Midlake in Paris and Brussels (Part 2)

27Apr07

And so on to Brussels the bureaucratic heart of the EU, Chocolate, Waffles, Frites, and er….really bad roads! We met up at Anvers promptly at 11 and set off out of Paris and onto the autoroute through the fields of the Somme and past Waterloo en route to our destination – Le Botanique (pic below)
La Botanique
We got a little lost after leaving the dreaded ‘Ring’ – a motorway that circles around the Belgian capital, and had to ask a few locals directions to the place we were headed. I think we got there at around 3:30 and we parked the car around the corner from the venue.

Le Botanique is a great place and has two concert halls, a restaraunt and bar plus a museum. The dome you can see in the picture above, is where Midlake were playing tonights show. Inside the dome there is a little amphitheatre complete with an amazing array of lights, a huge glitterball and a quite spacious stage area. We went inside and were once again greeted by Eric and Rachel and sat down to watch the soundcheck. Mckenzie was a little concerned about his drum sound as his skins (according to Peter the sound guy) sounded old. Mckenzie contemplated changing them but because of the time it takes to change and tune them, it would have disrupted todays soundcheck. “Hey! I will do them on the bus tomorrow” he retorted, which brought groans from the rest of the band.
We grabbed a coffee and watched the end of the soundcheck where the guys ran through a new song ‘Children of the Ground’. It sounded good and the venue had good acoustics considering the little distance there was from stage to the back of the hall. (see pic below)
view
Back in the dressing room, we sat down and drank more coffee and chatted with Tim and various other band members. In the background we could hear Robert Gomez starting his soundcheck and running through the brilliant ‘The Same Sad Song’ off his new album ‘Brand new Towns’. Tim and Thomas were deep in conversation about recording techniques. (see pic below)
Thomas and Tim
Mckenzie, Paul and Eric Pulido came back into the dressing room shortly after. They had just finished soundchecking with Robert Gomez, Mckenzie decided to take a shower as again it was a very hot and humid day. He came back into the dressing room afterwards sporting a ‘new’ hairdo which brought a few chuckles. Paul decided he would follow suit and before we knew it, Midlake had transformed into a ‘Flock Of Seagulls’.(pic below) Robert Gomez popped his head into the dressing room and upon seeing what was going on, unleashed his infectious cackle which has to be heard to be believed!
Paul and Mckenzie
Soon it was time to go up to the upstairs restaraunt to eat. We left with the band and found Stephanie Dosen, Robert and Jesse already there with Britt the tour manager. We sat with Mckenzie and next to Stephanie Dosens’ band. The food was quite nice except Fiona (Stephanie Dosen band member), had trouble eating her soup as it contained the very ingredient that she requested not to be on her plate – Chilies.
A quick beer after dinner and it was time to go back into the backstage area where Eric Nichelson was lying on the dressing room floor with his head propped up on a pillow. Apparently he did not feel too good after dinner and felt tired and a little nauseous. Maybe pre-show nerves as well did not help.
We chatted some more and Stephanie came into the dressing room just before her slot, we wished her luck and went out to watch her from the wings of the stage. It was a great set but Stephanie said she didn’t really enjoy the show that much as she was feeling tired and a little hungover from Paris, although she said her onstage sound was awesome.
Robert Gomez emerged from his dressing room soon after with his guitar and was beginning to warm up for his show. He really is a deft guitarist with a a great fingerstyle technique, thats what you get when you study and play with one of THE greats of cuban guitar, Nelson Gonzales. Believe it or not, Robert also spent 6 months with The Ringling Bros and then the famous Barnum and Bailey Circus before becoming what he is now, a very talented musician and songwriter.
Showtime and Robert was off up the steps closely followed by Paul,Mckenzie and Eric Pulido – Midlake members who were doubling as Roberts backing band. We watched again from the wings and like Stephanie in the show before, he was simply awesome captivating the Brussels crowd.
Towards the end of his set we headed out into the auditorium ready to watch Midlake and to leave the guys alone to prepare for their show. It was a smaller crowd than Paris and not quite as enthusiastic, but nevertheless a deeply passionate following who hung on to Tim Smiths’ every word. ‘Children of The Ground’ got another airing and is proving to be quite popular on tour with Tim Smith and Eric Nichelson sharing the keys together (see pic below).
tim and eric
Eric Pulido made me laugh during the show as a young girl with a huge camera lens, was taking lots of photos. When Eric spotted her he kept pulling funny faces which made us all laugh. It was nice to see everyone enjoying themselves.
eric pulido
Again ‘The Trials of Vanoccupanther’ album got a full airing along with some oldies. But yet again ‘Kingfish Pies’ was omitted despite calls from the audience from both the Paris and Brussels shows to play it. Maybe on the next tour eh guys?
I have never seen a bad Midlake show and tonight they were again mind blowing. It was the sound of a band that was completely aware of where they are going and what they are going to do to achieve it. The vocal harmonies, the bittersweet melodies, the songwriting and craftsmanship are top class, and these guys can walk the walk live onstage – no gimmicks just pure music and complete honesty. In a world of manufactured pop artists from the ‘Pop Idol’ and the X Factor production lines to the hype machine that is The Arctic Monkeys, its a beacon of hope to see artists like Midlake, Robert and Stephanie just going out and expressing their awesome talent night after night, week after week in what must be one hell of a gruelling tour schedule. (The European tour is 21 dates with 3 days off and visits 10 countries).

With the show over we headed to the bar for some drinks whilst the departing crowd gathered around the merch stall. Rachel had her hands full with the now growing crowd wanting a T-shirt or a poster. Eric Nichelson came over to help his wife at the stall and the rest of the band came out with Robert Gomez and Stephanie to chat with the fans and grab some cool night time air and a cold beer. Thomas, Olaf and I sat down behind the stall once the crowds had thinned and had a chat with Eric and Rachel to decide what everyones plans were for the rest of the night. Some of the guys wanted something to eat whilst the rest (Mckenzie, Eric, Rachel, Robert and Jesse) wanted to head into the centre of Brussels and go to a pub with an enormous selection of beers (about 2000) called ‘Delirium‘.
First the gear needed to be loaded up so we duly helped out carrying flight cases, pieces of drum kit, and keyboards etc… Thomas went back to the car to put in the old guitar case that Eric Pulido had given him. (I next saw that case at Thomas’ show the next night – coming in part 4).
Tim, Paul and Eric Pulido decided they wanted food and an early night so we made our farewells. Mckenzie,Eric,Rachel,Peter the sound guy and a member of Stephanies band (I forgot her name – sorry if your reading this!) jumped into a Belgian friend of the band’s car (Ludo) with Thomas, Olaf and me following close in the car behind. Despite Robert insisting he was going to walk there (it was about a 20 minute brisk walk) he never made it in the end which was a shame as the pub was fantastic.
Read Part 3………

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