After ages waiting for passports to be stamped on arrival we found one guitar had gone missing (still at Heathrow when we got back), which was a bit worrying as we hadn't brought a spare. Finnish support "To Die For" came good in the end by lending Danny a very nice Tokai Les Paul for the show - thanks fellas. There then followed a white-knuckle ride to the hotel where we met our Lebanese promoter, a Christian gentleman named, surprisingly, Jihad. It turns out he'd converted to Christianity after being raised in the Islamic faith but subsequently found himself more than a little disappointed by the actions of local extremists. I'd best not go any further into that, though I know what I would have done in his situation.
Jihad kindly took us to Abdel Wahab's pie and mash shop after we'd dropped our stuff at the hotel. I'm prepared to believe him that it's the best cuisine to be had in Beirut. In fact it was some of the finest food I've ever tasted, and I now know finally what hummus is supposed to taste like. What I wouldn't give for a doggy bag right now - some of that perfectly marinated lamb and the spinach with the crispy bits on top, or maybe the stuffed vine leaves and the other stuff with the crispy bits on top, or that sliced sausage.... delicious. The only down side (apart from the whole tiny birds which Vincent gamely tried) was that they brought us far more than we could possibly have eaten. I do hope it wasn't thrown away.
I have to say at this point that of all the countries I've visited Lebanon has the worst driving standards. There really doesn't seem to be any rules, at least not that I could make out, be they speed limits, road markings, giving way to other road users or indeed any form of common courtesy. I saw the odd traffic light but I couldn't figure out what their purpose was within a Lebanese context. Every journey was a pants-shitting experience, particularly the one after the concert when we narrowly escaped being attacked by an unruly mob, our driver thankfully speeding away before they could get their hands on us.
Before soundcheck Vincent was whisked away for an interview on Lebanese TV, and again had to field questions regarding satanic worship and suicide connected to the band's music. Yep, that old chestnut. It seems a local Catholic school had circulated a letter the previous day warning young people not to go to the gig as satanism would be practiced there, along with much taking of drugs and the spreading of the gothic "culture of death". The no cameras rule was a dead giveaway to them - let's keep it nice and secret eh? I'm willing to bet these idiots have never heard a single Anathema track in their ignorant, narrow-minded lives. Honestly, the sooner these superstitious morons fuck off and let the intelligent and open-minded young people, of whom they're so obviously terrified, have a crack at running things the better it'll be for everyone. Why can't people just mind their own damn business? Here's an opinion from someone closer to the action:
Anyway, there was a very enthusiastic and non satan-worshipping crowd at the (very big) Forum de Beyrouth, half Syrian judging by the cheer that went up. As luck would have it the set for the Lebanese TV show "1 vs 100" was under construction next door so a couple of bits of wood for pedal boards weren't too hard to come by. The local crew were all hugely helpful, the backline technician being a big Anathema fan so his day was made. Guitar tech George also deserves a special mention. It all went very smoothly and the crowd went nuts - it's always a pleasure to work a show where there's an appreciative and passionate audience. At about two in the morning we headed back to the hotel for approximately one hours sleep before the previously mentioned journey home to the pub. During the show Vincent expressed a wish to return to Lebanon in 2010, and to maybe take in Syria and Jordan whilst we're in the neighbourhood. That should ruffle a few feathers. We'll see what happens.