Ireland… Dublin… a smart hotel far north of the city. A lobby, smart businessman strolling about and specifically avoiding a knot of people in one corner, clutching drinks and sporting the finest selection of black t-shirts this side of Glasnevin.
We few, we lucky few, were about to be whisked away to a mysterious secret location to witness The Mission, fine purveyors of rock and roll, tune up for their country-spanning world tour in support of brand new album, Another Fall From Grace.
Before long, George from the band’s management company turned up. Energetic, charming, quipping wildly, George is a force of nature. He quickly had us parceled up and out, and rode back in the last car with your correspondent, a curious mix of effortless ease and keyed-up excitement. We want to specifically thank George for being an impeccable host that day.
There is a long drive, through impressively unmarked gates, that leads to a gorgeous stone hall in the grounds of a chic little hotel. As we leave the car, the unmistakable sound of Tower of Strength suddenly fills the air – live, jammed, by people who not only love it but wrote it. I can’t think of a better way to start this amazing experience.
The room itself is bizarrely ornate, all wooden beams and chandeliers. It’s a long corridor, and at one end are The Mission, in full rehearsal set-up – a circle facing inwards, with the slight inconvenience of twenty or so hardcore fans perched on collapsible chairs, gawping at the entire process.
Credit to the band, it barely makes a difference. They’re meandering – no, really, meandering – to the end of Tower of Strength and we all pause after the song shrugs to a halt, unsure if that’s actually it. Craig Adams shrugs, and says “We don’t actually know where it finishes.” We all laugh and cheer, and any tension in the room is immediately dispelled.
Indeed, the band become so absorbed in their practice that Wayne Hussey flinches in surprise when we all cheer the end of each song. Other times, the band practice odd riffs, chat, laugh and bicker good-naturedly with each other. One special treat is Wayne and Craig, guitar and bass on Butterfly on a Wheel, singing along in a delightfully simple duet. Then, Evie Vine joins in at the crescendo and it’s an absolutely perfect moment. Truly unique.
Craig has engaged us as a regular commentator now, and advises us that “This is Heat, a song we haven’t done for… quite a while”. There seems to be no dust on them as the band slam through it professionally, and they’re all grinning at one another, delivering a really tricky section – until someone misses a beat, and the whole elegant structure suddenly comes tumbling down!
Simon Hinkler and Craig both suddenly riff away from one another, Mike Kelly on drums is in his own rhythm entirely, and the song staggers to an early ending and another gale of laughter. Again, the atmosphere is so close and friendly there’s no criticism or judgement of performance – it’s a true rehearsal, with everyone incredibly relaxed. A rare insight into the workings of a rock and a roll band on the world stage.
Soon, we break for refreshments and the band are all too keen to mingle with the punters. We’re all so keen to mingle in fact that the ever-resourceful George has to make a drinks dash and come back, arms laden with wine and prosecco! I’m sure it helps relax the band as they are quietly but persistently mobbed for photos.
Meanwhile, Craig Adams remains Master of Ceremonies, in a knot of chuckling fans, where he is describing the grim reality of laundry visits during non-gigging days. And you thought world tours were luxurious jaunts?! Think again…
Once we’re all selfie-d out, the band reassemble and really get their teeth into the new album. They lead with a slow, stripped down and really sexy version of the title track, but with Wayne singing it to you from just a few feet away, there’s goosepimples rising as it all becomes so very personal…
Blood on the Road is a proper little anthem, and Wayne absolutely blows us away when his voice, that familiar crooning lilt, suddenly gives way to a pure rock and roll roar. Absolutely spectacular to experience live. Almost as good as Bullets and Bayonets, my firm favourite from the new album. It’s an undulating thing of deadly splendour, a beautiful boa constrictor about to choke the life from you.
It’s all building to Met-Amor-Phosis and I am struck by how much of a natural anthem this tune is. We’re all on our feet, and it’s no longer a relaxed rehearsal, but a full on rock and roll gig. It’s an instant classic, pure Mission, and it has a sheen of brilliance thanks to the fact there’s less than thirty people in the place! I’m sorry you couldn’t have been there, but frankly… you’d have ruined it.
That was of course the high point of the band experience – so now we kick back to demolish whatever was left of the booze and buffet. I cannot accurately convey how fascinating it is to listen to Craig and his tales of mischief.
At one point, he deftly hooks a bottle of wine from my hands, pours himself a glass, and begins to tell us about yet another country the band have had to leave in a hurry, ahead of irate law enforcement officials. Blues Brothers, but instead it’s four drunk lads from England aboard a tour bus hurtling for the border.
Craig is actually throwing himself about across the polished wood floor, recreating their booze-fraught flights, leaving us all wracked by side-splitting hilarity. A consummate showman.
Of course it all orbits the main man himself. When we settle down, he and Evie draw up chairs right to the front row, he produces an acoustic guitar, and they quietly solicit requests.
It’s the absolute pinnacle of a rare experience like this, with the softly spoken, wry smiling Hussey chatting casually with his nearest and dearest fans, and Evie’s beautiful voice giving every song an amazing new veneer.
We all float away on that gentle, acoustic sound – ready to follow the band into a multitude of venues packed with hundreds that will really make us appreciate our day with The Mission.
Our very special thanks to Whitby Goth Weekend who coordinated this entire amazing experience for The Blogging Goth. You can still purchase the VIP Experience yourself, and get a little closer to The Mission, at the UK’s premier alternative music festival on November 5th.
Come up to the information stall in the Spa anytime during the Weekend to pick up a VIP Ticket – you don’t even need a ticket to the festival to get in! It’s only available from WGW directly, even the band have sold out. So share in this magic a little, and pick up a VIP ticket!