When you journey out into the world to make music in a new location, there’s really no way of knowing what to expect until you get there. Many of you may know that I’ve been to Russia before – first in 2013 with Doro then again for an extensive tour in 2015 with U.D.O., but nothing prepared me for the magic and power of my first solo excursion through Russia.
First off, let me explain the logistics of this tour. I was traveling as a solo artist, meaning I was traveling completely by myself and playing with a new band in every city I visited. We would rehearse sometimes the day before the gig, sometimes hours before the gig – one time only, make or break. Luckily, each and every musician I met along the way was incredibly capable and hard working, and had clearly put a lot of time into studying my material before I arrived, which made rehearsals a breeze.
Secondly, my fears of isolation were quickly put to rest as everyone who looked after me in each city was extremely warm, welcoming, and gracious that I had come to visit their town. I could only explain that I was equally gracious to be there.
The stage was set for an unforgettable experience and what transpired at the shows certainly did not disappoint. I’ve played for all kinds of crowds in my life, sized from 100,000 to 1 and just about everything in between, but I saw something in these crowds across Russia that is extremely special – I saw their eyes. I saw them watching me and hanging on every note and word of the material I’d prepared for them. I saw them listening to and appreciating music in a way that is becoming increasingly rare in the West. I saw them exhibiting a deep respect for music.
Each show had a distinct tone and personality and they were all very special for me. The obvious highlights might be my set at the Everjazz International Jazz Festival in Yekaterinburg and the final show of the tour in which I found myself on stage at Lenin Memorial Philharmonic Hall in Ulyanovsk with a Big Band behind me, but the smaller club shows in Ufa and Arkhangelsk were equally special and good for the soul.
I’m happy to say that plans are already being made for me to return to Russia in 2017 for a more extensive tour, so watch this space for info! Also, be sure to check out all the brand new photos and videos that I just posted from the tour.
Lastly, thank you to the wonderful people in Ufa, Yekateringburg, Arkhangelsk, and Ulyanovsk. To the musicians, the fans, and the great new friends I made along the way: it was a dream come true for me. I hope to see you all again soon! Spasibo, Russia!