Magazine article The Spectator

Suffering for Art

Magazine article The Spectator

Suffering for Art

Article excerpt

Having to give concerts on jetlag is a requirement of modern touring. Gone are the days when promoters would pay for their artists to arrive several days before an event in order to acclimatise. Longer gone are the days when artists travelled between continents by boat and acclimatisation happened quite naturally. Now it is possible to travel to the other side of the world and be on stage within 24 hours of arrival; and because it is possible it has become accepted, even by promoters who go to some contractual lengths to make sure that their prized acts are not likely to arrive ill or subsequently get ill. Jetlag is not seen as an illness, and therefore is standardly ignored.

Illness or not, however, jetlag makes people suffer. It has degrees of seriousness, of course, depending on the distances involved, but the more-than-five-hours-out variety can make you feel as rotten as familiar complaints like a heavy cold. The brain will work slowly and reluctantly; sleep is difficult or impossible; every movement is an effort; it is standard to feel nauseous; the ground has an unpredictable way of not remaining flat before one, so that the sufferer may suddenly feel as though he or she is falling into a pit, when in fact what has probably happened is that this person has fallen asleep for a fraction of a second. So one stumbles about, forcing oneself to behave in a disciplined way when the body is saying it is being abused - how bad for you is that?

We have given some of our highest-profile concerts in this state. And our problem is sometimes compounded by having conflicting jetlags, which is to say we have not recovered from one dose before another one is administered. It is probably accurate to say that it takes a day to assimilate every hour that one is out from home. This means that a week spent in California is not quite long enough to get fully on to their time zone, which is eight hours out from London. I reckon I have never fully been on West Coast time, despite having worked on it at least once every year for the past 20, because I am never there quite long enough. The same applies the other way - in Japan or Taiwan, for example - and if I am really unlucky I will go from eight hours out one way, via a day or two at home ('to recover'), to eight hours out the other without coming to terms with any of these places. …

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