We just got back from our tour of Australia - 11 dates in 8 cities - and the audience reaction was terrific! Most shows were sold-out, the others at near-capacity. Definitely a pleasurable trip for all, and I hope we can return again with a new show (after the next album is released.) Of course I have photos, and will post them soon in the next Gallery update at weirdal.com. This was my first trip to Australia and I have to tell you my impressions of the country and its people.
We started in Sydney with a few days off, and immediately noticed that the city was very clean. There's little or no smog, clean streets and busses and trains, and almost no graffiti as compared to any of the big cities in the US. Getting around on public transportation was easy and efficient, akin to the New York or London subway systems, and of course a complete '180' compared to L.A. (which possesses virtually no mass transit!) We also played Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Gold Coast, Brisbane, and ended the run in Newcastle. We left Sunday afternoon, and arrived Sunday morning in L.A. - go figure. Almost without exception, the cities were beautiful and usually near the water, although I admit that parts of Newcastle could be mistaken for Bakersfield...
The most surprising thing, in this world we live in, is that the people there are nice. They're friendly. They're downright courteous! People on the street, bus drivers, clerks in stores, drivers stopping their cars to let you cross... I can't begin to convey the feeling I got when some surfer/slacker-types gave up their seats on the bus for some elderly riders. That happened several times. People say please, and thank you, and look you in the eye. I ran into only one person who failed to say 'excuse me' or react when we bumped into each other. He may very well have been from the States! There were plenty of "g'day" greetings, but more often it was "How ya goin'."
I visited about 75 record shops during my travels, and filled-in some missing Aussie-issued titles in my recordings archive. I even discovered a compilation that was new to me: HUNGRY FOR HITS on Concept Records (they licensed stuff like Eat It and Surgeon and placed them on a series of 'hits' albums in the 80s.) CD prices range from $20-30 (roughly US$14-21) and vinyl and singles were as little as $1 or 2. Prices in general were slightly higher than the states (a bottle of Coke in a convenience store is about US$1.75) but some items were quite reasonable, particularly in secondhand & antique shops (my 2nd favorite pursuit on the road!)
Basically, I loved it all - the different cars, the people, the food... well, not always. I know that some of those who live there feel the bigger cities have become very Americanized and that society is getting worse, but believe me, most Australian people's attitude is very favorable towards life and each other, at least compared to what I see in the US. That's not bad, and I'm not down on the country I call home... it's just different there. And viva le difference!!
I highly recommend a visit there for anyone who wants a carefree, enjoyable, affordable vacation. Allow about 2 weeks and plan on seeing Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane for sure.