Thursday, March 28, 2013

Meister's "Views of the Cruise" - Volume #18 - Monday in Coco Cay

***These "daily diaries" were originally intended to be posted the day after the events, but as you can see there was soooo much going on during the cruise that it was impossible!  I hope you enjoy reading them as late as they are!***

Monday March 18th, 2013

This morning I woke up to a sore throat and no sound escaping from it when I opened my mouth.  I was able coax some scratchy sounds out after a few minutes, but was rather hard to understand.  I went up to the buffet restaurant for breakfast with the young lady who was my room mate, set up through a mutual friend.  During our breakfast she told me that a few people had come up to her asking her to sign autographs and take a photo, thinking that she was a member of Vixen (JSRG)!  I told her to sign it anyway and see if it shows up on eBay or something.  I saw Biff and Nigel in the buffet line, but respected their privacy and did not bother them.  Just my luck that this is the only time that I've seen them around the ship!

My room mate went back to the room to freshen up as I wandered the upper deck, taking in the sunshine.  Today we were docked at the private island of Coco Cay, Bahamas, which is just for cruise ships I understand.  There were tenders (or shuttle boats) available to take us ashore every 15 minutes until the last one at 5pm and we planned to be there for Great White's 1:30pm performance on the beach.  While waiting for my room mate to freshen up I began the day with a light beer, still unable to speak clearly.  Rhino Bucket, Saxon, Keel and JSRG destroyed me yesterday!

As I enjoyed basking in the sun I heard an announcement over the P.A. system, that I got the feeling had been announced before, but I probably didn't hear it if I was at a show.  It said something to the effect of, "We are still searching for a guitar.  Please bands and crew check your gear for a black case with Black n' Blue stamped on it."  I couldn't help but wonder how we lost a guitar or how someone could steal it, but I guess in this day and age anything is possible!

We reached the shore of Coco Cay and wandered past all of the vendors to the beach straight ahead.  The stage was set up over to the right side and the food and bars were on the left.  I lost my room mate and the other young lady that we had come across with and I decided to investigate the food selections.  It did not seem to be any different than what was on the buffet aboard ship, but what the hell, I loaded up a plate.  Finding some other friends, I joined their table.  I adjourned to the shaded bar area to refresh my beverage and had the pleasure of chatting with Courtney from Femme Fatale for a few minutes, promising that I would catch their set later back on the ship.  Great White started up and I was disappointed that it was an acoustic set, although I should have suspected that being as it would not be easy to lug all the gear across from the MSC Poesia.  I wandered closer to try and get a look, but the stage was low to the ground and the crowd in front negated a short guy like me seeing the performers.  Throughout the beach Great White could be heard from most places except inside the covered bar area and I heard tunes such as Desert Moon, (I've Got) Something For You (from the new Elation record), House Of Broken
Love, Hard To Say Goodbye, Rock Me and Once Bitten Twice Shy.  I noticed several other artists scattered around the beach taking in the performance or enjoying the surf such as Queensryche's Eddie Jackson, Ron Keel, Helix's Daryl Gray and Brian Vollmer and even Wendy Dio.  After Great White was finished, I hung around for a few minutes chatting with some friends and decided to make my way back to the sanctity of the ship.  I'm not a huge one for the beach anyway and Cinderella was due on the pool stage at 4:30pm.  I had heard all the rumours that Tom Keifer had not made the boat as he was very ill and even was forced to cancel the last dates of his solo tour before the voyage as well.  It was planned to be Cinderella and friends, having several other artists join the rest of the guys on stage for a sort of all-star jam, something that you won't see anywhere else, that's for sure.

I found a vantage point on one of the staircases at the rear of the pool deck, above one of the whirlpool hot tubs for the show.  They opened up with Cinderella's Gypsy Road and I noticed John Corabi up there on the stage, but I'm not sure who the vocalist was for this song.  After the song was over and a stage hand removed the taped up lyric sheets, John seemed to take over as the host and announced Jeff Keith as he joined the stage for a cover of AC/DC's Highway To Hell.  Rod Stewart's Maggie May was the next song to receive the treatment and
Corabi took the vocals on this one which I thought came off quite well.  My attention was a little distracted by the young lady in the teal bathing suit down by the whirlpool who was posing suggestively and showing her breasts for the crowd of male on lookers!  Spike from The London Quireboys was the next guest on stage for another Rod Stewart/Faces classic in Stay With Me.  Spike held onto the microphone for The Rolling Stones' You Can't Always Get What You Want.  Although this was quite fun hearing these classic rock tunes in this setting with these performers, I decided to move on and catch a bit of Ted Poley's electric show before hitting the Pigalle Lounge for Femme Fatale at 6pm.

Ted did not disappoint and sounded great.  I did not linger very long as I'd heard this set before, both electric at the pool party and acoustic yesterday.

I arrived early enough to obtain another beverage and see some of the Femme Fatale sound check.  There appeared to be some technical issues going on with the guitars, but they seemed to get everything solved and got under way on time....I think.  The ladies opened up with the MTV hit Falling In And Out Of Love followed by Heat The Fire.  The stage hand on the right side facing the stage continuously assisted Nita with her Corona throughout the set.  Back In Your Arms Again and Rebel were next on the list and as Rebel is not one of my favourites, I used that opportunity to adjourn to the washroom, relinquishing my spot at the front of the stage.  I returned quickly, after refreshing my beverage of course and they were still in Rebel.  Touch & Go followed and then If, during which both guitarists Courtney and Nita (also members of The Iron Maidens, an all female Iron Maiden tribute band) left the stage and came around to the back of
the crowd by where I was standing.  The ladies continued soloing and playing while drinking Coronas for a few minutes before returning to the stage to finish out the song.  Lorraine announced that although they love drummer Rachel Rhine, they had a special guest for tonight and please welcome Athena Lee to the stage.  The ladies pounded through the biggest hit from the Femme Fatale album with Waiting For The Big One. All in all a great performance, including the rather odd section that saw a gentleman from the crowd get up on stage with the girls.  This gentleman was wearing some kind of thong (possibly ladies) bikini bottom and nothing else!  He was spotted around the ship and I admire his gusto although I would prefer not to have had to witness it myself!

It suddenly occurred to me in my beered up haze that I had promised something to one of the MORC organisers that I'd never met, but had exchanged several emails and phone calls with during which she afforded me lots of advice and answers to my seemingly never-ending questions.  I hustled off to the Hospitality desk to see if she was around.  When I arrived and spoke to the ladies there, telling them my story, they immediately called her to come down.  I felt bad taking her away from her duties and what was surely a crazy day for them all, but the ladies at the desk insisted and a few minutes later she arrived.  I shook her hand, happy to finally meet in person and apologised for not finding her sooner for I had promised to buy her her first drink aboard ship in return for all the help, as I handed her a drink ticket.  Everyone at MOR has been extremely pleasant and helpful to me this year and last as well and I take this moment to thank them all!

The rumblings of hunger began deep in my stomach so I figured I'd better stop off quickly at the buffet before my next event, which happened to be Stryper up on the pool deck near the buffet anyway.  I loaded up a plate with the same old food that was found here every day, none of it too exciting and chose the first empty table I spotted.  As I was shovelling the mediocre sustenance into my mouth, Paul Quinn, one of the Saxon guitarists walked by my table.  Not wanting to bother him at dinner I simply nodded and said "great show yesterday" as he walked by.  He stopped and looked at me as I said "sorry about my voice, it was screaming for Saxon that did this to me!"  he laughed and said "I couldn't understand it when Biff kept calling for the crowd to be louder, you were already very loud!"

The next event popping up on my mental plan was to catch Stryper for a few songs before heading over to TNT.  I finished up my meal and walked out into the open air of the upper decks and towards the pool stage.  Stryper was not on yet, I must be a bit early still, so I made a circuit of the whole deck, searching for friends to chat with.  Finding no-one around, they must all be crowding the stage for Stryper, who I'm not that rabid about but would love to check out their live set, maybe converting me to fan status, or at The Frank Hannon Band who was on stage in the Zebra Lounge in the same time slot.  Apparently there were some sound issues causing the delay for Stryper.  Finally they got under way and I was able to catch the To Hell With The Devil opener followed by The Calling before I moved on for the much anticipated (by me) TNT as I began to work my way down into the bowels of the ship.

The Carlo Felice Theatre was already lined up with fans waiting to get in to see TNT.  This theatre is weird compared to the other venues aboard ship.  For some reason you can't get into this theatre more than a few minutes prior the show start.  And there are no beverages allowed in there, yet you can bring in a plate of food from the buffet as I had seen several people do, but no drinks!  Beyond me any ways!  While waiting for them to open the doors, I caught a couple of songs from The Frank Hannon Band in the next room over, the Zebra Lounge.  Frank's newest CD, Six String Soldiers is an excellent album and also features a guest spot from shipmate Y&T's Dave Meniketti.  I heard Gypsy Highway and I Am Alive before seeing that we were allowed into the Carlo Felice Theatre.

TNT opened up with Listen To Your Heart and I was pleased with them all around.  I was totally unfamiliar with TNT prior to them being announced as being aboard ship.  I searched out some of their music and really enjoyed most of it, eventually collecting most of the releases during the time before the voyage.  Their latest offering Farewell To Arms is a new favourite of mine in my listening rotation.  Obviously I have never seen them live so I have no comparison of vocalist Tony Mills to his predecessor Tony Harnell, but I was loving what I was hearing and seeing by the time they got through As Far As The Eye Can See and
into (an unkown track).  USA and Harley Davidson were next up on the set list before Caught Between The Tigers.  During Caught Between The Tigers the awesome guitarist Ronni LeTekro broke into a blistering solo.  He is a stellar player for sure although he looks a bit rough, but I'm not one to support an overly long guitar (or any other instrument for that matter) solo in a shortened one hour set.  They could have played at least one more full song like Engine from the Farewell To Arms CD, maybe even two during what seemed like an endless solo.  My Religion, 10,000 Lovers, Everyone's A Star, Intuition (which included an audience member singing into the offered microphone) and Seven Seas rounded out the otherwise impressive set by TNT and I will certainly put them on my radar if I ever get the chance to see them again.

I now had forty-five minutes until my next planned set, which was L.A. Guns in the Zebra Lounge for an hour before I head back to the theatre for Dio Disciples at 10:45pm.  I snuck up closer to the front for what was to be my third time in a few days of seeing L.A. Guns perform live, the second without guitarist Michael Grant who was denied boarding for reasons that are only speculation at this point.  So, in continuing along with their string of issues starting with the lack of guitarist, a blown amp delayed their 9:45pm start for a while.  Finally under way they started with Over The Edge, Sex Action and I Wanna  Be Your Man, before I stepped back from the front of the stage to refresh my beverage once again, not that I needed any more of course.

While listening to some more of L.A. Guns set from the bar area of the Zebra Lounge I again ran into Georg Dolivo, lead vocalist of Rhino Bucket.  After a brief chat in which I praised the show from yesterday, the beginning of the loss of voice incident, we posed for a self picture before I moved on to the Carlo Felice Theatre for Dio Disciples.  I am so looking forward to the new Rhino Bucket release and also the recently mail-ordered Live At The Coconut Teazer CD which is actually a newly discovered recording of a Rhino Bucket concert from 1990.

Once again meeting up with my Quiet Riot agent friend, we found some decent seats back from the floor area in the Carlo Felice Theatre for Dio Disciples and settled in for the show.  A guy was working his way around the back of the floor area selling black rubber wristbands with Ronnie James Dio and RIP engraved/printed on them for $5.00 with all proceeds going to the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up & Shout Cancer Fund.  A fashionable purchase and a great cause.  With a huge Holy Diver artwork backdrop, Dio Disciples took the stage starting out with the awesome Killing The Dragon and then straight into the epic Holy Diver.  Mark Boals, stepping in for Tim "Ripper" Owens who was unable to make the cruise, handled the vocals on these first two tracks.  Oni Logan, who was great to see on last year's cruise with Lynch Mob took over the microphone for Egypt (The Chains Are On).  I noticed that this was the busiest that I'd seen the theatre yet during this year's voyage and in the crowd were several other artists such as
Jason McMaster of Dangerous Toys.  Both Mark and Oni teamed up for a duet on Stargazer and Children Of The Sea, representing Ronnie James Dio's Rainbow and Black Sabbath time respectively.  Both Oni and Mark did an excellent job and I was quite impressed as Mark again took sole duties for The Last In Line.  Stand Up And Shout was next on the roster, but the mounting pressure of waaaaay to many beverages on the walls of my bladder began to reach the point of no return, so I ducked out to make use of the facilities.

After the great relief I rushed to the opposite end of the ship to catch the last half of my fellow countrymen Helix and their set in the Pigalle Lounge.  The boys were in fine form as I could hear Gimme Gimme Good Lovin' from all the way down the hallway.  I weasled up close to the side of the stage, a fresh beer and my camera in hand as they moved into the ballad from one of my favourite Helix recordings, Back For Another Taste with Good To The Last Drop.  Deep Cuts The Knife followed and this was my first forray into seeing Brent Doerner's replacement John Claus on guitar.  John seemed to be doing a great job to me and appeared an excellent addition to one of my all-time favourite bands, Kaleb of course was just killer as usual, I can't wait to hear the new stuff from his other band Chain Empire.  A bit of a set change is always good, especially if you see a band quite often and I was pleased to hear Does A Fool Ever Learn as the next track.  The huge hit Rock You finished up the set and as is characteristic for lead vocalist Brian Vollmer, he wandered off the front of the stage and sang a portion of the song from out in the crowd.

At the completion of Helix it was back up to the top deck to catch Queensryche on the pool stage.  I had just seen Queensryche in Toronto prior to the cruise and they were mind blowing, they were so good.  As I walked by the bar at the back of the pool deck I finally saw my quarry.  Nigel Glockler of Saxon and Biff and Doug as well.  I had been looking everywhere for these boys, wanting so much to meet them in person, especially Nigel after our email communications.  As I approached, Nigel turned and saw me, "Rich, I tried to find you after the meet & greet", he said.  That alone was so cool that he knew me and had searched for me after I had quickly passed him my card at the M & G session.  We chatted for a while and I purchased him and I a new beverage while I told him about Dwain Miller from Keel wanting to meet him (damn, where was Dwain, oh I know, he's doing sound check for the Keel show in an hour).  Nigel introduced me to Biff and Doug (both of whom, it appeared, had been hanging out in this area for quite some time) and I bought another round as they
posed for photos with me. Nigel is an excellent guy and very funny as well.  He regaled me with a story of a cruiser coming up to him yesterday, insisting that he was Graham Bonnet from Alcatrazz and wanting a picture.  Unable to convince the guy, Nigel posed for the picture and the cruiser went on his merry way, but the kicker of the whole thing was that the guy had been wearing a Saxon shirt!!  Queensryche, who it turns out were delayed in coming on and had only recently started were sounding great and Nigel and company moved closer to catch the set as I shook hands saying goodbye, promising to see them tomorrow and headed off for Keel's 1:15am show in the Theatre.

As usual (and rather annoyingly) the Theatre was not letting people in yet, so I paused in the Zebra Lounge, next room over to catch a few snippets of Alcatrazz's second performance aboard ship.  Graham Bonnet (or is it Nige?) sounded great again and I would love to see a full headlining live set for Alcatrazz one day.

In the latest time slot of the whole cruise, the Keelaholics were here to support Ron Keel and the boys as we were let into the theatre.  I noticed Brian Vollmer and his wife Linda sitting up in the stands and had a friend guard my front row position as I went over to say hi and give my compliments on a great show earlier (even though I only caught half of it).  We chatted briefly about hockey and what was on the Helix horizon as I showed Brian my tattoo.  Keel blasted on stage right on time, opening with United Nations, Looking For A Good Time and a personal favourite of mine Somebody's Waiting.  I received nods of recognition from most everyone in the band as I had my fist in the air screaming loudly again.  Speed Demon, Push & Pull and Streets Of Rock And Roll were the next three and I noticed that the theatre behind me began to pack in a little more as the only other two shows, Alcatrazz and Queensryche were ending or had already ended.  The band was
sounding great as usual, Ron was working up the building crowd as only he can and the boys seemed possessed, going full out for this show.  I Said The Wrong Thing To The Right Girl, Because The Night and Tears of Fire were the next trio of tunes that they pumped out.  For The Right To Rock Keel welcomed several special guests to the stage in one of those magical rock & roll moments.  Jason McMaster, Brian Vollmer, Ted Poley and Oz Fox all joined the stage to assist singing this song.  Alas, unlike the rehearsal, I was not one of those invited up this time, perhaps they figured out that I'm tone deaf and can't sing!  Finishing up a blistering performance with You're The Victim, I'm The Crime, Keel took a bow and left the stage.  Bassist Geno Arce retrieved some picks and passed them out to the rabid fans crowding the stage.  We had a brief moment to chat and I passed him my phone number so that we could try to hook up for a short interview that we had planned to take care of while aboard ship.

Feeling on an incredible high after Keel's awesome performance, I headed out of the theatre with a friend (another Keelaholic who I met during last year's Voyage) and into the Zebra Lounge, having a chance to chat with Graham Bonnet.  I congratulated him on both of Alcatrazz's shows and told him the story of Nigel being his "body double" or imposter of sorts, as he laughed.  Wendy Dio was also in the lounge and drawing a crowd as we left to meander our way back up to the pool deck thinking to obtain another beverage and see who was around.

As luck would have it, the Saxon boys were in the same position, having obviously enjoyed several more beverages since I last left them!  They had a few friends around them by now including guitar player extraordinaire Dave Meniketti from Y&T, who's band logo also appears in my "in progress" sleeve tattoo.  My Keelaholic friend and I enjoyed a few more drinks with the group and before long, none other than Keel themselves came along.  I noticed Dwain hanging around by Nigel as he was animatedly engaged in a conversation with Dave Meniketti.  I politely interrupted Nigel and Dave by placing my hand on Nigel's shoulder and he turned towards me.  "Nigel", I said, "I'd like you to meet Dwain Miller of Keel".  Nigel instantly turned and Dwain
and him shook hands as I used the opportunity to nab Mr. Meniketti for a photograph.  I also had the opportunity to tell Nigel that I advised Graham Bonnet that he was impersonating him in photographs around the ship, to which Nigel responded by laughing and punching my shoulder.  During all this, it was extremely cool to watch behind the group by the bar as Ron Keel was interviewing Biff Byford, vocalist to vocalist for The Streets Of Rock & Roll radio show!  Dwain moved over near me as Nigel began to chat with Dave Meniketti once again, giving me a double fist bump and a big hug for the introduction.  Geno Arce also made sure to let Dwain know that I had been in the front row, rocking out for their whole set earlier.  I was on such a high, it was borderline erotic, after the shows and hanging out with some of my rock heroes, but I decided that it was time for a little siesta, it was 4am after all!  As I made my way away from the group, Nigel called out to me, "Rich, where are you going?", so unbelievably cool that he remembered my name and cared that I was parting ways I can't describe it!

The Meister

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