TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 17TH-18TH, 2017 – BELLAMY BROTHERS “AROUND THE WORLD” TOUR:
We met at the Nashville Airport at 3 pm today to begin the Bellamy Brothers “Around the World” tour. I knew we would have challenges when I was unable to check anyone in online or print any boarding passes and Delta couldn’t tell me “why”. We were able to get boarding passes for me, Howard, David and Jim all the way through to Dubai but even the airport couldn’t print boarding passes for the other 5 guys except for Nashville to Atlanta. Very frustrating!
Flight landed Atlanta a few minutes late and we went straight to the lounge to have boarding passes printed. They were able to print with no problem. Had about an hour in the lounge and then boarded the flight to Amsterdam – about an 8 ½ hour journey. It was raining in Atlanta and we had a late departure. Our tickets are booked with Delta but the flights over the water were on the KLM code share. It was literally one of the oldest aircraft I’ve ever been on for the flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam and I take that one a lot. There wasn’t even any WiFi on the flight!
Howard, David and I were in First/Business Class and we ordered the “light” meal because we had eaten something in the Delta Lounge. When they brought it out, it was literally one shrimp and two other little “hors d’oeuvres” that I thought were inedible! Talk about “light”, it was definitely a good description.
I watched a movie and then slept for 4 hours. I was definitely ready for breakfast before we landed Amsterdam. Since we were late arriving, we decided not to go to the KLM Lounge and went straight to the gate. We boarded that flight on time and it was the same type of aircraft – old and no internet! I was planning to watch a movie (which I did) and then get some sleep. But across the aisle and directly behind Howard and David, two men were drinking and “Partying”. They were talking so loud, that the man next to me stood up and glared at them. They didn’t care. I forgot my noise-cancelling ear plugs so I used the pair in the little amenity kit they gave us. They did nothing to block out their loud voices. I turned about and put my fingers to my lips and said “shhhhh” to them. They “mouthed” sorry and quieted down for about 10 minutes then they were right back to partying. So much for sleeping.
We landed late into Dubai at around 12:25 am. We were met by a company that the promoter had hired to get us through Immigration and Customs. One of the employees escorting us was from Shanghai but she spent a couple of years in Knoxville attending the University of Tennessee! Everything was going smoothie until one of our guys got pulled aside for a “search”. Evidently he has “something” in his bag that is prohibited in Dubai. I was praying it was a mistake but they actually found a teeny-tiny trace of pot in a container in his carry on. I had no idea what they were going to do to him because illegal possession, no matter how little in this part of the world carries harsh penalties and jail time! They made him bring his checked bags to them and they searched those as well. Our escorts said if they didn’t find anything in the checked bags, since it was such a tiny amount, they would probably let him go. If they found anything, the police would be called and they weren’t sure what would happen then. I was wondering how in the world the shows would be able to go on without one of the musicians! Fortunately, there wasn’t anything else in his checked bags and we were able to depart. It took over an hour for the equipment cases to come though so we were still waiting on those even after the Immigration issue.
Our promoters were waiting for us with a bus and trailer and it was only about a 15 minute drive to the hotel. The hotel staff was waiting for us and had a nice “spread” of finger sandwiches and dessert laid out for the group. Check in was easy and the rooms are lovely. The world’s tallest building is right outside our hotel and also the largest mall in Dubai is across the street.
I immediately got my computer set up and the WiFi connection was great….except the hotel internet is blocking AOL. Unbelievable! I was told no one could do anything until 9 am. I worked as best I could and then went to bed at 4 am to sleep until 8 am. Going to be a challenge here if the internet situation can’t be resolved!!!!
THURSDAY, JANUARY 19TH – REST OF THE DAY OFF IN DUBAI:
Eight o’clock came much too soon! The hotel IT guy came up at 9 am but he wasn’t able to do anything to fix it. I called AOL and they said the hotel internet server has a firewall that is blocking me and only the hotel can fix it. Not sounding very promising!!!
Alwyn (our promoter) came by with his wife Aquillha and they talked to the IT guy in my room as well. We all went downstairs and had breakfast and a couple of the musicians were there and had already eaten. They were all pretty impressed with the massive breakfast buffet. I’m accustomed to this from my many trips to Kuwait.
I spent most of the day working on trying to get my internet fixed. I cannot seem to convince the hotel that the problem is with their internet provider. I finally told them that I was walking across the street to the huge Dubai Mall and was going to try to log on to their internet. The hotel IT guy agreed that if I could log on over there, then the problem was with the hotel. Of course, I was able to easily log on at the Mall! The mall is absolutely overwhelming – so massive. I got lost at least 3 times and I was only there about 30 minutes. I was trying to find the grocery store to buy water. It was a fantastic grocery store, too!
The biggest challenge in walking to the Mall was crossing the streets. Traffic is horrendous and it took me about 30 minutes to walk 2 blocks. On the walk back, there was a big crowd of us crossing the street and a guy on a bike ran into the back of me and almost knocked me over!
I told the hotel about my experience at the mall and they asked if they could have my computer for about 10 minutes. An hour later, they brought it back to me and said the hotel internet provider was blocking AOL. DUH! Exactly what I had told them at 3 am this morning. They have asked that the block be removed but said it could take up to 4 days. We’re only here 2 more days, of course!
We had to move sound check from tomorrow to tonight at 8-10:30 pm. Evidently, there is a group of “professional” golfers practicing on the course tomorrow and the guys wouldn’t be able to make noise while they are on the course. Told the guys to go eat at 7 pm and depart to the golf course at 8 pm. There is a curfew that says they can’t make any noise after 10:30 pm, too.
Howard and David had a “VIP Meet and Greet” at 7 pm and that went really well. I met Creswell who had found me on LinkedIn and referred me to Alwyn for the booking. Also met some fans who had flown in from London and from India! The hotel staff was there as well as Alwyn’s little girl – who turns 9 the day after the concert. She’s a big Bellamy’s fan!
We had a nice dinner with Alwyn and his family, Creswell and Alwyn’s partner from Wings in India. The food was great and the theme was “international” so there was Indian food, sushi, pasta, German potato salad, etc. etc. etc.
I had Alwyn drive me out to the venue after dinner and arrived about 20 minutes before the guys finished sound check. It’s a beautiful venue and the equipment provided was first class. Everyone was smiling and happy. J
It’s 1 am now and I’m fading! Got to get more than 4 hours sleep tonight. Tomorrow night’s show is going to be great! Hope we have a big crowd.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 20TH, 2017 – PERFORMANCE IN DUBAI:
I actually slept for 6 hours last night – except for waking up every hour! Went downstairs before the breakfast buffet closed and found lots of my guys eating or having already eaten.
I was hoping to get in a jog outside but evidently that’s not a good idea in this location. There’s really no good place to jog because we are right downtown. Yesterday I got in a good workout in hotel gym so went back today and used the Elliptical. Was able to get in 3 ½ miles in 30 minutes.
Realized that the Hotel IT changed all the setting on my AOL when they took my computer yesterday. And, of course the guy who did it is off today. The other tech did get a response from the hotel internet provided and they declared that AOL is a VPN and will continue to be blocked. Crazy! It is NOT a VPN in the first place.
Showered and worked for a while and then took a break to go over to the Mall. Did I mention that there are over 1,200 stores in the Mall? I took photos of the Aquarium and Fountains. Going to try to purchase tickets tomorrow and go to the top of Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world which is visible outside my hotel room! Rocky “swam” with the sharks today….not me, no thank you!
Well, tickets to the Birj Khalifa are around $135 U.S. Not sure if I want to see Dubai from the top of the tower THAT much!
Had dinner with most of the guys and then got back upstairs just in time to see the swearing in. This is the first time we have ever had Fox News Channel available when we are overseas. Was so happy we at least got to see the swearing in. He was just beginning his speech when we had to go downstairs and leave for the show. Good news is, Fox will air it again and again!
There were a LOT more people at the show than I expected! The weather was perfect (although the locals think 55 degrees is “cold”. Guess it is when you’re accustomed to 100 degree temperatures!).
As with most concerts, the VIP “seats” took the front part right in front of the stage, then the section for general admission was for “standing” or some brought their own chairs. That section is the “party” section and they danced the entire show. Shame they couldn’t have been closer to the front. Bellamys gave a great show and sang 4 songs for their encores. I met so many people in the audience who had flown in from India!
And, Larry Gatlin’s son and his wife and two of their friends came to the show! I had no idea he was living here. They are teachers in a school here and love living here. Our two girls who helped us get through Customs also came to the show. And right in the middle of the show, I got a text message from Suleiman in Kuwait saying his dearest friend was in the audience and had flown in from India for the show. He is a HUGE fan of the Bellamys. So, I brought him backstage for a photo, too.
Bellamys stayed after the show and took lots of photos with the other bands performing and just “fans”! Promoter and all his staff were very happy with the concert and so were we!
It’s now after 3 am and I really, really want to go to bed SOON. Will have to see if I have time to go to the Birj Khalifa tomorrow but it’s not looking very promising right now. L We have to check out and depart by 4:30 pm tomorrow afternoon and I’ve got LOTS to do before then. Will be so glad to get to a hotel where I don’t have to use my T-Mobile phone as a Hot Spot!
Another “first” to add to the resume’ for me and the Bellamys — FIRST “COUNTRY” music concert ever held in Dubai and it was a roaring success!!!!
SATURDAY, JANUARY 21ST AND SUNDAY, JANUARY 22ND:
Got up early with less than 4 hours sleep so I could get in a workout and TRY to go to Burj Khalifa (tallest building in the world) today. Literally raced through the workout, breakfast and shower and met the guys in the lobby at noon.
We realized when we arrived to purchase our tickets that we would have to pay for the expensive visit – about $135 U.S. – because otherwise the first available time to go up wasn’t until 3:30 pm. I had to be in the lobby by 4 pm and we were leaving at 4:30 pm. Everyone except Rocky and I bailed. When I reached in my purse to get my money out, I realized my purse was unzipped and my wallet was missing. It was the WORST feeling in the world. I thought I couldn’t possibly have been such a dumbass again as I was in Croatia and had everything stolen. I had purchased a new purse and the wallet was in a compartment that was at the back of the purse and hung on my stomach, meaning I would see and feel anyone trying to pickpocket me! After I calmed down, I realized I had put it in the hotel safe this morning when I was working out and didn’t remember taking it back out. Rocky fronted me the money and away we went.
I was dreading the elevator ride but it was surprisingly smooth and not at all frightening. Except for the ears popping, we really couldn’t tell we were traveling up 148 floors! There are actually 160 stories but the ones above 148 are not accessible to the general public. They are private suites owned by corporations with the TOP floor belonging to the offices of the owner of the building.
We were not disappointed. The view – even though today was “hazy” was spectacular. I took dozens of photos. And paying the extra price was worth it. It was definitely a VIP experience. There were a couple of places where we could walk out (125th and 148th floors) onto a glass enclosed deck. Just amazing. A photographer came out and asked to take our photos and said, “It’s a free service to our guests”. Right. Free unless you want to buy a photo! They were a couple of really good photos and the others not so much. But, you had to buy the entire package or nothing at all– $85 US. We walked away.
We were back at the hotel by a little after 2 pm and I finished packing and tried to finalize last minute things in Dubai. I was in the lobby by 4 pm and the equipment had already been loaded. Everyone else “trickled” down and arrived by the 4:30 pm departure time. There were lots of last minutes photos and video messages and then quick good-byes to the hotel staff. We arrived at the airport at about 5 minutes until 5 and our plane was departing at 8 pm. We are flying a direct flight (7 ½ hours) from Dubai to Singapore on Singapore Airlines. The check-in staff was totally confused by having to check in 9 people with 11 personal bags and 9 pieces of equipment. Singapore Airlines charges per kilo, not per piece. Howard and David were allowed 40 kilos total and I was allowed 50 kilos total because of my “status” on United Airlines. The guys were only allowed 30 kilos total. We finally convinced the staff to let us add the TOTAL amount of kilos for all the bags and just pay the overage on what was left. They agreed but it still took an incredibly long time to check us in. At the end, we only had 10 kilos of excess and they waived that amount. I was expecting the cost to be around $1,500 so that was a really pleasant surprise.
We said good-bye to Alwyn and Aquillha and went to the gate area. Nothing but good things to say about Alwyn, Aquillha and their staff for making this “historic” visit possible – the very FIRST country music concert in Dubai. They worked tirelessly to make sure the event was a success. The Bellamys loved performing for their many fans and the hotel, stage and production equipment were all first class. Looking forward to working with them again on more dates in this area as well as India, Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand.
A few of us went into the Lufthansa Lounge and grabbed something to eat. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast but I only had a little salad because I wanted to wait and eat on the flight. I’ve heard wonderful things about the aircraft inside and food on Singapore.
My boarding pass said I would board in Group 2 at 7:30 pm and the guys boarding pass said they would board in Group 5 at 7 pm. Didn’t make any sense at all. I asked the gate agent and he just said everyone would board in about 20 minutes!
The aircraft was nice inside but again was an older plane. I watched a movie and managed to stay awake for “dinner” but it was disappointing. Not very good food at all. Then I tried to lay my seat down into a bed and it would not recline! I called the flight attendant and she said SHE had to put it down and pull it back up for me. What??? So I went to the toilet and when I got back, she had made it into a bed….one of the hardest and most uncomfortable beds I’ve had on a plane. But, I should not complain. At least I wasn’t in a coach seat in the back of the plane! Needless to say, I didn’t get any sleep…maybe 30 minutes. Plus it was turbulent the entire flight!
When we landed in Singapore a little before 7 am, it was still dark! The lights of the city were beautiful from the air though. When we disembarked, there were staff at the end of the jetway checking for people who might be sick. They told Howard and David to take off their hats/caps and then pulled them aside to take their temperature – in their ear! Thankfully they were released quickly.
All our bags and equipment made it and our escorts – Stella and Audrey were waiting for us with a van for the equipment and a huge tour bus for us and our luggage. We stopped to exchange money and then were on our way. We were about a block from out hotel and the last “street” was a roundabout. All of a sudden, the bus driver slammed on the breaks and we all went flying! Fortunately, no one was hurt. A lady driving a car in the lane to the right of us decided she wanted to go left into the roundabout! She slammed right into us ad would have gone under the bus had the driver not been able to stop so quickly. She got out of her car and was yelling and shaking her fist at the drive as if it were his fault. Crazy! We had to stay there for about 10 minutes but Stella got out and told the bus driver that he was causing a serious traffic jam and he should just take photos and leave. I guess the female driver agreed and we were on our way.
I got everyone checked in and all the rooms were ready even though it was only about 9 am. Had some logistical things to sort out with Stella and then I went downstairs to have breakfast with the guys and “Jimmy”, the agent who booked this date for us. It was a great breakfast buffet and I enjoyed talking to Jimmy who has lived here all his life!
Everyone was going to sleep for a little while and then walk across the street to find lunch. There’s a great mall right across the street plus a “walking street” with lots of booths selling food and goods. I worked for a couple of hours, slept for a couple of hours and then headed over. As I was getting in the elevator, I heard loud drums and cymbals. When I got to the lobby, there was a small “band” outside and dozens of beautiful Ferrari’s lined up on the street. There was also a “dragon” and cartoon character walking around taking photos with everyone one. I had forgotten that they are still celebrating the Chinese New Year. Ran into Rocky and Jim and they had just eaten at the booths and said the food was amazing.
I wandered around the food court in the mall and then went out to check out the food at the booths. This part of Singapore reminds me so much of Hong Kong. As I was wandering, I ran into Wally and we both decided to go eat in the shopping mall at “PappaRich”. I had a chicken skewer, egg plant and something with an egg on it. It was all really good food. We grabbed a coffee at Starbucks on the way out of the Mall. Downstairs outside in front of the mall there were huge plaques that tell the “horoscope” depending upon what your “sign” is. I am supposedly a Dragon (which makes sense and fits my personality perfectly) but because I was born in January before the 28th, I roll back to the year before and they say I am a Rabbit….which doesn’t fit my personality at all! There was also a sign for a Curry Shop proclaiming that it has a “One Star” rating from Michelin. I don’t’ think I would advertise that fact since it’s only a one star!
Howard, David and I have access to the Executive Lounge on our floor. It’s open for breakfast with limited items – not like the big buffet downstairs and open for free drinks (which are wasted on us!) and hors d oeuvres in the evening. I checked it out and the food looks great. Will try it tomorrow.
I have been working now for hours and getting ready to call it a night. Tomorrow is sound check and performance and then we have an entire day off. I have to get some laundry done!!! They have washers and dryers on the 4th floor of the hotel. It started raining and lightning tonight. I checked the weather report and it’s supposed to rain the entire time we are here. Hope they are wrong.