Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Concert Day: Capital FM Arena, Nottingham, UK (October 11, 2011)

NOTE: This is a relatively long post due to certain events that took place today, having absolutely nothing to do with the ongoing Mark Knopfler / Bob Dylan tour. I of course reserve the right to write about whatever it is that I want; you have been warned.

Going on extended trips carries many pleasantries, and just as much challenges. One of the challenges that I find most annoying to cope with has to do with proper dining—be it with respect to the food being consumed, as well as dining times.

At the outset, it seems like hopping from one city to another to catch a live show on an almost-nightly basis consists of a very predictable pattern:

  • Get up.
  • Have breakfast.
  • Take transportation to the next city.
  • Check into hotel.
  • Have something to eat before the show.
  • Enjoy the show.
  • Back to the hotel and sleep.

Allow me to assure you that this isn’t the case. The number of variables in a journey following a concert tour is not just big; it’s practically unknown. So many things can go wrong, or deviate from your original plan—actually, so many that good planning skills aren’t enough; more than you should be able to plan well, you need to be able to adapt well.

And food is something I’m having a hard time adapting to. I recall, just before the beginning of the tour’s concluding show, Tim Hook approached me with a plate of delicious chicken breast & potatoes, saying “I understand that you weren’t eating very well recently”. That was an understatement; as a matter of fact, it took me a while, after that tour, to readjust to proper, normal eating habits.

In the course of normal life, I’m trying my best to eat properly—small meals, always fresh, keeping away grease/fat/chemicals and other bullshit that the mass food market keeps shoving down people’s throat for having food companies’ stock prices go up just enough to maintain acceptable dividend payout rate.

(One of my ex’s used to be fanatic about proper nutrition, as well as one of my best friends living in Toronto; having been surrounded by such people, something had to sink in)

That, then, would explain why I was feeling bad yesterday after the Manchester show, realizing that it’s 11:30pm already and I’m starving. Unsurprisingly, finding a proper place for food close to midnight is an exercise in waste of time—all you’re bound to find is cheap hole-in-the-wall food outlets that serve—nutritiously speaking—garbage. As going to sleep on an empty stomach wasn’t something I was looking forward to (and in retrospect, maybe I should have), the kind receptionist at the hotel bothered to dig up Domino’s Pizza’s phone number and have some pizza delivered.

Fat, greasy (yet vegetarian) pizza arrived about half an hour later, accompanied by a 500ml Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (I was under the impression that I’m going to get a tiny scoop). Once the pizza was consumed in its entirety, I felt sorry for not going to sleep hungry.

Woke up early, feeling a bit unwell. Together with (what I think is) the ear infection developing in my right ear, that kind of set the tone for the morning as I checked out from the hotel, left my luggage there and went looking for something more settling to eat.

It hasn’t stopped raining in Manchester ever since I got here, and the new day didn’t seem to provide much better news with respect to weather.

Carrying a small backpack mostly occupied with a laptop (so I can sit somewhere and write this pathetic blog), I was walking through the myriad of students hanging around the various buildings of Manchester’s University, where said students apparently go on a daily basis, spending so much money on learning yesterday’s facts in a way that %90 of them won’t be able to put to good use.

Found a decently looking place called The Coffee Lounge serving all sorts of breakfasts and drinks. Exactly one item in the breakfast menu didn’t consist of pure garbage, so the choice was clear. Unpacked my laptop and continued yesterday’s blog post.

back to the hotel to collect the luggage and off I went walking towards Manchester Oxford Train Station to catch the train to Nottingham leaving forty minutes past noon.

An altogether boring morning in a cold, rainy, gloomy Manchester. It was much more fun last year.

At least, I should say, the ride to Nottingham was quite interesting—not because of the view through the windows, but because of my company. Next to me, three nice lads were seated—devout Bob Dylan fans who were following his tour all over the place. It wasn’t long before one of them and myself delved into the development of music in the 20th century as well as the piles of rubbish that’s so commonly produced nowadays. It was very interesting to hear the perspective of a clever 60 years old guy who happened to have been following all sorts of music over half of the past century.

Train ride went well and we made it to Nottingham on time.

This is my first time in Nottingham (Wikipedia: The last tour didn’t stop here for a show—it stopped bloody everywhere else in the UK—and I haven’t heard much about this city before so I was curious to see what it’s about: hunger, however, kicked in so I decided I’d better get with the check in & dining routine before enterprising any further. Also, tomorrow is a day-off for me in Nottingham so I suppose I’ll explore more then.

The first thing I learned about Nottingham is that it is hilly, and I learned it the hard way—walking through the city’s streets carrying 20kg worth of a backpack on my back, while wearing a leather coat that doesn’t ventilate body heat all too well. Armed with a map (courtesy of Google Maps), I started marching towards (where I thought was) the hotel, only to find myself walking in a somewhat creepy place. Thoughts of last year’s adventure in Murcia, Spain kicked in as I trying to figure out why on earth doesn’t the “X” on the map represent my destination.

The explanation turned out to be a simple one. Another lesson to learn. The online booking website quotes the Days Hotel address as being “Wollaton Street”. Google Maps doesn’t exactly know where it is on that street that you’re looking to go to, so it sends you to the point which, on average, would be the closest point to your destination—typically, the middle of the street.

Not very useful, is it. Especially when you’re starting to get hungry and you’re carrying a quarter of your body weight on your back while walking in an incline. Had to backtrack a little bit, and with the help of a receptionist in a nearby hotel, I found my shelter for the next two nights.

The Days Hotel in Nottingham’s city centre is one of TripAdvisor’s top 10 hotels in Nottingham, quite justifiably given its great location (about 20 seconds walk to Upper Parliament Street where Nottingham’s action begins), its quiet rooms and its surprisingly affordable rates, comparing to what you get. I’d definitely add this hotel to my “Golden List” had it not been for one specific stupid policy: Wi-Fi is available in common areas and is free; rooms have wired internet, which is free as well but you need to either bring your own LAN cable or buy (read again: buy. Not lease, not borrow with a deposit. Buy) a cable from reception for £3. That’s the first time I ever witness such a stupid policy, of a hotel trying to make an extra few pounds being an Information Technology hardware store.

Needless to say that I opted to not co-operate with such an obnoxious scheme. Money is immaterial here; I just can’t stand co-operating with insane policies.

Quick setup in the room, went downstairs to the lobby to upload yesterday’s post and off I went to the streets, hungry and hunting for food. Prezzo, a UK-based chain of good Italian restaurants didn’t fail providing delicious light spaghetti, and then off a couple of doors to Caffe Nero to start writing this very post you’re reading. It was raining (well, drizzling) outside anyway so I didn’t see the point exploring the city so close to concert time.

About an hour before the show’s start, went back to the hotel, took whatever’s necessary to the show and off I went to see the fifth concert of this tour. The streets of Nottingham are pretty at evening time, so I took a couple of shots (more shots will be provided tomorrow).


The Capital FM Arena, located less than a mile from my hotel, hosts entertainment and sporting events of all kinds. The arena’s interior is similar, generally speaking, to that of the Manchester Evening News (M.E.N) Arena in Manchester, where I had been to just last night so that was kind of a deja vu.

Ticket collection took a few minutes due to someone writing my last name on the ticket’s envelope in a way that so remotely resembles my last name that I really don’t understand how can anyone fuck it up the way they did. On the guests’ list, my name was spelled correctly (and printed) so somehow must have, at some point, simply copied my name from the printed paper onto an envelope, fucking up the spelling of my last name beyond any comprehensible measure.

Went into the concessions area to take a few shots before entering the arena…


… And then into the arena.


Told you. Identical to the M.E.N Arena from last night.

Nigel, whom I first met during last year’s tour at the Royal Albert Hall, was there escorted by a lady (Jane, if I recall correctly) as well as his father. A fine bunch, pleasure to talk with before the show. Other than them, I was surrounded on all sides (that is, three of the four sides) by Bob Dylan fans, most of which were obnoxious at best (I’ll get to that).


7:30pm and our band took the stage.

I always keep my mobile phone available, setting it for vibrate mode during concerts. The reason for not turning my phone off altogether is not trivial, and has much to do with my family, especially now when father is in Vancouver and all the rest still live in a country that’s bound to be involved in another war at some point.

Seconds before the band started playing the first song, my phone went off vibrating. A quick check revealed that it was my eldest nephew initiating a chat with the words:

—“Are you there? Please answer, this is urgent!”

Now the thing about my eldest nephew is that, for better and worse, he’s said to be a complete exact duplicate of his only uncle, character-wise. He’s 12 years old, way adult for his age, quiet, peaceful, shies away from noise, insanely clever (well, that’s the one thing he didn’t get from me) and, in short, not fucking around.

There was no chance he would have written such a thing unless stuff really demanded some attention; which is exactly why I replied, trying to hide my phone away as much as possible to not distract anyone.

Took him about a minute to reply, a minute during which each and every imaginable terrorizing event went flying through my head. During that minute, I already started calculating train schedules for hauling myself to London and then taking the first flight to Tel-Aviv and who is it that I should be arranging with to pick me up at the airport. I am frantically worried when it comes to my family and “urgent news”.

So the first piece of news was that my second nephew, who answers to the name Tal, is celebrating his 7th birthday today. God, do I miss these three little nephews of mine… and so, as this is his 7th birthday, there you go, folks. A few pictures of him growing up, and then a collective pictures of all three. Happy birthday, dear nephew. I love you and miss you!

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The second piece of news was something altogether unrelated.

August 2006. Karen and I went on a trip to the Canadian Rockies; we spent just under three weeks living in a tent in Whistlers Mountain, just outside the breathtaking Rockies town of Jasper, Alberta.

From atop Whistlers Mountain, Jasper looks like this:


And here’s yours truly (this very same orange backpack is put to good use during the current tour):


Try imagining yourselves there in Jasper. Very few things can ruin such tranquility, such peace. The feeling of waking up at 5:30am in the morning, inhaling nothing but the freshest air this miserable planet has to offer; stepping out of the tent to find the skies already clear blue, and a pack of elks munching over some leaves from a nearby tree.

Indeed very few things could interfere with such a setting. But something did. For us, is was the war—the second Lebanon war, which broke a couple of weeks earlier following repeated attacks by Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border cities and the kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers into Lebanon.

A few weeks prior to the beginning of the war, Hamas (another fundamental Islamic terrorist organization, gaining worldwide acknowledgement mainly thanks to the European Union’s foreign policy, as well as the useless, ridiculous waste of an organization that answers to the name United Nations), during a cross-border raid, captured an Israeli soldier and had him smuggled back into the Gaza Strip. His name was Gilad Shalit.

For an extremely long period of time, nobody knew what became of these four soldiers; fundamental Islamic terrorist organizations aren’t well known for respecting international treaties with regards to hostages. A few years later, Israel has agreed to release a few hundreds prisoners in exchange for the three soldiers kidnapped in Lebanon; what it ended up getting is three coffins with their remains. As it turned out later, the three were killed in action and Hezbollah was hiding that fact, manipulating Israelis’ minds to believe they’re still alive.

The fourth one, Gilad Shalit, was known to be alive; two months after he was kidnapped, a letter in his handwriting was handed (through intermediary foreign representatives) to the Israeli government; three years later, a video tape showing him being alive and well has been traded for the release of twenty female Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas has demanded the release of one thousand living prisoners in return for Gilad, a demand that has been continuously dismissed by Israeli authorities, mainly because there was no way to ensure that those one thousand prisoners—some of them directly responsible for the murder of dozens of people—are going to remain outside the terrorism industry.

It may seem odd to some of you, to learn that the Israeli government actually contemplated the release of one thousand terrorists in order to get one soldier back. It really does sound awfully ridiculous, objectively speaking; however, the picture gets brighter once you become more familiar with Jewish family and religious traditions, as well as military values—mainly that of the Redemption of Captives ( In the minds of Israelis—perhaps due to being under constant attack for a good few thousands of years—the idea of a fellow Israeli being held captive—dead or alive—by enemies is unacceptable and intolerable.

Over the last 64 months, numerous attempts were made to secure a prisoners exchange deal—attempts that have continuously failed due to various reasons (it is tricky, one would assume, to negotiate with an entity that acts upon a charter that calls for your demise).

But perhaps worse than that, was the impact of the entire process on Israeli society. Gilad Shalit’s case, and the arguments for and against his release (for the price of over one thousand living terrorists), caused a huge tear in Israel’s society (described, at the outset, here:

Yesterday, finally, a deal has been reached and signed upon by both sides. Apparently, what made it easier for both sides to show flexibility is the ongoing change in the Middle East, now that dictatorships fall one after another.

Knowing it would make me very happy, my dear nephew decided to let me know of the developments. Good call; it did make me happy to no end.

Congratulations, Gilad, for your release; may we see you back home with your loved ones in the nearest days. Welcome home!

Back to Nottingham, 2011. The joy of receiving such great news filled me with an indescribable amount of happiness, further boosting my enjoyment of the concert which was, once again, a total success.

Very similar set list to last night’s show in Manchester—a hint that, perhaps, the tour came to a point when the set list is more or less finalized and, from here on, the band will focus on making the existing set list better and better with each show.

Of the three album-pending tracks played so far in the tour, the same two were played as yesterday—Privateering and Haul Away for Home. Quite frankly, I have heard all other songs played live so many times that I am sure I had already heard it played in any conceivable variation. These two new songs are, for me, the reason to feel good about attending additional shows during this tour, and to feel bad about having to return to Vancouver after the Rotterdam show.

Cleaning My Gun was tonight’s rocker. Seems to be one of Mark’s favourites—100% attendance so far in this tour, plus having been played a few times last year—and Mark doesn’t seem too keen on missing any opportunity to further enhance it. We have witnessed some serious, elaborate Gibson work happening.

It is great fun to witness the band exploring a song, and one can only understand and relate to the process after watching the same song being played over time. So far, I have seen each and every live performance of “Cleaning My Gun” since it was recorded; it sounds much different now than it did last year when it was still “fresh”, the big difference being Mark’s frenzy over the guitar.

Then came Done with Bonaparte with a twist—be it planned or not—that caught me by surprise. The song played as usual, but when the time came for the final verse, something went missing. Nobody needed to scratch their head to figure out what went missing, as it was rather obvious: it was the vocals.

Now again I don’t know (as there’s no way for me to know) whether Mark simply forgot to continue singing the final verse, or if it was pre-planned. But regardless, quickly enough, the vocals were replaced by Mark strumming the National guitar with passion rarely before seen.

I don’t know why, but I just started laughing. Now there’s an interesting twist to a song so routinely played. Judging by the looks of other band members, I wasn’t the only one to be caught surprised; smiles were evident on pretty much everybody’s faces.

“Save my soul from Evil, Lord” the vocals then continued, and then on to the last verse as normal. In summary: an extended version of Done with Bonaparte.

Brothers in Arms and So Far Away concluded another fantastic show; a final standing ovation—well deserved, I should say—and the band left the stage.

This show might have been a totally perfect experience had it not been for a few Bob Dylan fans being seated around me.

Behind me, a collective of impressively stupid individuals, with the collective IQ of a sick goat’s stool sample, were talking nonsense during the entire show. At some point, they felt it would also be OK to rapidly kick my chair (and neighbouring chairs) to the beat of music. Turning around and looking at them, with an implied plea to stop, didn’t seem to help.

Now the last thing I’m looking forward to is to start hell in a foreign country—who knows what drunken ignorant shitheads are capable of and what would ignite them to start a physical fight over the tiniest, most trivial request to simply shut the fuck up. More than that, I hold so little appreciation to such people that the very act of speaking structured language towards them seems, for me, like a waste of oxygen intake. I truly preferred to simply ignore it all for the sake of not having to exchange a word with those airheads.

Makes me really sad, you know. The world would be a nicer place to live in, had people been more responsible and more attentive to others’ right to be living in their own peace. Why, on earth, would you talk and laugh during a concert, interrupting other people’s enjoyment? why, unless you were raised and educated to not give a flying fuck on others’ well being?

That is, unless you’re drunk. Apparently I live in a society where being drunk automatically shields one from the need to be attentive and respective of others. When you’re drunk, it’s no longer “intentional”. It’s “accidental”.

Screw that.

Carrying what seems to be an ear infection, using earplugs didn’t seem like a good idea tonight. Also, as my seat was at the very front row, I had the feeling that I won’t be able to withstand the sheer noise of Bob Dylan’s stage setup so I fled the scene right after Mark’s set—much to the happiness of a set of idiots seated behind me, who now got the opportunity for prime real-estate occupancy.

A walk back to the hotel at night revealed a beautiful city that I can’t wait to further explore tomorrow:


Signing off this post at around 1:00pm, October 12. Day-off today, so will walk around this pretty city. Cardiff tomorrow.



Anonymous said...


If the obnoxious BD fan problem occurs again I suggest that on your way out of the show you give your ticket to the 'largest' & tallest BD fan that you can find and encourage that person to enjoy your seat :-)

Mike Paul said...

Isaac-thanks for that explanation of the Israel-Hamas 1000 to 1 swap. I was dismayed reading about that at bkfst.this a.m. and couldn't understand the transaction. Enjoy the tour and hopefully I'll see in during the next U.S. stour. I'm going to 10!
P.S. beautiful pics of your family!