Up at 5am. Bus to Hammersmith where there are severe delays on the Piccadilly line. Where’s the limo when you need it? 6am and the platform is heaving with people and luggage. I bet Sting’s not travelling by tube. Advised to get to Acton Town on the next available train. Acton Town is even more packed than Hammersmith. Not a good start. Finally, almost two hours later, we make it to Heathrow, Terminal 1. Meeting the gang at Swiss Air check-in. Terl causes a stir at security when the buttons on his shirt set off the alarm. Nick is travelling light, just a plastic carrier bag containing tin whistle and the pink trousers. A quick coffee and we’re boarding, ready for off. Next stop, Geneva. Everyone reading, snoozing, waiting for the trolley. Clouds below as we cross the Channel. Creamy tea, croissant and swiss chocolate for breakfast. Over Paris… ETA: 11.28am… we begin our descent over Auxerre, a patchwork of field and forest below… we arrive safely (including instruments!), ahead of schedule, and follow the Lake Geneva shoreline to Montreux: The ‘showpiece of the Swiss Riviera’ has been an inspiration to writers, artists and musicians for centuries. Famous one-time residents include Lord Byron, Ernest Hemingway and the Shelleys (!). It’s easy to see why – Montreux not only boasts stunning views of the Alps and the lake, it’s also home to Switzerland's most extraordinary castle, the ever-popular Château de Chillon…. we check in at the Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic: Located in central Montreux, with its two-tiered frontage and ranks of bright yellow awnings sheltering the balconies of those rooms looking out over the lake, this historic ‘Belle Epoque’ hotel (built in 1870) is the most atmospheric on the waterfront. Nearby points of interest also include the Freddie Mercury Statue and Montreux Casino. In 1971 Frank Zappa was doing his thing in the casino when the building caught fire, casting a pall of smoke over Lake Geneva and inspiring the members of Deep Purple to pen their classic rock number Smoke on the Water… after a quick shower, we head out for a saunter along the lakeside… amid the tourists and buskers, strollers and roller bladers, clothes stalls, ice-cream parlours and food and drink emporiums. Steamer's on the lake make me think of the old jazz standard:

I cover the waterfront
I'm watching the sea
Will the one I love
Be coming back to me … 

At 2.30pm we’re off to the Auditorium Stravinski, a monumental venue with a peerless reputation. Countless legendary artists have performed here, its master stage and hallways echo with the sound of B.B. King, Keith Jarrett, Carlos Santana, Etta James, Leonard Cohen… the ‘Purple One’ was here yesterday, while today we stand in the wings as Sting soundchecks ‘Englishman in New York’, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, David Sancious on keys… then it’s our turn. We have the mighty Terl Bryant on drums and Nick Lacey on keys… the stage crew are marvelous, the best we’ve worked with, and (with Mr Matt Hay on the desk) the sound is incredible… we soundcheck for an hour, enjoying the room and the vibe… then it’s up to the dressing room to chill, eat, laugh. We shake hands and chat with Sting, who wishes us well. Just before we go on I glance up at the TV monitor and, for a second or two, think I’m watching footage of a concert… it suddenly dawns on me that it’s the crowd out front, 4,000 of them, waiting expectantly for the evening to begin… butterflies fluttering, we hit the stage…

Steve

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