Two days ago we left for Canada. The sky was cloudless, burning blue. I was down at my brother's beach-side gaff behind the sand dunes at a place called Kilcunda in South Gipplsand, next to a river running black with tea-tree oil. Waiting for the wind to change. The reef thundered behind the hill. Big Surf. The great southern ocean. Lou Reed has been dead six days and a man in a blue uniform had just opened fire at LAX.
We packed the car. Guitars, bags and boots, left the boards under the deck and fishtailed up onto the highway to Melbourne Airport, three hours away.
I've been singing professionally now for 32 years, each gig has lead to the next, planning months ahead but not much longer. I've never had larger ambition than the act of getting on stage. The singing is everything to me. It defines me, which is of course, no small thing. But the accumulation of rooms, regardless of their size has reached a critical mass I suppose. Certainly the songs themselves have reached many people. They are well known back home. But even now, there is little more to the planning than the love of the act itself and of course, the constant repetition. Which might help to explain how we manage to move from a fully blown stadium rock show at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, with an audience of around 110,000, to an upcoming acoustic set at the Eidelweiss Tavern in Kitchener... this without blinking.
Our Canadian publicist asked me to mention that. "Why?" I asked. "It's a point of interest," he said. The contrast. Really? What's the big deal? Does it matter? Yep. There's the issue of scale. There must be tension in that. Hell yeah! There's tension alright. But that's the point! And I can see how the contrast in sheer scale might strike the punter as strange or maybe difficult. It is. But let me tell you, from where I'm standing, if it sounds good in the shower, it'll fly anywhere, which in the wisdom of my years is as good a mantra as any if you're trying to ignore a thirty second slap delay off the wall of the Great Southern Stand, you will soon come to rely on your head voice, no matter how weird of just plain bad the stage sound can be.
No singer can live on ego alone. Crowd size is a bonus. And the trail can be unforgiving. So enjoy your craft because sometimes it's its own dividend.. that and what I call the 'human bottom line': All rooms are the same. They are populated by souls who are there to listen. It's not about you. It's about us.
People always ask me what's next in the pipeline. And I always say the same thing; which is whatever I have in mind in that moment. If there's something coming up, something big, I tell them that.
"We're going to Canada next week."
Canada. To Australians, Canada is a cold exotic place with huge bears who eat anything and people who say '"sorry" a lot. I really wish Australians were half as polite. So what else? Of course, there's more to it than just the bears although I've never come across one and apparently it isn't advised, though I do like to wander.
There are moose, deer, elk, raccoons, coyote, puma, wolves, and the people of-course, about 36,000,000 souls and there's the not insignificant fact that the United States of America tried to invade Canada in 1812. I love that! And the fact that they blew it. I love that even more. Australians are usually incredulous. I tell them, "Look it up. The U.S. tried to stomp on Canada in 1812!"
Funny thing is, very few of them ask why, which is kind of boring.
And leads me to another "why"? Why Canada? Well, it's incredibly beautiful for a start. There's the massive sky, the rolling powerful dirt-country, glaciated and scoured by the ages, the sense of frontier, the long shadows, the slow twilight, gorgeous colours of the fall and being on the edge of the infinite north; the road west around the lakes, the van we rolled coming into Edmonton, the Saskatoon load-in, when the ramp iced over, and everyone pitched in, the long runs across the prairie, the hardness of it, the whining engine, driving on, and the uplift of performance, the rising tunes of love, sadness, and hope. It is in a very primal way, a lot like Australia. If you're up for the rigour, you will reach people, where they live. We are skirting the edge of emptiness. Canada is alive.
Yesterday we arrived with no visas, playing for nix in lieu of coming back next year to do the full band tour but the no visa thing was going to be a test. There would be difficult questions and lots of documents. But when in answer to the question, "Have you been to Canada before?" I said, "Many times," the mood lifted. She smiled and the doors opened.
I've always had an audience here. Don't ask me to explain that. Canadians were up for it from the start. The Toucan Club, Toronto, 1982. It isn't there anymore but we lit something that night, even though I don't remember much of it.
But there's another why. Why anywhere you may well ask? Why go? Why leave home? Human beings want to be wherever looks good in their dreams, but getting there is always a bitch. The baggage carousel is like the village well. A meeting place of whingers! And there in lies the riddle of it. Touring is all about exactly that. The getting there.
I love Canada.
- Nov 7 at Edelwiess in Kitchener with Mike Marlin, 8 p.m.
- Nov 9 at Mod Club with Mike Marlin, Matinee show, 3 p.m.