This was a dream trip. Just after I released the CD: “Never Give Up” I received an email from someone in Russia asking me if I would like to headline a reggae concert in St. Petersburg. Figuring out that this was what they were actually asking was a test in itself as they were sending the request in Russian. The digital translators at the time were in their infancy so what came back in English was almost indecipherable. Of course what I wrote back was pretty much the same from English to Russian.
In the end we got most of it straightened out. In order to play in Russia there were a few conditions that had to be met first. We had to get a formal invitation from the people putting on this concert. Then once we had that we had to send this along with a Visa request and $100 to the Russian embassy in Ottawa. This actually went very smoothly.
Of course I had to send the songs to perform so that the backing band, Reggaestan, could learn them.
The concert was set for June 30, 2001. We’d started this in Oct, 2020 and it took almost to the concert date to be sure all was well.
My wife, Susan, and I took off for Moscow I think June 27 on Aeroflot. Not exactly a perfect airline for a 10 hour flight…no movies, no food, a few Russian snacks.
We arrived in mid day and we had 5 hours to get our luggage and take a very short bus ride to the other side of the airport to catch a local flight to St. Petersburg. It took almost every minute. First there was a huge number of people to go through customs which was “manned’ by “Olga” (you can imagine) and no one else.
It took a couple of hours to get processed. We then had to find where to get the bus. Fortunately there was an English speaking person who got us on the bus and away we went to the local terminal. It was like going to the Gulag. All the people were sitting on the floor with their sacks of belongings, along with us. The local trip was bumpy but we made it.
Now we had to find the people waiting for us. We had no pictures….but sure enough, there they were. They weren’t sure we were coming and we weren’t sure if they’d be there.
We spent the night and the next day we drove around the beautiful city of St. Petersburg….I’m sure you’ve seen Russian driving videos…’nuff said.
While driving around we passed the odd corner that held two slots for posters and there I was on all of them with the other slot advertising a concert by Robert Plant (same size). This was staring to become quite the gig. That night I was informed that we were going to see the full band play at a reggae club called “Money Honey”.
Walking into the club it was packed and they had reserved a table just for me and the rest of the “crew”. The band was great and we were having a great time when I heard the lead singer say “Bob” (say with Russian accent). He wanted me to come up and sing….no rehearsal as yet….yikes! I went up and sang “Never Give Up” (the hit at the time). As soon as the song started I knew they were well rehearsed and it was a big hit with the crowd. We went on to some other songs before drinking more very smooth vodka and retiring for the night
In the days after the concert we were treated to trips to the Hermitage, The Winter Palace and St Isaac’s Cathedral. Our hosts were attentive and gracious throughout the stay. It certainly was a trip to remember.
Here is the album: Never Give Up:
I was able to perform a couple of other concerts in Toronto but my time was almost totally taken up with Negril Onestop. Of course during this time I spent a great deal of time in Jamaica and was able to sing there for many years.
This was another fantastic time for the both of us.