Well Poland was a hoot! Ask our stage manager Glyn Mills who fell in love at first taste with a particular brand of Polish cherry vodka. He probably still has the hangover. We were well looked after by promoter Piotr Grudzinsky, who also happens to play guitar for Polish band Riverside who are lucky enough to have just landed the European support slot for Dream Theatre. Check them out on myspace.com/riversidepl. We arrived at Poznan knackered after a cheapy flight ordeal aboard Wiz airlines and grabbed a couple of hours kip at the hotel before being whisked off to a small club called Johnny Rockers for what we thought was an informal meet and greet with a bunch of Polish Budgie fans. How naive! Informal is simply not the Polish way and we were seated, on stage, at a strategically placed table, supplied with a mic and an interpreter and, with a Polish tv camera pointed at us, found ourselves in the middle of a Q&A session that started off a little strained (as you would naturally expect if you don’t do this sort of thing every day) but after a couple of beers everyone relaxed and it turned out to be a very enjoyable evening. It also became obvious that Budgie are not only popular with older Poles, who may have been there on the infamous 1982 tour, but also with much younger rock fans. Many of them, understandably, have had the batten passed down from their parents but it seems there is still huge demand amongst the young for classic rock bands.
The first show at Poznan was typical of most first nights! Problems with monitors on stage and hiccups with the unfamiliar back line. Add to that a massive communication breakdown with the Polish crew, the obligatory nerves (yes we do still get nervous especially on the first night) and the addition of Parents and Tell Me Tell Me to the set, and you have a potential recipe for disaster! That’s where the experience gleaned from hundreds of years on the road comes in handy and if there’s one thing we all have bags of it’s the ability to (in the words of the escaped penguins in the animated “Madagasca” movie) smile and wave boys! Smile and wave! Now that’s the gig from our standpoint! The 1200 or so Poles who had parted with their hard earned Zloties had a blast. From the word go they were leaping about waving their arms in the air and singing along to every song. They knew the lyrics better than Burke (cough!) and it was inspiring to say the least. After the show we were swamped by a horde of fans who had waited an hour or so to get autographs and photo’s.
Warsaw was another sellout show and again all hell broke loose as soon as Simon played the first notes of Panzer Division setting the pace for the next 90 minutes or so. The band had settled down and the show for us was much better though there were still problems with the on stage sound. Parents was accompanied by at least a 1000 strong vocal backing and, had the audience not already been standing, would have undoubtedly received a standing ovation. The songs off the new album all went down well as did the older material but the loudest applause, apart from the already mentioned Parents, came when the Breadfan riff started.
The last show at Krakow boasted a slightly smaller, but no less enthusiastic, audience of around 600 and was probably the best gig from the bands point of view with a good all round sound and a fantastic reception. From the outset this bunch were going to have a good time and so were we. The new album is well liked and the tracks played live, Dead Men, Justice, Tell Me and Falling went down a storm though, once again, the oldies were what these Budgie fans were waiting for and In For The Kill rocked the place to the rafters.
It was all over too soon and after a day (Sunday) sightseeing in the late Pope John Paul’s home town we were squashed into a Brian Air sardine can and subjected to two hours of Butlins style cash grabbing torture inflicted by an over-enthusiastic oestrogen charged male air steward trying to sell us everything from raffle tickets ( Did he really think I was that stupid? Where would they hide the star prize Mini on board a plane? Ha!) to rail tickets and overpriced cheap duty free. Well what do you expect on a flight that probably cost less than a ticket to one of our shows. A worthless trip home at the end of a priceless couple of days in Polski. When can we go back?