Saturday, October 15, 2011

Concert Day: Bournemouth International Centre (BIC), Bournemouth, UK (October 14, 2011)

The Royal Hotel’s comfortable bed didn’t do much to encourage me to wake up so early in the morning—8:00am—to catch the train to Bournemouth. That, plus the knowledge that I’m expecting a relatively annoying train ride: leaving Cardiff at 9:30am, arriving to Southampton at 12:00pm, then taking the 12:24pm train to Bournemouth, arriving at 1:00pm.

Well, I have had worse during the last tour. How could I possibly forget, for instance, those nightmarish night trains, or that 4 connections train ride from Locarno to Würzburg. I suppose, after going through hell and back with train rides in Europe, very little can happen to actually surprise me but still I sort-of lost the will and patience to cope with such lengthy journeys.

Weather-wise, it was a good day. As we rode south towards the coast, clouds started showing less and less frequently. The typical green landscape reflecting through the window—that of rolling hills and valleys, the occasional farm, goats and cattle along the way—looks much prettier when the sky is blue, I’ll give you that.


Arrived at Southampton Central on time. Small, crowded train station with nothing much interesting going for it—one of those train stations one really looks forward to spend as little time in as possible. Hopped to the other platform, just in time to hear that the train to Bournemouth has been delayed about 15 minutes due to some vehicle striking the railway (or something like that) somewhere along the tracks.

That’s why, after all, I prefer taking early trains—as early as possible. I can’t begin to describe the sort of anxiety one gets once plans seem to be falling through just because one train failed to arrive on time. Better get it over with fast; you can never have too much time on your hands when you’re doing such trips.

Train was late about 15 minutes. Boarded and sat by the window, minding my own business until some lady boarded right after me and chose to sit at the seat next to mine.

That usually doesn’t happen as my body typically acts like a reverse magnet on women. Sat down next to me, and me being myself, I just kept being quiet. At some point during the ride, some thugs seated a few rows in front of us started making noise, probably being “fuelled up” by alcohol.

—“I don’t understand why they do that”, she said while looking at me.

And so we went on and on about all sorts of things. Nice girl named Abby (or Abbey, I don’t know) from Southampton, with very interesting things to say. Knows how to bake and helping many people in need.

Bournemouth wasn’t too far ahead so before we knew it, we had to cut our conversation. Good talking to nice people along the road; better than spending time completely alone, or being forced to listen to idiots. We bid each other goodbye (no, no phone numbers were exchanged. But thanks for asking) and within a couple of minutes I was out of the train station; welcome to Bournemouth.

Bournemouth is a small city at the south end of the UK. It is one of the more popular beach-side cities in the UK, featuring brilliant beaches and high cliffs offering spectacular views. Last year’s tour had a stop in Bournemouth; I ended up staying in a nice Bed & Breakfast in nearby Boscombe. This time, I decided to stay closer to the venue; I ended up picking The Suncliff Hotel, situated right by the East Cliff, a stone throw from the sea.

Armed with a map (on my BlackBerry) showing the route to the hotel, I started walking towards the beach. With every step I took, more and more memories from last year’s visit kept creeping in until I didn’t feel stranger to the place at all.


Bournemouth is quiet and relatively clean. A strong sense of tranquility holds you as you approach the beach area, walking through streets beset by greenery.


The final turn… this road that seems to end, actually ends there. That’s where the water starts.


A short walk west along the cliff, until I reached my hotel.


And now look at this.


Peace. Absolute peace. I was happy to be back in Bournemouth, especially now when it’s off-peak and things are quieter. I was also thrilled to see how close my hotel was to the beach… thrilled, until I checked into my room and got completely and utterly disappointed. Tiny room, view to the parking lot; general renovations to the rooms are definitely due.

Most of the hotels that look very nice on the outside, stretching alongside the cliffs, are actually very old buildings that have been renovated at the outside, a little bit in the inside but the rooms remained somewhere in the 19th century. This is not very strange in the UK—in general, I found hotel standards in the UK to leave much to be desired. Usually small, old rooms.

And if I once again check into a hotel room with separate hot & cold taps, I’m going to fucking freak out. Get over it, for God’s sake.

The room had the sex appeal of a 9-cars pile-up so I fled the scene, carrying my laptop on the way to the only nice place I know of in Bournemouth—that is, the Marriott Hotel which is conveniently located right atop a cliff, some 1.5km away.


As soon as I got to the Marriott, I felt stupid for not having booked a room there for the night. Amongst the many touristic Bournemouth hotels—the ones that look good at the outside but crappy inside—the Marriott is actually a really good hotel. The American Gang with whom I spent touring the UK with last summer have stayed in this hotel, and I remember the rooms being lovely. So if you’re in town and looking for a good place to stay, just stay there. It’s obviously more expensive than many other hotels, but in Bournemouth—and also considering the hotel standards in the UK as a whole—it’s worth it.

Had some good high afternoon tea there, being seated on the porch overlooking the brilliant sea. A familiar figure was seated at a nearby table—took me a few seconds to realize it’s one of Bob Dylan’s guitar players. A polite hello and a very short conversation—nice fellow. Went on to write the previous day’s blog; I’d love to ask a few more questions, specifically about guitar playing, but I hate taking too much of people’s time, and here we’re talking about a musician a few hours before a concert.

I had much time to kill before the concert so I spent pretty much all of it in the Marriott’s lounge. Tea, coffee, whatever. Sitting in that lounge overlooking the sea—that’s really all I needed. Good atmosphere, total relaxation.

Left at around 5:30pm, as I had to walk all the way back to my hotel to put my laptop there, then walk back to the venue which is about 45 seconds walk from the Marriott. In retrospect, that was an extremely stupid thing to do. I could have just asked the Marriott to keep an eye on my backpack until I’m back.

Better use of brains… next time. 6:30pm and I’m at the venue—the Bournemouth International Centre (BIC).


Ticket collection was a snap this time. The way the venue was set up for this concert was general admission (standing) on the floor, and seats in the upper level. As usual, I opted at the seated option and therefore I watched the concert from above.


The concert started, as usual, a few minutes past 7:30pm in front of what seemed to be a sold-out venue. It was then, a few second after the concert’s start, that I knew that I wasn’t going to enjoy much of it, the reason being the sound. Something there just didn’t add up for me: even though I wasn’t seated all the way to the side (I’d say about 75-80% to the left), the sound seemed to be pretty uneven when certain instruments (most notably the bass guitar) dominated the sonic spectrum.

Other than that, not much to mention. Why Aye Man, opening the show and played with my not-so-favourite cyan-coloured Gibson, raised a couple of eyebrows for those who had heard it two million times before as it featured relatively fast and elaborate solos, both between verses and at the end.

Haul Away for Home was skipped, replaced by A Night in Summer Long Ago which, as always, was a pleasure to listen to. Mark only rarely plays this tune—last tour, it was only played twice (out of 87 shows), if my memory serves me right.

Good performance of all remaining songs, save for a bit of an odd Marbletown performance which seemed to be overly busy during the jam session, then dropping to a rather uneventful fade out. Not the Marbletown I got used to, but certainly pleasant.

As (now) usual, Brothers in Arms and So Far Away concluded the concert and sent a few thousands of people out for an intermission before Bob Dylan’s show, and myself—outside, again for my lack of interest in damaging my ear drums.

Post-concert photos…


(And yes, I know. I know about the joint Mark / Bob performance at the BIC—thanks for the emails pointing that out. Still, my eardrums are rather precious to me)

The venue is located half way up a cliff, in the middle of an incline starting at the water level and leading up to where the Marriott is located. It was very chilly and windy outside, but I love the sight of the moonlight reflecting from the sea so I had to stick around for an extra 20-30 minutes. I figured it might be too cold for me to gaze at the water from atop the cliff (in front of the Marriott) so I decided to stay at the area right behind the venue which was relatively wind-protected.


The sight of the sea brought back memories from the last tour—from the highs of having been accompanied by four joyful Americans throughout the UK (we had a lot of fun together) to the lows of feeling rather lonely walking along the beaches in Brighton, which is another sea-side city on the UK’s south coast.

I then came across this. Good luck getting out of that one.


Time for late dinner. The area surrounding the venue features many pubs (serving garbage food) and a few low-cost restaurants, but I already had my eyes set on Tiien—the Thai restaurant adjacent to the Marriott. It had an interesting menu—not cheap, though—and so many diners that I felt comfortable stepping inside for a bite.

Well, what can I say. The food was terrific but service left much to be desired as it seemed as if too many people were involved in the entire service chain. One guy to welcome you, another one to show you where to sit, another one to offer you drinks, another one to take your order and yet another one to actually serve you the food. At the end, you end up with three different people asking you (conveniently enough, when your mouth is full) if you’re enjoying your meal.

Food was good, though. I’d recommend it. Their coconut rice is mouth-watering.

Meal went by quickly and off I went back to my hotel. Wireless Internet was only available at the reception area, so I stuck around the lounge writing my blog while the hotel’s band was playing, begging people (50 years old and up) to dance. Unpleasant at best, but what wouldn’t you do for proper Internet connection.

Tired, I got to sleep at around midnight. Correction: I went to bed at around midnight, but fell asleep much later. Found it very hard to fall asleep, mostly because of the intimidating, claustrophobia-awakening design of this room.

That stupid room.

Skip this hotel.

Signing off this post at around 2:20am in Lille. Was a good day today. Stay tuned.


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