The IDES OF MARCH CRUISE
(Oh yeah, the Moody Blues Played, too!!)
In the past, whenever “High C’s” came up, it referred to the trumpet of the late, great John Larsen or to the Ides’ current horn whiz Tim Bales; but recently, the “High Seas” is where the Ides played two spectacular shows aboard the Norwegian Pearl on the “Moody Blues Cruise”.
The Moodies had twice before led a stellar cast of bands on Caribbean Excursions, with around 2000 fans enjoying intimate shows, photo ops and meet/greets. For the third round, the Moodies asked the IDES OF MARCH to join in on the fun, and we couldn’t say no!
It was a cold and snowy morning when we boarded the jet for Miami, but 70° temperatures and a sunny sky greeted us as we checked into the hotel the night before we sailed. Right away we started to meet the fans who would join us, and the vibe was rocking. Bumping into other musicians checking in, the party started immediately!
The next morning, we gathered with excitement, loading onto the Motor Coach that would ferry us to the Dock. Jimbo’s old friends Gunnar and Matthew Nelson were there, as were the guys from Rare Earth. When we got to the waterfront, our jaws dropped at the first sight of the Norwegian Pearl, looming huge and impressive. The Production crew ushered us into a V.I.P. line, expediting our security, baggage and check-in; and before you knew it we were stepping onto the ship itself. The Adventure was about to begin!
The Ides were scheduled to play the first major show after embarkation, a 6:30pm downbeat in the Spinnaker Lounge high on deck 13 near the bow of the ship. The Spinnaker is a large, deluxe room with floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, and a terraced seating plan that made every point count. The view outside was fantastic.
At 4pm, the ship set sail, and as we soundchecked high above, we could feel the gentle rocking of the waves. That was the sum total of the “gentle” rocking there would be in the Spinnaker that night. As showtime approached, the fans began to pour in. We had a few special guests-Mark Stein, Pete Bremy and Carmine Appice from the Vanilla Fudge all stopped backstage to wish us well, and stayed to see the show. (The Fudge were also appearing on the cruise).
At 6:30 We launched into “People Get Ready” and proceeded to tear through the Ides’ concert reperitoire. It was standing room only, and clear from the get-go this crowd was serious about having a good time. Before long, the dance floor was filling up, and by the time we got to “Tiger” the audience was right up to the stage. “Tiger” was a swirling, electric, charge of energy, with Jimbo’s traditional journey into the audience a bit abbreviated, ‘cos the audience was so dense on the dance floor, he couldn’t get much further! “Vehicle” took the whole show over the top, and the ovation at the end sounded like something you might hear at the United Center. It was the perfect combination of an audience that wanted to have fun, and a band that was ready to bring it to them.
The rest of the evening was spent in exploring the ship, having a bite to eat and a celebratory cocktail. There were bands playing all over the ship, and musicians were everywhere you looked. As we retired to our cabins, we gave thanks for a successful first day.
We had been scheduled to play the next day, Saturday, at 1:30 in the afternoon, but it was bittersweet, as Saturday was the day scheduled to port in Key West. Many folks would be off-ship enjoying the sights and sounds of that crazy Florida burg. That melancholia was short-lived as we got the newsletter for the day stating our 1:30 show was cancelled and replaced with a 6:30pm show the following day, while were were to be at sea (everyone aboard) and the venue would be the Stardust Theatre where the Moody Blues were appearing! Apparently the word got around about the fine Friday night show. Having the day “off” meant we could go ashore to Key West and have a day of fun. We all went our separate ways, but Scott, Larry and Frank (and wives) managed to hook up and rent a six-passenger electric beach car, driving all over the island (with many U-turns). On the way back to the boat, we ran into John Lodge (bassist for the Moody Blues) whom we thanked for giving us his little video tribute seen at our 50th anniversary show, and also recommending us for this trip. What a nice guy.
It was very gracious of the promoters to reserve one of the dining rooms for the Artists and Crew Only. While anywhere else in the ship, we were constantly greeted by fans (and it must be said-ALL these folks couldn’t have been nicer and more respectful. A very high level of enthusiasm, but dignified and always kind), which was wonderful, but it felt good to step “off the clock” for a short time. Also, it was great to hang with such great musicians. The Ides were at one table, the Zombies at another, Christoper Cross & band across the way, Ambrosia and Randy Hansen at adjacent tables. Heck, WE’RE fans too!!
Later that night we went out to the Pool deck to see the Vanilla Fudge. You would think that in the middle of the Caribbean there would a sultry, warm breeze wafting among us. NOPE! You would have thought you were on Michigan Ave. battling the Hawk. IT was COLD outside. The winds subsided a bit when it came to showtime, but it was still nippy…
Sunday was designed as a “day at sea”, and true enough, in the middle of nowhere, the Pearl ceased forward movement with water as far as you could view on all sides. We collected in the front of the Stardust Theatre, and had a nice chat with Mark Hogue, Tour Coordinator of the Moodies. We set up and soundchecked, and retired to the dressing room just as they were letting the folks in.
Showtime! We went onstage and spied a mostly-filled house. Running through the same basic set we played in the Spinnaker on Friday, this crowd seemed even more pumped than the Club did. And as we played, we noticed folks still filing in. By about 30 minutes into the set, we saw the 1032-seat theatre was jam-packed, with folks standing in the back. Again, “Tiger” set the audience into overdrive, and “Vehicle” lit the afterburners. We had never heard an audience response to the “love yous / need yous” this strong before. This may have been one of the greatest performances by the Ides Of March, ever.
Taking a moment to greet the fans lingering outside the theatre, it was dinner time, and we made our way to the private Indigo Room to bask in the after-show afterglow. On our way back to our cabins, we discovered the Vanilla Fudge ready to play their second show of the trip on the pool stage once again, and as the weather was much better, we decided to cap off a fab night with some classic rock and soul.
Monday was a pure “off” day, and we arrived at Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas. This is a private Island owned by the Norwegian Cruise Lines. Launches shuttled us to the shore, where a delightful complex was found. There was a beautiful beach, and a full stage set up, where Randy Hansen, The “Orchestra” (featuring former members of ELO) and Ambrosia were set to play. Although it was a bit overcast, there was enough tropical warmth to make us know that we were lucky to be there and not in the snow and cold back home. A few of us stayed back on the boat to see the handful of bands (like Christopher Cross and The Strawbs) that were featured. After the “beach crew” returned, we headed down to the pool stage to see Chuck Negron (3 Dog Night), Brian Howe (Bad Company), and Mark Farner (Grand Funk) rock the boat in a big way. Later, another fun band dinner in the Indigo was mounted, then it was time to go to the atrium for the “All-Star Jam”
Who was the first “All-Star” to grace the stage? JIMBO! of course! Jim kind of became the “go-to” guy, calling off songs, playing guitar and singing with his usual high energy. He was there for most of the night.
Tuesday started early, and we had to disembark by 9am. Sadly, we left our massive friend at the same dock we met her, blew through customs and were soon aboard a bus bound for Miami International Airport.
It was a fantasy trip. Immersed in music, we were among old musician friends, made a bunch of new musician friends, and experienced an avalanche of good will from hundreds and hundreds of long-time fans and brand-new converts.
We extend our boundless gratitude to all the fans who made this trip a high point in our career, to the intrepid crew of the good ship Pearl, and to the Moody Blues for allowing us to bring a little Berwyn to the World…
You can check out fan pictures and stories at www.facebook.com/moodiescruise
The Official Website of the Moody Blues Cruise is www.moodiescruise.com