Declaration Norway review

I’ve been fortunate enough to make the trip to Norway with Mike Peters on three occasions now. And it’s always a highlight of the touring schedule.

Norway is a beautiful country, and its people very welcoming.

That said, we always seem to end up in some tour escapade of some description, and this year was no exception.

Click here to see all the Norway photos

This was out longest Norway adventure, with 8 shows in 9 days. And this time we also had a show on our first travel day. And a remote one at that!

An early start from Manchester and a transfer in Oslo led Mike, myself and Mark Warden to Ålesund airport. We are collected by Trond who wasn’t quite expecting the full Declaration production, but we somehow manage to squeeze everything into his car. I can almost see Mark Warden through the luggage!

The first show, a warm up for the rest of the tour was at Bøen Gard, Gjerdsvika. Our promoter had heard of an Alarm fan out in a remote village that organises a mini-festival and has gigs on his farm. And what do you know, he’s an Alarm fan. In his Youth Trond Kristian Hide got a fairly stiff reprimand from the locals for painting an Alarm logo on an accessible part of the mountainside on the way into the village! How could we not go?

It turns out that even after the majesty of some amazing gigs in places like Rhuddlan castle, and the top of Snowdon, this place has one of the most amazing backdrops for gig I’ve been to!

Because there are almost no gigs in the area, Trond has a great local reputation with his shows and we have a good turn-out for this warm-up show. The show support (and PA) is provided by Trond’s brother Johnny Palmar Hide, who was a respected Norwegian musician and a perfect opener for the evening. The show goes down a storm with Mike getting right into the crowd for the end of the show. What a show! If this is just a warm-up…I’m a dead man.

For our second show we head up for our most northerly gig to Trondheim, at the Cafe 3B. We are also joined for the next two shows by our Norwegian promoter….another Trond. The attraction of football has always evaded me…. which always places me at a disadvantage on a tour, however, it seems there is some big football match on tonight, and so we are in for a late show. As ever, it’s worth the wait, and an extremely loud and rowdy crowd make for a completely different show. The crowd is bolstered by some fans from the UK who are coming to the next two shows.

I recognise them from UK shows and The Gathering, so it’s nice to have a catch up.

Gig done it’s a bonus that our hotel is on the opposite side of the street.

I am particularly looking forward to the next day.

Another of the joys of Norway is that we always need to get a ferry on the fjords and tomorrow is a trip of a few hours direct to the next show. Practical transport with a bonus of amazing views. It is as I expect… amazing!!!

The third show is at Fasting Kjeller`n in Kristiansund. The venue has music several nights a week and tonight is also a jam session night after Mike’s set. The audience are very attentive and it’s clear tonight is going to be more mellow as there are a lot of musos in the audience. I always appreciate these shows as you get to hear a wider range of Mike’s material. Set completed, the locals take to the stage. It turns out most of the bar staff can play….and some! It’s quite a set-up and rather than being like a pub band, these guys play like pro’s. At various points an aged Norwegian with a bushy white beard, who’s been sat quietly, gets out his cornet and plays some mean parts on 50’s rock ‘n’ roll. The band are playing on and despite the fact Mike’s started late and we are all packed up …. it’s still light outside! I’m not sure I will ever get used to that. And it’s always an excuse for a facebook selfie!

One more show and then a day off.

We’ve been trying to not get too excited by our forth show, but secretly we all feel it will be the best show in Norway. We fly back from Molde to Olso for our show at Herr Nilson. When we arrive at Oslo airport, the announcement on the plane from the steward thanks us for flying Norwegian and hopes we have a great show. For a moment I wonder if the steward is an Alarm fan…. but a quick scan around, and we realise that tonight is also the first night of the resumed Rolling Stones tour. Needless to say…Oslo is packed! Sadly, on the way into the city we discover there has been a problem and we only have one hotel room. With The Stones in town, finding another room could be a problem. We drop the bags in the lobby and as there is a big queue of stones fans booking in we grab a cup of tea.

With one person left I join the queue to check in, only to hear an English voice cancelling one of their rooms….. yes, thank you, I’ll have that!!! Result.

The Herr Nilson is a great venue and we are very close to selling out. We set-up for the full declaration show and within a short time of doors open, we do indeed reach capacity. We even have a guest list tonight. A friend of Mike’s who happened to be in town from the USA, and the host Benedicte, from our last show in Oslo. It’s a hot night, and without trying to spoil the rest of the shows, it is indeed the best gig of our Norwegian adventure.

From start to end, with a little help from Stig on tambourine, the crowd sing every word and we all get the end of the show very happy. Not least as we are ready for a day off!

As is sometimes traditional on days of, we skip breakfast in preference to staying in bed. Good choice.

That doesn’t mean we will be lazy all day. No indeed not. There are many sights, and vinyl record shops in Oslo. There are free bikes available from the hotel for guests…so we set off to attempt to find a recommended vinyl store. We do…and it doesn’t disappoint. Nothing dog-eared and bent about this vinyl. Everything is sealed and in pristine condition, with of course, vinyl playing in the shop. Happy days.

We cycle off down to the harbour area… after which Mike and Mark head back and I cycle off to the Royal Palace and onto Vigelandsparken…famed for its naked statues. Well…it would be rude not to!

The day off finishes off at The Hard Rock cafe, with a well earned treat and look around the memorabilia. It seems to me that if you have something in a Hard Rock somewhere in the world (as Mike does) we should get a discount, but we don’t. Although we do get a discount for my chicken being dry.

Half way through the shows, we head off (briefly in a very comfy tour bus!) into the second group of gigs which kicks off in Drammen.

Drammen is one of the locations used in the series Lilyhammer (featuring Steven Van Zandt – Little Steven), and as we head for the train, we also spot trains to Lillehammer where the series is based. Mike and I are fans of the series and we ponder the tour schedule to see if we can manage a trip at some point. Sadly we definitely won’t be able to make it. But hey, we satisfy ourselves with pictures of us and signs of trains going to Lillehammer.

Anyway….Drammen’s venue is Buddy, a cool venue with a great stage and once again tonight we have a visiting UK fan, Andrew Dawes, who makes an appearance on Tambourine (a delight started by myself at the Bristol show when Mike kicked the tambourine at me during Tell Me). It’s another venue run by people who love music. A sort of co-operative with many owners who have other jobs as well but want to see quality live music in their town. A great idea… if only more venues in the UK were run by people who loved music so much. Another cool show.

The next day sees us hoping on a plane to a venue we have played each year in Norway, Madam Felle in Bergen. On arrival in Bergen, we check into the hotel above the venue, and we are greeted by booklets advertising the great Bergenfest (which would be a cool festival for Mike to play!), and plays host this year to acts like Frank Turner, Blondie and Robert Plant. As I flick through the brochure and get to Robert Plant, I spot right away the photo is by Roberts Production Manager Oli Powell, who was tour manager and tech for the Alarm (and Mike’s page boy!). Of course I pop a pic of it on his facebook page. It’s always a cool show at Madam Felle, lots of die hard fans. Towards the end of the show Mike spots local musical hero William Hutt, who played with Mike on our tour three years ago, and has had a number one in Norway. Mike invites him for tambourine on Tell Me (was he as good as me? I couldn’t possibly comment!!!), and he stays on to duet on Walk Forever. A nice moment and goes down well with the local crowd.

A couple of pints after the show? Don’t mind if we do.

Into the last two shows we head back to Bergen airport to pick up a hire car for a couple of hours drive and ferry to the Rosendal Festival. It’ll be a tiring couple of days as we have to be back in Bergen for 6am to catch a plane at 7am back to Oslo. It’s a terrific drive and ferry to Rosendal which is a beautiful town nestled on a Fiord. The festival creates a little town of motor homes and boats down at the harbour and as we arrive everyone seems to be out making bbq’s. The venue is another little jamming club with accommodation above, although as we have a ferry at 3am to get back to Bergen, so we won’t be getting much sleep. We bash out the gig, grab a couple of hours sleep and head to the ferry which is sat waiting in almost darkness.

3am comes and goes, and it’s clear the ferry isn’t going. I check the crossing times and it doesn’t show a 3am ferry. We drive back to the venue to grab some wifi, check the timetables and the online one shows a 3am crossing. Hey ho…it’s clear we won’t get the plane. The drive to Bergen is 4 hours when not using the ferry and it’s now 3.15am. There’s only one thing for it. Drive to Hamar, the next show. It’s a 7-8 hour drive, much quicker than the 11 hour train.

We set off. It should be dreadful, but we drive down the Hardangerfjord, which is stunning at this time of day. We pass numerous waterfalls and stunning vistas. We then climb up and over the mountains, which are still deep in Snow. It’s a succession of mind blowing views, including a super long tunnel of several miles which even has a roundabout in it!!… well worth missing sleep for. I told you there was always some sort of escapade!!!

We also realise that to drop down to Hamar, we can go through Lillehammer. What a result, we will get to go after all. Despite a wrong turn adding 90 minutes to the journey, we drop into Lillehammer at lunchtime and head straight for the Pink Flamingo, one of the locations in the show. Having had a few photos at Lillehammer locations, we head out to Hamar and crash in the hotel grabbing a few hours much needed sleep.

Although all a bit jaded, it’s another great little club in Hamar, and yet another very appreciative audience. After the tiredness and rushing of the past 48 hours I almost forget it’s the last show. Pleased to be heading home in the morning, but sad we can’t do another few shows here. And so despite the tiredness we celebrate with a couple of beers and endless chat in bar!

Thanks to everyone, from various countries, who came out to all the shows and made them such a success. We will be back!!!

Click here to see all the Norway photos

Andy Labrow.

A Quote from Johan Eriksson , Sverige-from Herr Nilsen, Oslo:

“Well, what can I say? Last night’s show in Oslo was unbelievably great! Crammed into a small club, but Mike performed like it was Wembley stadium. Started with Unsafe building and then all of Declaration, in a slightly different order than either of the album versions. One of the best hours ever! Then Spirit of 76 and others, requests and more. Didn’t get my request but who cares, we got treated to Across the border, For freedom, One step closer, RITS, Rescue me, Absolute reality, Walk forever, 45 RPM, Free rock n roll, One guitar. That last one also had a snippet of You can’t always get what you want (The Rolling stones played in Oslo yesterday as well), but we surely did last night and probably outsung the Stones audience, even if that show was bigger I am certain that Herr Nilsen had the best concert in Oslo last night!”