos at the start and a disjointed chorus was followed by ‘Weavers Answer’, which with Ian Gibbons customary excellent keyboards really rocked and drew great applause from the crowd. ‘Habits’ or was it ‘Hobbits Of A Lifetime’ was introduced by some excellent mandolin playing from Steve during the intro. The tempo of ’18 Wheels’ was too slow (as it would be for a couple of shows) although the slower tempo suited the vocal, especially on an impromptu acapella passage towards the end, but not the song in general. A lively version of ‘X’-Town with excellent sax from Andy brought the set to a close and the band exited the stage to generous applause.

The first encore consisted of ‘Oh Brother’, ‘Shank/Toenail Draggin’ and ‘Shortlist’; all were well received by the crowd with ‘Shank’ really getting the crowd moving. During ‘Shortlist’ Chappo adds the line “Nobody gets out of Worgl alive” whilst pointing to some fans who were dancing on the tables much to the annoyance of the theatre staff. The second encore of ‘J&D’ and ‘Midnite Child’ was notable as ever for Steve’s fiddle playing and Roger tripping over one of Henry’s cymbal stands and landing centre stage on his backside. Good humour prevails and Roger asks the crowd “just what do they call you lot, Worglers? Worglites? Worglanders?” “No they’re Riffworglers” intones Steve “Yeah they’re Riffworglers alright” agrees Chappo as the band rock to the end of an excellent show with ‘Midnite Child’.

The load out was swift and easy and Detlef and myself returned to our van to get cleaned up, then it’s a short walk to the hotel and a few beers with the lads. It was there that I learned of the death of George Harrison and as a mark of respect we drank a toast to the memory of George. It was at this hotel that I was introduced to the delights of grappa, a fiery drink made (I am led to understand) from grape skins, one glass and I was hooked, unfortunately when Simon called round with the van the following morning I was still hooked and spent the journey to Winterbach trying to keep my head very still.

The Winterbach gig at the Schulturnhalle is part of a ‘cultural initiative’ set up some ten years ago by a group of guys who wanted to bring rock music to Winterbach, they all put a sum of money in the hat and booked a hall and a band, the rest as they say is history. This would be the Shortlist’s second appearance at this festival. A large crowd packed the hall to hear the band play a great set which bore little resemblance to the one on the set lists so diligently placed by yours truly. The show opened with support from Hazy & The Baby Dolls, which was a bit of a suspect name for four guys. Once onstage you could see why, a couple of these guys including Mr Hazy were definitely on the other bus. Still, they certainly warmed up the audience with a repertoire based around blues standards and comedic interludes from Mr Hazy who wielded a plastic chainsaw and inflatable guitars. They may have been suspect but at least they were entertaining.

Winterbach, (D), Sculturnhalle / 01.12.01

Set: Slow Down/Cat Called Kokomo, Kiss My Soul, Downbound Train, Moth To A Flame, Prisoner, Weavers Answer, Habits Of A Lifetime, 18 Wheels And A Crowbar, ‘X’-Town.

Encore: Oh Brother, Shank/Toenail Draggin’

Encore: Jesus And The Devil, Bye Bye Love, Midnite Child, Shortlist.

‘Slow Down/Cat’, ‘Kiss’ and ‘Downbound Train’ were all outstanding versions although it was evident that the front of house soundman was having an off night. What had been an excellent sound at the soundcheck was now just a muddy sounding mixture of vocals, bass and drums. In fact Andy’s solo on ‘Moth’ sounded as though he was playing in the car park via a long hollow tube. To further annoy the paying public both the keyboards and sax were lost on ‘Prisoner’. Fortunately the onstage sound was excellent and as I had grown tired of watching Andy’s cheeks bulge out but not hear any sound I decided to take up a position onstage behind the monitor mix engineer where the sound was much better.

At the beginning of ’18 Wheels’ the rhythm section decided to play a strange tempo that had Ian and Steve baffled so they just held back and waited for a change to come, it did and they got onboard, for a couple of bars it sounded more like ’17 Wheels In A Lay-by’.

It was at this show that I was in receipt of bollocking number two. During the brief interval between the set and the encore I nipped into the dressing room to check that all was well, which it was except that Roger told me he needed more towels in the dressing room following the encore. OK more towels, more towels at 23.30 on a Saturday night in a small German town! As the band went back onstage for ‘Oh Brother’ and ‘Shank’ I sought out the concert promoter who looked at me as if I was totally insane; obviously he hadn’t got any more towels. By now the band had completed the first encore and were going back for a second encore which included of a knock ‘em dead version of ‘J&D’, an impromptu ‘Bye Bye Love’ complete with a mobile phone ringing on the stage, and the perfect parting shot, an acapella rendition of ‘Shortlist’ with Roger gesturing to the band to leave the strange as it’s now time to drink. In desperation I sought out Bernie the tour manager, “towels Simon! not a chance”, no joy there then; OK do we have a cunning plan? Yes, keep out of the dressing room and the problem will go away, and indeed it did until Roger sought me out and asked where his extra towels were, rather than argue the point I took bollocking number two.

Thankfully Ted had the camper van parked outside the hall, so we were able to partake of the hospitality of the good people of Winterbach without having to stagger too far afterwards. The following day was to be yet another early start for the long trek down to Switzerland for the show in Pratteln.

Pratteln, (CH), Z7 / 02.12.01

Set: Slow Down/Cat Called Kokomo, Kiss My Soul, Downbound Train, No Mules Fool, Prisoner, Weavers Answer, Habits Of A Lifetime, 18 Wheels And A Crowbar, ‘X’-Town.

Encore: Oh Brother, Shank/Shortlist.

Encore: Jesus And The Devil.

Now although Pratteln is only a stones throw from the border you still have to pay for a vignette (toll) if you wish to drive on the motorway, so after having to stand and deliver to Switzerland’s very own state financed Dick Turpin we were again on our way.

The Z7 on the first impression didn’t look very promising; it was a huge graffiti covered building situated down what looked like muggers alley. Once inside it was quickly apparent that this venue was more used to thrash metal bands or whatever they now call themselves. On the plus side the facilities were excellent, a big stage, excellent PA, helpful staff and a washing machine and tumble dryer. After completing the soundcheck and having a cooked meal in the backstage area the band adjourned to the hotel. Whilst they were away I used the time to do my laundry, I was still sorting out my smalls when the band came back and quickly went onstage. I have done many things at a Chappo gig but I had never done my laundry, still there is a first time for everything.

The gig itself was not one of the bands finest. They played to a crowd of about 50 in a venue that could easily accommodate 3000. Roger was suffering from a throat infection and struggling to hit notes over the whole range of his voice, but it was a measure of the togetherness of the band that all the members did their best to compensate for Chappo’s enforced lacklustre performance. On ‘Cat Called Kokomo’ Ian, Henry and Andy turned in fine individual performances in an attempt to cover for their boss.

The start of ‘Kiss’ was disjointed and eventually Roger called for the band to stop and sort the tempo out. The problem seemed to stem from Henry’s inability to keep to the agreed tempo, which was surprising as he uses an electronic metronome, which he programmes for each song on a basis of BPM (Beats Per Minute). The information is noted on his own set list. The problem is soon overcome and the song suffers no further problems. A surprisingly lazy version of ‘Downbound Train’ follows, it’s just a run through really, there is no point forcing Roger into a vocally tight corner, again it’s the Shortlist mentality that pervades all. ‘No Mules Fool’ gets an airing and again it’s easy paced, except for Andy’s solo that really lifts the number. In fact Andy is dropping in fills in all manner of ‘different’ places, obviously this is to give Chappo some breathing space.

Quite why Roger even attempted ‘Weaver’ is a mystery, he was never going to be able to sing the high notes and by the end of the number he was in serious need of some respite, which came in the shape of ‘Hobbits’ with Steve Simpson taking every opportunity to stretch a solo, drop in a fill or provide a foil for Roger. It was during this number that I decided to go for a stroll around the Z7 (I jest not, you could have played a full 22 man game of football in the empty space) and I was intrigued to find that Steve’s mandolin was registering 102 on the decibel counter on the back wall. At the end I half expected Roger to announce “Steve Simpson on thrash metal mandolin” as the PA was that loud.

Surprisingly they encored twice the second encore being a lively version of ‘J&D’ with Steve fiddling away madly. At the end Roger thanked the crowd and remarked, “that they could all go home now, on the same bus!” I managed to escape the gig and withdraw to the camper van without a bollocking, phew!

Detlef was not going to the show in Augsburg as he had made plans to visit a friend in Hockenheim and so I arranged with Bernie to take two nights in the band’s hotel in Augsburg. After driving with Simon to this fine city I decided to take a short walk around and return to the hotel for dinner. Well that was the plan, but after spending a couple of merry hours in the Christmas market sampling even more Gluhwein (with rum, with amoretto, but always with style), I decided that sleep was a better option and caught up with some much needed shut eye.

Augsburg, (D), The Spektrum Club / 04.12.01

Set: Slow Down/Cat Called Kokomo, Kiss My Soul, Hyenas Only Laugh For Fun, Downbound Train, Moth To A Flame, Prisoner, Weavers Answer, Habits Of A Lifetime, 18 Wheels And A Crowbar, ‘X’-Town.

Encore: Oh Brother, Shank/Toenail Draggin’, Shortlist/16 Tons.

Encore: My Friend The Sun.

The Spektrum Club is situated in the suburbs of Augsburg and a sizeable crowd were treated to a great gig, or so I thought! The front of house sound was good although Andy did seem to suffer from the soundman being unfamiliar with the material, which usually meant a delay in him bringing the sax up for Andy’s solos. It’s a frequent problem with unfamiliar house engineers, but little did I know the extent of the problem.

‘Cat’ was laid back and punchy, ‘Kiss’ was a breeze with Roger on fine form now that he had shaken off the throat problems of the previous gig. In a change from the advertised programme Roger introduced ‘Hyenas’ and instructed the band that he wanted it “nice and bright, yes!” and indeed it was with Henry’s touch as light as a feather and the vocals brief and to the point. ‘Downbound Train’, ‘Moth’ and ‘Prisoner’ were classic versions, not a note or vocal out of place. ‘Weaver’ rocked and ‘Hobbits’ rolled. The intro to ‘18 Wheels’ contained an instrumental passage from Steve and Andy based loosely around ‘Chain Of Fools’, with Andy seizing every opportunity to return to this theme throughout the number, unusually Roger resisted the temptation to join in. ‘X-Town’ had different vocal and instrumental passages.

As I was confident that I had enough towels etc for the encore and with the band seemingly happy I waited in the dressing room for the guys to leave the stage. Imagine my surprise to hear that the onstage sound had not been very good and Andy Hamilton had been engaged in a running battle with the monitor man for the whole gig. The band returned to the stage and encored twice with ‘Oh Brother’, ‘Shank/Toenail Draggin’ and ‘Shortlist’ the latter again featured the ‘Chain Of Fools’ riff but still Roger would not be drawn into a couple of verses instead opting for ’16 Tons’. ‘My Friend The Sun’ was played in response to a request from a lone voice in the crowd.

During the load out some nice friendly German decided to steal the icebox from the stage and if it hadn’t been for the fact that Bernie was able to quickly retrieve it then I would no doubt have got bollocking number three. Although strictly speaking the icebox was mine as I had purchased in Aschaffenburg.

With the load out completed it was back to the hotel for a shower and out for quiet drink in the Hep Cat Club. Now I’m not sure what a ‘Hep Cat’ is but the music and the cocktails were excellent. During a quiet moment I asked Henry about the origins of his various styles of playing and as always he was only too pleased to answer my questions, this time by using the background music (a mix of jazz and swing) as a guide and explaining how he would have played that particular song in comparison to the original drummer, whilst acknowledging several exceptional pieces of drumming. The only interlude to this master class being a cheese and ham toastie – thanks Henry.

Lorsch, (D), Rex Musik Theater / 06.12.01

Set: Slow Down/Cat Called Kokomo, Kiss My Soul, Hyenas Only Laugh For Fun, Downbound Train, Moth To A Flame, Prisoner, Weavers Answer, Habits Of A Lifetime, 18 Wheels And A Crowbar, ‘X’-Town.

Encore: Oh Brother, Shank/Toenail Draggin’, Shortlist.

By the time the Shortlist arrived in Lorsch for a sell out gig at the Rex Musik Theater it was obvious to all that Andy was suffering with some personal problem, the wise cracking sax player had been replaced by a quiet introspective guy who was difficult to engage in conversation. His performance during the gig was extremely erratic and the rest of the boys realising that a fellow Shortlister was in trouble duly closed ranks around their sax player in an attempt to get him through the gig. Although he did manage to a play a fine solo on ‘Kiss’ it was obvious that both Ian and Steve were going to have to be on top form and ready with riffs or solos as Andy struggled for confidence and direction.

The guys blew up a storm on ‘Downbound Train’ with a rhythm section so tight that you couldn’t have got a fag paper between them. Andy restricted himself to one brief solo and left the rest to Steve who sensing that he wasn’t going to get the call and response from the other side of the stage turned in a Bo Diddelyesque solo which surprisingly drew a belated response from Andy who soloed, but instead of drawing the song to a conclusion he took it in the wrong direction and drew a couple of verses of ‘Mystery Train’ from his boss. It was not quite as rehearsed but it definitely drew a positive reaction from the crowd.

It would be fair to say that it’s only the professionalism of the guys that enables them to just about stagger through to the end of the show and after a short break they return to encore with ‘Oh Brother’, ‘Shank/Toenail Draggin’ and ‘Shortlist’.

The atmosphere after the gig was a little strained, Andy sat in a comfy chair alone with his thoughts, Henry was regaling us with tales of being on the road with Eric Clapton, including an hilarious night in a hotel bar with an alcoholic barman Detlef was eating (as usual) and I was discussing the show with Steve and remarked that I thought ’18 Wheels’ was starting to drag. Steve thought that it was just about right, as he had to sing the chorus, then play the solo and return to the riff, which would be difficult if the tempo were to be increased. Ironically it was also Roger’s view that ‘18’ was now too slow and at the following days soundcheck the tempo was increased by just four beats per minute to it’s present tempo.

Unfortunately for Andy Hamilton it was to be his last show on the tour and he left for England the following morning.

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