John Garrison, Bassist with James Blunt, reports from week 2 of the band’s US tour with Ed Sheeran.
Day 8 | Toronto ACC
We’ve had a few days off here with the family in upstate New York. We even had a flying visit from Ed Sheeran who arrived on a seaplane that landed on the Hudson River! My 7 year-old son (and no.1 Ed fan) Viktor, bombarded him with questions about his songs: “What shape is your girlfriend and why do you love it so much?” I have to say, he was wonderful and incredibly patient. He even let Viktor win at table tennis and listened to all the songs he’s written on the piano. He definitely cemented his hero status in my little boy’s mind. What a great guy.
James, Pembers and I leave our families in NY and fly up to Toronto for two sold out gigs at the ACC. We make use of the family-free time and go for a walk along Queen St, which is my favourite area of Toronto thanks to its wonderful shops and coffee bars. The obligatory trip to Moog Audio makes me thankful I left my credit card at the hotel. If you are into weird electronic synths and recording gear, this place is a must! It’s baking hot here, but once again the arena is freezing. James headlined this same venue a few years ago, so to be the opening act feels a little like a fall from grace, still James’ new album is doing great here in Canada. His following is huge, but everything pales into the shadows when compared to the recent success of Ed Sheeran. Before Ed, kids thought they had to enter a TV talent show to become successful, but Ed has single headedly made a whole new generation want to pick up a guitar.
We go on and it’s a great gig. There are a lot of Blunt’s fans here and we play a blinder. The break has done wonders, the crowd are awesome and Blunt wins every fan over. We’re buzzing! We head to a sports bar nearby and sit outside in the warm evening for a few beers. It’s awesome. This is what touring is all about. We then get wind that there’s a Sheeran crew party down the road as they have a ‘walk away’ tonight (another gig in same venue tomorrow, so no need to pack away the stage). It’s a great party with virtual golf keeping us all entertained, if a little in danger after a few beers.
Day 9 | Blue Jays Baseball and the Road to Buffalo.
A huge cheer from outside my window wakes me up, but I drift back off again. Then a huge roar! OK, it’s time to investigate. I throw open the curtains to find that I’m actually inside the Blue Jays baseball stadium and there’s a game going on, right now. I wasn’t expecting that! Pembers and I take another walk along Queen St.
We get to the gig to find all Ed’s crew slightly the worse for wear! But it’s another sell out gig and another great show. We all agree that last night was a tiny bit better, but it doesn’t matter. We’ve had two great shows and that’s Toronto done. All aboard the bus and we head to Buffalo back in the US. The 4am border crossing means we all get hauled off the bus for the usual immigration check. There’s no super star treatment when it comes to border police and even Ed’s forced off in his bus PJ’s. The immigration guys ask us some pretty obvious questions: “why are you coming to the States?” It seems a stupid question when everyone on the tour bus gives the same answer. Still, I guess a job is a job.
Day 10 | The Return To Chicken Wing Mecca
We wake up in Buffalo, NY, and James is very excited, as it’s the centre of the universe for his favourite food, chicken wings. I’m a part-time veggie these days, thanks to my son going vegetarian last year having watched a BBC documentary about porcupines….but that’s another story…. Anyway, in Buffalo, I am not veggie. No one is. James’s culinary obsession has rubbed off on all of us over the years. In 2011, on a promo trip through America, we went to a place here called Duffs and have forever been trying to find an establishment that can compare, but to no avail. In fact, nothing comes close. James actually has the Duffs menu in his jacket pocket at all times. I promise you, that’s true. He is possessed! He’s even thinking about writing a book called WOW (Wings Of The World), which will be about chicken wings with ratings that he’s gathered over the years.
So today we return to Duffs and we get word that Ed wants to come as James has gone on about how good it is for so long. The Blunt band wait outside the venue for the mini bus we have booked (we are 15 mins early as James is seriously excited). Suddenly 2 big mini vans arrive and a huge posse consisting of Ed, his producer and a lot if his crew. We get to Duffs and they have no idea what’s going on. It’s only a small place and we should have booked! Having 2 superstars in the dining party always helps when a table is needed. They squeeze us in and James orders for everyone. Regular hot, suicide hot and DEATH are the strength of spice ordered.
Suicide has a good kick and floors the majority of the party. The remaining few get a Blunty pep talk about how to tackle the infamous DEATH sauce. Only use 1 hand. Never use said chosen hand to go to the toilet or rub eyes or touch anywhere sensitive on your body (or anyone else’s for that matter)… our guitarist Benny (Ben Castle) starts screaming in the middle of the restaurant and I start to lose my vision. God knows what’s in that sauce, but we love it. We get back to the venue and prepare for the gig, which is a weird one. The audience are very much here for Ed and we feel a bit in the way. It could, of course, be that all our senses have been numbed by Duffs! We board the bus and head to Philadelphia while watching Kill Bill with a few beers. I guess the gigs can’t all be great.