It's been a few days, so I guess I owe you a long one. So go and grab a caipirinha, this might be a bit of a ramble…
Sao Paulo, Show Day. The first show of the tour then and having been semi -permanent residents at the Ibirapuera Arena for the past several days, it was nice to actually get going and use this space for what it was intended.
On arrival at the arena, despite our early start, we had clearly be beaten to it by at least 20 fans already sitting down and queuing outside the general admission gate, some 12 hours BEFORE show time.
During the afternoon I temporarily became the most popular man in the building, when I was tasked with handing out the 'per diems' to crew members. Anyone who is essentially giving out pocket money to a 30 man strong beer drinking machine is always going to be greeted with the utmost respect and affection.
My day also included sorting out the evening's guest list. It turned out to be the most complicated ticket and seat distribution equation ever, it even had the venue promoter stumped. The 'fun' of this frustrating chore indirectly led another little job; remembering to keep back an unused ticket from each show for the Queen archive and it's guardian Greg Brooks.
At dinner, I had the pleasure of catching up with Queen's long standing PR man Phil Symes, he is now based out of Brazil and is along for part of the tour. I had not seen in him person since the Stormtroopers In Stilettos exhibition in 2011. Phil has a wonderful calming influence and always sees things from a very different angle; I guess this comes from dealing with the press all this years.
Following the soundcheck, a set list change was mooted, and it was duly confirmed at around 8pm when Spike came by told me that Roger was singing ‘These Are The Days Of Our Lives’ and ‘Save Me’ had moved up a spot in the running order- reprinting and redistribution of the set list was therefore required. The next job was to top up the water and towel supplies for the backline guys and checking that they had all they need for looking after the band from the side of the stage during the show.
At 9.43pm I was suddenly thrust into the world of Wardrobe when Neil asked if he should go with a black cap or a grey one - I told him to stick with the black. I saw Rufus in the corridor and wished him the best for the show and then took a quick walk around the top flight of the arena to take in the atmosphere. With the Made In Heaven 'Track 13' drone intro tape well underway, I perched myself for the start of the show on stage left, just behind Spike, and started to look around cheerfully at the expectant faces in the crowd. At the moment, I was called over the radio to urgently acquire some honey for Neil from catering - this was, I kid you not, just 4 minutes before show time. How rude, I was just getting settled for the gig!
I made it back to my position just in time to see the hugs and high fives amongst the back line guys, Pete and I exchanged the devil horns and a childishly flick of the tongue for good luck.
The lights went down and sheer thunder descended on top of me, it was hair raising. If noise carried weight, I was feeling it all over. Brazil you are LOUD.
The band cracked into a revved up version of ‘One Vision’ and in a blur it was gone - the whole song was an assault on the senses. Then came ‘Stone Cold Crazy’; the place was literally shaking with the power of the crowd and band united as one, and the smiles, yes, the smiles on the these Brazilian faces was so heartwarming, THIS was Rock n' Soul. And so it went on; Adam working the crowd like the consumet front man he has now become, the chant of "Brian May! Brian May!" and the B-stage introduction of Roger that nearly took the roof off. I am not going to apologise for getting carried away, I have not experienced such a gig of this intensity.
As the show went on I continued to post a picture for each song in the set list. I know some of the images that go up on Facebook, twitter and instagram are not award winning, but what I try to do it take pictures from my view, and open it up to you guys. One of my favourite places to grab photos is in the truck where our video director Steve Price is calling shots to his cameramen; it is his choices that you see out front on the screen. It's great to watch and hear some of the funny things he comes out with to get the angles he wants.
Highlights for me included the debut of Adam's ‘Ghost Town' with it's new Queen makeover, it makes for a decidedly wicked 'Disco Metal' anthem and the online buzz surrounding this surprise inclusion has been immense. 'Fat Bottomed Girls' is always a great groover for me, and the way Brian now directs his on-guitar camera around the band just adds to the fun. 'Under Pressure' NEVER fails. Of course, it will come as no surprise to report that 'Love Of My Life' was the standout moment of the show, if not as a song, but as an emotional marker for Queen and Brazil's eternal love affair.
"You made this song what it is...this is your song Brazil."
The next four minutes or so was pure romance, and when Freddie appeared on the big screen you can imagine the reaction. I saw at least 3 teary eyed fans from where I was watching near the barrier.
Before long, Neil was saluting me from the stage during 'We Are The Champions' and it was done. It really is quite amazing how fast the show can fly by. It was all rather draining, but is a great way.
Load Out: It was 12:30am and the first breakdown of the tour in a very tight venue resulted in was a late or early finish for many. The last return to our hotel I heard was 5.40am, I was one of the lucky ones, I got to bed just after 4.00am. My part of the load out is easy compared to the 'proper crew'; grab the signage, break down the wi-fi, tidy the office, pack and load the Production Office flight cases, ordering beer and food for those staying later and ripping down any sign of our existence in the venue i.e. set lists, stage times, wi-fi passwords etc. This can take a little time depending on the size of the venue, but is nothing compared the guys out front, who were literally dripping with sweat as they passed our door.
Directly after the show the band stayed back for a change of clothes, chatted over a late dinner and discussed how the show went. Brian was the last to leave as he was overseeing his selfie stick video upload. On his exit he made a point of shaking hands with all those he came across as he headed to his car, I got a nice little smile as he went on his way.
As mentioned above, it was a long night for most, but we still had a plane to catch at 10am that morning, which meant a 7am lobby call and convoy of crew buses to the airport. We all sat together on the plane, but it was the quietist I have ever heard this lot! It was a short flight, but we all took maximum advantage and grabbed a bit of shuteye.
I was pretty excited about coming to Rio, I've seen the Duran Duran video. I was not disappointed either, the view coming in on the plane was spectacular. I was soon in a bus taking the luggage to the hotel, as some of there crew headed straight to the festival site to get a head start.
The 'Rio vibe' really does exist - slightly chaotic, busy, colourful, dramatic, shouty, bulit up, yet organic. Helicopters buzz overhead and huge birds swooping around the big blue skies. It all then clicked perfectly; a great view of Sugar Loaf mountain, there was Christ The Redeemer looking over us, signs to Ipenema and the mecca of Brazilian football the Maracana Stadium and last but not least, suddenly there it was...Copacabana Beach complete with spectacularly worn swimwear of all shapes, sizes and tightness included, all very proudly displayed too.
Several of the crew have worked at Rock In Rio, most recently with Rhianna in 2013, so I pestered them a bit on what it was like, but not too much, as I wanted to soak it in myself on gig day. We set up in the portacabins that afternoon as the crew grabbled with the challenge of working our rig into the main stage. The band arrived at about 8pm and Roger led them through soundcheck up for an hour up until the noise curfew at 10pm.
Today then, ‘Rock In Rio Day’. I woke up at 10am and covered off some outstanding work, including posting news on the reaction to 'Ghost Town', I spoke to the wife, ordered room service and then made my way down to the pool and beach area. I popped down to the sandy shores of Leblon beach, which was just below our hotel, and succeed it being battered senseless by the waves and exfoliated by the sand. It was one way to warm up for a gig, I guess
It is now 11.08 pm and here I am backstage finishing off these notes, 30 years on since Freddie, John, Brian and Roger were here. The portacabin office is shaking to the bass throb of One Republic and the air conditioning is chilling us all to the bone. I have passed out all the set lists - and yes, it is different to Sao Paulo - and I now have to secure some towels and water for Peter and the gang for show time. We are nearly ready for you Rio, you guys sound ready for us - the huge, thick wall of sound you are creating out there is quite astonishing, heavens knows what is going to go off when we hit the stage.
I think this might be quite a night.
Thanks for having us Rio; the pleasure will be all ours. Over to you Brian, Roger and Adam…
Note: Sorry, I got side tracked uploading this, there are 100,000 people going crazy for Queen + Adam Lambert and felt it was my duty to make it 100,001. It’s pretty special out there Rio, it’s an honour to be your guest…
I am back off to the side of stage…see ya!