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Wednesday 9th

The idea of an early flight to Luton didn't seem like such a good idea when the alarm went off at six in the morning.  I fooled myself into thinking it was a normal work day and got ready as best I could.  Needless to say time ran away with me as usual and there was no time for breakfast before we had to head off to the airport.  And that, yer honour, is the only reason we decided to buy fried breakfasts at the airport cafe.  �4.50 for a very average, small fry and only one piece of potato bread!  Won't be buying one of those again in a hurry.

There are a lot of tannoy announcements at Belfast International airport - it seemed like the bing-bong was going non-stop.  I felt like cheering when, after about 5 million announcements, 8 numpties had their luggage identified and unloaded from the Amsterdam flight.  Serves them right for disturbing my quiet morning read.

Plane -> bus -> train -> tube -> walk and we arrived at the hotel.  It was hot in the City.  In spite of the 45 minute delay at Luton Parkway we were still too early to check in, so we put our bags in the luggage room and headed out  for lunch.  Frank's Cafe was rejected on the grounds that it was far too busy and looked far too much like a greasy spoon.  It's neighbour, The Tall House, looked like a better holiday option.  It was a very good choice.  I had a fantastic chicken, seafood and rice dish that even the HUGE mussel on top couldn't put me off.  I think the spicy chicken wings were a little hotter than Geoff was expecting; just as well we'd ordered lemonade by the pint glass.

After we'd checked in, unpacked a bit, showered and turned the air-con down to it's lowest marking (10 degrees) we were ready to face London again.  Nothing too strenuous mind, I didn't want to be tired out for the concert that night.  We wandered along the Jubilee Walkway in the direction of Westminster.  It was getting hotter as the day went on, so I bought water and stuck to the shady part of the street as much as possible.  It was a nice walk from Blackfriars Bridge to Westminster Bridge, apart from the temperature.  We passed the OXO tower and all the trendy little shops at the bottom of it.  Gabriel's Wharf looked pretty and busy, pity the hat shop wasn't open though as it might have saved me from the sunburn on my head.  I watched the mad people who were renting bikes and the slightly less mad people who were renting sampan-style bikes and a bloke to do all the hard work for them.  Geoff had a look at the map to see where the London Eye was - it's surprisingly easy to lose sight of it when you're walking along the windy bank-side path.

We set off again along the increasingly-busy Jubilee walkway.  A few more bends and we were clearly in the heart of tourist country, the number of people painted white, gold and silver and posing as statues was the first clue.  I prefer buskers who do something before I give them any money.  How do you know if you're going to be entertained if the statue doesn't do anything until you pay them?  The South Bank book market was a nice diversion for a bit - as much for the shade under the bridge as for the books.  A bit further along and the walkway was pounded by the percussive racket caused by hordes of skateboarders who had set up camp in the shadow of the Olivier Theatre.  Some of them were quite good, but there was more fun to be had in the spills than the thrills.

And then, just passed the London Eye (cor blimey look at the queues, glad I booked our tickets in advance!), and passed the Dali exhibition, we were at Westminster Bridge.  Time to start thinking about dinner and concerts.  I wasn't very hungry after my mammoth lunch, but Geoff was keen that we snacked before the concert because we didn't know what time it would be over at.  The walk back to the hotel turned into a grumpy search for somewhere that did light meals and wasn't packed.  We were nearly all the way back to the hotel when we found Doggett's beside Blackfriars Bridge.  I had a salmon bagel and Geoff had the bacon and cheese potato skins.  These turned out to be an absolute heap of potato wedges covered in chunks of cheese and bacon, rather than the dainty starter he was expecting.

I must have checked the concert tickets in my handbag a dozen times before we left.  Two tube rides later and we were at Highbury and Islington station.  The nice man at information gave me directions to Union Chapel that I could almost hear through the speaker thing on the glass, the go out front and turn right was a clear enough starting point.  Thankfully the venue stuck out like a sore thumb, or at least like a building with a very big spire.  A few minutes' walk from the station and we took our place in the (not-too-long queue) of Jesse Malin fans to wait for the doors to open.

I was surprised to see the inside of the building matched it's outside - I certainly hadn't been expecting pews.  We managed to grab space at the end of a pew, five rows back in the middle block.  It was the closest I'd been to a concert stage since the time I fought my way to the front at a Melissa Etheridge concert.  The downside of the good seats was the length of time we had to sit in them before the concert got underway.

The tickets advertised a support act - Tommy Stinson - but the first musicians on stage were two guys from a local band  (the Feathers??).  I couldn't hear what they were saying, but it sounded like they were apologising for the missing band members.  They played 4 or 5 numbers, one of which was good enough to make me wish I knew who they were.  There was a fair gap between them and the main support act, Tommy Stinson.  He bounced onto stage like a compere, all sharp suit, big grins and winks for the front row: I didn't know whether he was going to sing, or introduce more support artists.  He played a half-dozen or so songs, a good mix of up-tempo and slower songs, and got visibly more relaxed as his set went on.  But he wasn't Jesse.  I always feel bad for wishing support acts were over so the main show could start.  I guess that makes it more surprising that I paid so much attention to Jesse's act when he was supporting Ryan Adams at the Waterfront Hall gig last year.

Jesse came on stage just after nine.  The tracks that are still stuck in my head are: Queen of the Underworld, Silver Manhattan, Brooklyn, Almost Grown, Cigarettes and Violets and (of course) Wendy.  He was accompanied by a violinist, a cellist and a keyboard player.  I think he said something about his drummer being refused entry into the country because of a misunderstanding involving wheatgrass injections.  He did all right without a drummer, but 'Riding on the Subway' really missed them.  Jesse got us all clapping along but it just wasn't the same.  I saw a difference in him this time round - I think it must be because the crowd was there for him and he wasn't 'just' the support act.  He had a good line in banter between songs - he didn't repeat any stories I'd heard before and

My bum had long gone numb thanks to the hard pews, but it was still a concert I didn't want to end. He played until 11:10pm.  And then he came back for three more encores :)  At the end of the second one (Springsteen's 'Hungry Heart' from the Uncut magazine cover CD) I was convinced the clapping and stamping was going to bring the balcony down.  The noise was incredible. He fairly bounced back onto the stage for the final encore, whooped and flung a mug of water over the crowd.  I had a teenage moment where I gave serious consideration to never cleaning my glasses again (oh my god!!! Jesse Malin threw water at me!!!) but soon forgot about that when he threw a t-shirt and then an LP into the crowd.   Nowhere near me (thankfully - there was quite a rugby scrum for them), so I had to buy one for myself.  I got the new single too (so yah boo to Amazon.co.uk who delayed my order until I gave up and cancelled it).

We left after the final encore - we would be cutting it close to make the two tube rides back to the hotel.  Next time I'm just going to pay the taxi fare - Jesse came out after the show to sign autographs and chat with the people who waited.

Back in the hotel after midnight, I experimented with the air-con settings some more, had a quick shower and went to bed with Downliner still ringing in my ears.

It was a good start to the holiday.

The Thursday

This page was last updated on 20-Jul-2003.