The tour started with a five am roll call at Springvale studios, which was running an hour late from the off, meaning that I was the only one sitting down at the rehearsal room whilst my pick-up was sixty odd miles away on this cold, chilly April morning. However, having loaded everything up from the Cradle Of Filth equipment shed, we made up for time by telling James and Daniel to get cabs to Heathrow airport from central London to avoid us getting caught in the building congestion to pick the wee rapscallions up.
Eventually arriving at the airport having picked up our monitor engineer Asti, and laboriously negotiated our baggage weight allowance amongst everyone who was flying from the UK, we found ourselves on an eleven hour flight bound for Mexico City, made all the comfortable for Asti and myself who manage to procure an upgrade to club class, whereupon we slide into spacious reclining seats, movie heaven and some fine dining service.
And what luxury trip wouldn't be perfect without a quick wander into cattle class to have a laugh at the rest of the peasants back there. I laugh now, but it's guaranteed on the laws of averages that the rest of the flights for me and Asti will be completely miserable as we weave our way across the South American continent.
Having endured an hour in the queue at the other side we eventually make it to the hotel where a swift meal aids the slide into comatose as soon as my head hits the soft, Quetzecoatl-feathered pillows.
A breakfast bigger than my greedy eyes can fathom awaits come Morning ,
omelettes stacked with cheese, refried beans and bacon, sweet Mexican pastries and lashing of strong coffee make for a lobby call of 12.45 after a couple of hours of working on the Internet and watching badly-dubbed reruns of LA Law.
This venue (the Circo Volador) improves every time we visit it, though the sound is cavernous and really needs the 1500 + people in to do it justice.
The afternoon is spent wandering the makeshift Cradle bootleg shanty town that springs up outside the venue signing autographs and spotting the worst merch, sunbathing in the back garden or just wandering around picking at Tortillas or finding interest in the stage.
After a lengthy sound check, partly for new keyboardist Lindsay's benefit, partly due to the incompatibility of some of the equipment, we head back to the hotel for a similarly massive dinner and some chill time, though I opt to go back to the venue to start getting prepared for the show, warming the voice and making-up, just so there is plenty of time to cover all my bases should something like my head suddenly fall off.
Actually, it's also so that I can watch tonight's support act Arcturus from the side of the stage, who go down really well, warming the crowd up nicely for the festivities to come. ICS Vortex from Dimmu Borgir is singing, a nice chap indeed, and I really enjoy Arcturus's wacky brand of cosmic black metal ( my words, not theirs).
Time soon comes round for us to hit the stage to tumultuous applause, which is nice, and no sooner than the intro finishes, we lunge straight into a lengthy set of nearly two hours. And what a great show to mark the first since the finish of our European tour shortly before Xmas. The audience are wild and the sound, despite being a little loud in places, does justice to the mixed set of Cradle classics we employ to keep them white hot.
The night ends with us leaving the venue to return to the hotel via numerous signings, and hurriedly so, as we have all but three hours sleep to look forward to as lobby call is an eye-watering 5 o'clock, though luckily, having checked with the airline, Big M our tour manager discovers that the flights have been moved and that now we don't have to leave until 10 for Guatemala. Thus a longer stay in bed and another voluminous breakfast is order of the morning.
Day two starts with the aforementioned coronary thrombosis and a short drive to the airport, having bumped into a previous tour manager who is out here working with Devin Townsend. On arrival we realise that we have lost a piece of luggage but luckily the concierge at the hotel rectifies this mistake by sending a van
back to drop it off before we all start having kittens.
The flight is not that long though very turbulent, so any mistakes I might make writing this down can be blamed on the fact that I couldn't hit all the right keys on my iPad as we were bouncing about like balloons in the stratosphere.
The first thing noticeable on arrival in beautiful Guatemala is the intense heat. And the traffic. And the intense heat again. Still, it's a pleasant journey through a colourful city before arrival at the adopted venue. I say 'adopted' as it used to be a Freemason's Lodge and all the equipment and rigging is drafted in. Backstage is a tarpaulin marquee in the far corner and portable fans provide the last vestige of breathable air. Still, I'm not one to moan, I can live with no earth in the electrics, running water in the Gents toilets, and the random people standing around smoking. And I wouldn't dream about moaning about the rickety stairs to the stage, the bowed lighting rig and the lopsided backdrop hanging, the place reeks of atmosphere just like our Portuguese gigs of yore.
After a sound check that didn't arrive until around 5, we piled back to the hotel for a few hours to chill and get made up in the sanctity of our rooms, with the doors thrown wide to the balconies and the cooling dusk air. A few hours shoots by and dinner is forsaken in the bid to return to the venue in plenty of time for the show, which is now fully underway despite the 200-odd people clamouring in the street outside, and making our entrance to the building somewhat rabid and jostled.
The show is awesome and the crowd, although a mere 700 strong are manic,
fitfully bursting into song and mosh pits to every song. The sound was pretty good too, but the altitude and the heat conspired to make the encore unbreathable and there we a few times that I teetered on the verge of passing out during 'Cruelty...' And 'Her Ghost', though fortunately I managed to keep from falling into the crowd. Still, a brilliant show, full of pure South American grit and spirit.
Eventually, having signed a whole slew of autographs and graced dozens of photographs, we aim for the comfort of the hotel again, braving the hordes of fans that flank the transits to return to the hotel to shower and snatch a few hours much-needed sleep before the horror of the 4.45 lobby call. Ugh!