My day begins at noon. Last night’s two hour drive from Newcastle back to Sydney under heat lightning was spent looking between storm clouds for the constellation of the Southern Cross. I don’t get the view, however, and back in my room I fall asleep the moment my head hits the pillow. When I wake up and pull open the heavy blackout curtain I’m startled by an enormous cruise ship.
At our call in the lobby we gather, as usual, with smiling greetings and pile into the van. Dave Weiner is fashionable in his retro Boston tshirt.
I believe it’s possible (in part) to tell what’s going on in a musician’s head by the t-shirt they’re wearing. Where t-shirts are worn, mostly in the rock world, players might wear something cool and topical, how they might be feeling or want to feel. A t-shirt of the album cover from the first Boston record says: it’s cool to like old stuff, it was a big hit and a lot of people probably fell in love or got laid to it, and now it’s iconic audio. Enough time has passed.
Married for twelve years, high-school sweethearts Renee (bass) and her husband Steve (keyboards) play in Steve Lukather’s band. Luke acknowledges he’s lucky to have them. They’re relaxed with each other and their world reflects that comfort.
Having been burned a couple times by capricious audio gremlins, Steve Lukather spends a little extra time at sound check working through some kinks in the signal path.
An enormous sign hangs near the side of the stage. I wonder if a spotlight shines on this sign throughout the performance. Just a friendly reminder in case anyone is being transported with emotion and considering violent physical release.
Adjacent to the venue is an enormous empty building suitable for livestock exposition. Naturally Joe and Steve host their Q & A in one cozy corner of the hangar. It’s abnormally still for such a cavernous space. Joe, by speaking quietly, intuitively lessens the enormity of the silence. This causes the attendees to listen more closely. It’s like being inside the pyramids.
Back at catering it’s a grand spread, a smorgasbord, with Michael and Graham taking orders to cook our dinner individually, right on the spot. It’s a great gift to be able to eat this well.
In the dining room an old wall of signatures is mounted on casters and persevered behind plexiglass. I notice the Billy Joel especially, if only because his name keeps coming up during this tour. And not only because a flight attendant accused Luke of looking like him (which he really, really doesn’t). Mike Keneally is known to spontaneously erupt into song, a behavior I admire and emulate, and one song in particular strikes his fancy: that moment in “Honesty” when Mr. Joel goes for the climactic “hardly ever heeeaaarrrd!” and of course we all mangle it together. Helpless laughter is a not untypical result. Try harmonizing with it, too. None of us can believe Luke never worked with Mr. Joel. How did that singer songwriter guy slip through the cracks?
I consider dessert but my cup runneth over. Is it an embarrassment of riches?
Sated and even stuffed, I make my way down to our enormous dressing room. One could choreograph a short ballet in this place. We get socks, too, and they are the perfect antithesis of the elongated schoolboy rugby up-your-thigh technical socks of Canberra. These socks are more like little slippers. I test my theory of sock juxtaposition.
It’s a failure, as I knew it would be.
Keeping with the new meme of odd cereal, I offer: “Krunchy Pur.” But I am distracted. What’s that sound? It’s the Steve Lukather band and tonight they are absolutely smoking. We notice from our giant dressing room. This band is on fire tonight. There’s that little extra this evening – the magic.
After the show I rush over to their equally cavernous dressing room. I want to see their faces after that set. I am not disappointed.
On my way back to our world I spy this piece of backstage equipment, customized within an inch of its life.
As Steve Vai prepares to go on Joe is interviewed by a couple of local industry gear guys. The two gents represent a large-ish Japanese instrument manufacturer that benefits healthily from the visibility offered to them through Joe’s exclusive use of their product in performance. I am not convinced the man on the right is entirely comfortable with his recording device.