We have a breakthrough for the monitor mix. We add Neal’s drums to the side monitors and, for the first time, I can hear him loud and clear. Now I really feel like we’re on a roll. And yet another exceptionally great night of theatrical rock.
Four and a half hours to London.
16 November WEMBLEY
Tommy, Ryan, Nita, Chuck, and Glen Sobel form a huddle in the backstage hallway, they each reach one hand into the center of the circle. Alice puts his sword across the top of their hands while Chuck calls out an energizing pep talk. They cheer and march off toward the stage. An older security guy is watching the hoopla. I tell him that our band just says its time to play, and we go to the stage.
Neal, Michael, and I are every bit as enthusiastic as they are, but we have to play it cool… like the Jets in West Side Story. For me, it has something to do with the late Glen Buxton being with us in spirit. Glen, who died of pneumonia in 1997, was our fiery rebellious guitar slinger, and he was too cool for school, as he liked to say.
Michael and I walk through the cold backstage area where the empty trucks wait for their after-show loading. We follow the flashlights up the dark ramp up to the stage and the loud excitement of the full arena. The crew is bustling about behind the giant curtain where the audience can’t see them, but they all take time to greet us, and they all ask if we need anything. These are the unsung heroes of this massive traveling operation.
The varying temperature messes with our metal strings, so Michael and I check our tuning while Neal has a chat with the drum tech. I know my bass isn’t “hot” so I can warm up by playing along with “Ballad of Dwight Fry” without being heard.
Even though Alice and the touring band have set the bar very high, when it comes to delivering a live show, nothing has changed, the OGs are wired to get out there and kick some ass, not so much to prove any points, but because it’s fun.
The guillotine blade slams down with a clunk.
The stage darkens and the final dirge of “I Love The Dead” begins. I carefully make my way across the dark path behind the drum risers, stepping over cables, lighting effects, and pyro pods until I reach the far side of the stage where I can barely see Sheryl marching past with her perfect dancer’s posture and the defiant sassy attitude that she’s developed for her crazy nurse character. She’s a real pro and the perfect wife for Alice. Nita and Tommy walk up next to me while concentrating on playing their guitar parts in the dark. I begin playing along with them and make my way out to the front of Neal’s drum riser. Ryan and I nod to each other and smile. Neal cues the intro, and once again, for the fifth and final show of the reunion tour, when “I’m Eighteen” starts, the stage lights explode into brightness and I walk out toward the spine tingling welcome of thousands of cheering fans.
Alice appears in his shiny gold snake print suit and sings, lines form on my face and hands, lines form from the ups and downs. I look down into the photographer’s pit directly in front of the stage and I see Cindy smiling and rockin’ out. It’s easy to see that she’s proud of all of us, especially her brother and me. It feels like all the planets in the universe are aligned.