Tour Diary – Germany: Hamburg, Hannover and Berlin (Nov 3 – 5, 2011)

Has it really already been a year? At the end of our European tour last November we decided to take a year off the road. Our most extended break in over a decade. There were a couple of one-offs that we couldn’t pass up like in Budapest and Beijing, but we haven’t seen the inside of a tour bus for twelve months: funny how it seems like only a month or so ago that we battled the bus from hell across Northern Europe.

It has certainly been a busy year. After we got home from Europe we finished off Demons, we recorded and released Sing In My Meadow and have made huge inroads into volume 4, The Wilderness. I also recorded and released a couple of albums for Latent: Ivy Mairi’s No Talker and Cootes Leland’s Trail Of Smoke, as well as working on a number of other smaller projects in our studio. Perhaps that is why this year has passed so quickly.

Hamburg (Nov 2 and 3)
It’s always hard to get going again. The disruption on the home front is always unsettling. My way to assuage the guilt of leaving is to go around the house changing all of the burnt out light bulbs. Once that is done I feel that I have left the family on a firm footing. The flight across the pond was thankfully uneventful (except for the $1700 excess baggage fee) and we arrived in Hamburg without the loss of a single bag or instrument case. On Day 1 the only struggle was to try and stay awake long enough to trick ones internal clock in to readjusting to the time change. Fat chance. The 3am wake-up is inevitable, you’d think we would have learnt by now.

Day 2 was gig day. It was a new venue for us, Fabrik, located in an old factory of some sort: a very beautiful old building (in an industrial kind-of-way) that has been intelligently reconfigured. When we walked in we weren’t quite sure of what it would sound like, but we were quickly won over at soundcheck. Tonight’s show was the type of gig that is responsible for keeping bands like us out on the road for 25 years. One of those magic gigs where the sound on stage is perfect and each player is reacting to what the other is doing, where the band moves as a single organism, growing, growling, collapsing and reacting as a unit. It’s the type of gig that when one comes off stage you think, “I never, ever want to stop doing this”. The audience was also in tune and was willing to come along for the ride as we dipped deeply into The Nomad Series and Sing In My Meadow in particular. The songs on volume 3 are particularly fun to play live and I have a feeling their intensity will grow over the coming years.

Hannover (November 4)
We were due for a bit of a letdown. All of the travel, a couple of days and nights of fighting jetlag and all of the energy spent on the first gig was bound to take its toll. We have never been to Hannover, but it was hard to do too much exploring, my body is confused and sometimes it’s best to just stay relatively still and let it orientate itself. It was a nice enough venue tonight, but it seemed set up for more of a rock band: a very high stage and a PA that was much too powerful for the room. Jared had trouble controlling the sound out front and consequently we had a tough time finding our sound on stage. It wasn’t a terrible night, but not nearly as good as last night. It was more like work tonight, but enjoyable work. Once again the audience was terrific. We have been, and where possible will continue, dividing the show into two hour long sets and reserving the entire first set for songs from The Nomad Series and then playing the “hits” and some obscurities in the second set. It seems to be working and, so far, the audiences seem to be reacting well to the concept.

Berlin (November 5)
Last night was our first night on the bus although we sat all night outside the gig and didn’t move until 7:30 this morning. A four hour trek along the autobahn isn’t the best way to start a day, but what can you do, this is Europe, you roll with the punches. Berlin is one of those cities that you can’t really get a feel for on just one visit. We have been coming here for over two decades (our first time was right before the wall came down) and I can’t say that I have figured this place out. All I know is that it’s got the energy and insanity of all the great cities of the world. It’s always a pleasure to come here. One nice feature about this bus is that all of the bunks have windows in them. This morning I lay in my bunk, watching Berlin roll by on this beautiful fall morning.

This is our fourth time playing this venue (Passionkirsche) and yet I’m still not exactly sure where it is located in Berlin. The neighbourhood surrounding it is very active and full of young families. The square across from the church was occupied by a flea market today and the food market just beyond was full of families out for a late breakfast. I spent some time wandering through the neighbourhood’s old graveyard which was especially spectacular in its fall colours. I even saw a few types of warbler-ish birds that I’ve never seen before. If I had a life list I’d have something to add to it.

The Passionkirsche is a beautiful and still active church that has a lot of musical events, although most of them are acoustic. It’s always a little tricky turning up the amplifiers in here. Fortunately we have some experience dealing with its sonic challenges. We had a magical gig tonight. It wasn’t as musically locked in as the Hamburg show but there was fantastic energy and there seemed to be a real communion between the band and audience: really fun night on both sides of the stage.

That wraps up the German leg of the tour….tonight it’s an overnight drive to Belgium and a day off In Bruges.

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6 Responses to “Tour Diary – Germany: Hamburg, Hannover and Berlin (Nov 3 – 5, 2011)”

  1. geoff Says:

    November 6th, 2011 at 6:04 am

    Hannover: the bass seemed a little heavy at times: not really notes so much as a sonic feeling. The crowd also seemed older; more sedate, maybe. But intimate.
    I always wonder how Germans (and Europeans generally) view people like Neil Young, and how well they see the connections between your music and his, or Springsteen, or Robert Johnson or maybe even someone as obscure as Gordon Lightfoot. I know I’ve never heard any good covers of “Helpless” done by anyone who wasn’t Canadian, for example (Nick Cave, Patti Smith, etc., can’t seem to get “Ontario” right).
    I heard Marianne Faithful doing Kurt Weill in the Passionkirsche a few years back; a good venue. Berlin is, admittedly, strange. I didn’t like it the first time through, but eventually sort of equated it with a slightly bulky, very Germanic Paris: a lot of boulevards, parks, rivers and canals. Then the divide between east and west, and whole piles of interesting little neighbourhoods… sometimes best to think of it (like Dresden) as a whole pile of little towns all sort of globbed together: think GTA, and North York, Etobicoke, Scarberia, etc.
    Brugges… I’ve been through a few times, on the way to somewhere else. Great waffles. Vimy is nearby, as are Ypres and a whole lot of WWI, great chocolate and beer.
    You’re definitely lucky with the weather!

  2. Barbara Says:

    November 6th, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Mike said this, concerning the Berlin show: “We had a magical gig tonight. It wasn’t as musically locked in as the Hamburg show but there was fantastic energy and there seemed to be a real communion between the band and audience: really fun night on both sides of the stage.”

    I’ll second that emotion. The audience was at once respectful and enthusiastic, the band was on its game, and Margo’s voice took full advantage of the space inside that beautiful church. I’m loving the new material live–at one point during “Sing in My Meadow,” I heard echoes of Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks.” Fantastic.

    That was my first trip to Berlin, and it does take some effort to figure it out–so I spent two days walking as many of the neighborhoods as possible, surrounded by the crisp cold air and the autumn colors. And to end the experience with a CJ gig–it’s hard to beat that. Many thanks!

  3. Nicole Says:

    November 6th, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Dear Margot and al the other Cowboy Junkies,
    tomorrow we will join your gig in Brugge (we live in the Netherlands and drive to Belgium and I hope we’re on time!)
    It would mean the world to me if you would sing “Angel mine’ to me and the love of my live: Ben. We know each other for 20 years and are a couple for one year, I could never be happier than right now! Angel mine is ‘our’ song……

    Thank you; i’m looking forward to listen to you!

    yours sincerly, Nicole Bovens

  4. Luc Van Bogaert Says:

    November 8th, 2011 at 4:40 am

    Dear Cowboy Junkies,

    Me and wife very much enjoyed your concert last night in Bruges! After seeing you live for the first time last year in Turnhout, Belgium, I was so impressed that I wouldn’t let this opportunity to see you again pass by, so we decided without hesitation to take the 1.5 hrs drive to Bruges. You guys really know how to create a beautiful, relaxing and bluesy atmosphere on stage. Can’t wait to see you next time you pass by our country.

    PS: your own songs are great of course, but I think you do wonders with Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down”!
    PS2 : since you appear to acknowledge some of the e-mail song requests, what about doing a Dylan-cover next time ’round. Maybe “Two Soldiers” or “License To Kill” ? Pleeeaaasse ?

    Sincerely,
    Luc Van Bogaert.

  5. Mike Timmins Says:

    November 8th, 2011 at 6:25 am

    Hi Luc,

    Thank you for coming to the concert…just send us an email the next time you are coming to a show with a song request and we’ll try and work it in (it’s always best to give us a choice between a few songs, some are easier than others to pull out of the catalogue for one show). Thanks again for listening….

  6. Andreas Chmielewski Says:

    November 8th, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Hi dear Cowboy Junkies,
    it’s easy for me to completely agree to Luc’s lines. I also have seen you last year in Turnhout for the first time and enjoyed you in Brugge yesterday night again. The impressions from this place and your performance are still with me. I liked it much to hear the new songs and, very much, the old beautiful sad songs … It was worth every single of the 320 kilometers from Germany.
    A point of criticism? The gig was way toooo short ;-) Soooo many songs left I would love to hear you perform.
    In short words: It was great, mind-blowing!
    Hope to see you next year again! Have fun on your coming tour days and a good ride home, Andreas