Being on tour is often a world of extremes. One minute you’re playing a vintage music hall creaking at the seams with ebullient devotees yelping and hollering for more; the next you’re playing a sticky, black dungeon to a dozen dead-eyed punters who can’t seem to wait for it to end. One evening, dinner means scoffing down a T-bone in a private members’ club (on the label’s dime), the next night you’re microwaving a bag of Doritos. However, my arrival in New York City after five grueling weeks on the road stands as the greatest juxtaposition of polar opposites I have yet experienced.
Picture, if you will, what a tour bus is like after eight people (musicians, even…) have lived in a space no bigger than your average stable. Eating, drinking, sleeping, sweating. Showering, at best, every other day. For weeks on end. Mix it all up with accrued detritus, multiple spillages, and random debris and you have a fuggy hovel on wheels. It was from this fetid squalor that I was hastily jettisoned, into the bright sunshine, a block from the palatial splendour of one of Manhattan’s most iconic hotels – The Carlyle.
Brushing granola from my shirt and taming a cowlick, I rolled my suitcase past the top-hatted and tailed doorman, swooshed through the golden revolving door, and into another world. Black and white marble floors, polished like mirrors, reflect rococo friezes, neo-classical statuary, and prim golden banquettes. Ionic columns frame black velvet drapery, flanked by meticulously arranged clusters of white lilies, all subtly lit by a chandelier of glass lilies.
It was quite a change of scene.
Defaulting to British instincts I referenced the pleasant weather outside
Even the lift/elevator interior was a study in how much elegance one can squeeze into a space without ever quite tipping into gaudy. The (naturally) white-gloved attendant pushed button 33 and we began our ascent. Defaulting to British instincts I referenced the pleasant weather outside. And immediately wondered if this was bad form, given the gentleman’s profession.
At check-in I’d been informed that my request for a room with a view had been received and arranged, and I’d nonchalantly nodded and taken my key. My reaction upon seeing that view was, I’ll admit, slightly less composed. One wall of my room comprised three large south-facing windows, flooding the room with an exquisite triptych: to the right stretched the vast green slab of Central Park, through the middle Park Avenue cut a swathe between the sea of swanky Upper East Side apartment blocks, and to the left, amongst a forest of skyscrapers, was the distant twinkle of the Chrysler Building’s silver crown.
The panorama had me starstruck; the room itself was, inevitably, condemned to play the supporting role.
Typical for New York, it was small, but perfectly formed and finished in an unfussy pallete of beige and gold. A distressed rococo-style desk stood somewhat awkwardly amid more modern furnishings, but I immediately forgave this décor peccadillo when I saw the bed, whose generously-sized pillows were monogrammed with my initials. No-one on the tour bus has ever thought to do that.
Other neat in-room touches included a remote control box for a variety of lighting moods and an iPod docking station boasting a punchy output. The large flatscreen TV, however, stood forlorn and redundant – nothing that could be summoned to its screen would be able to compete with the wondrous scene from the windows behind it.
The bathroom was also fairly compact, with a suite of Kiehl’s toiletries, a jetted bathtub, and mirrored walls on three sides which reflected unforgivingly from every angle. Less attractive still was the cockroach that made a surprise appearance. Thinking fast, I ziplocked him into my empty toiletries bag, and delivered him to reception. The staff’s reaction was not one of horror. Such is New York, their shrugs seemed to say.
As darkness fell the vista grew more spectacular as the skyline transformed into a glittering silhouette against a clear New York night. It was hard to tear myself away, but my partner and I had a table booked in Bemelmans Bar, and we couldn’t just stare out the window all evening.
To complete the tableau I ordered a top of the top shelf Carlyle Manhattan (a cool $38), and settled back to listen to the resident Earl Rose Trio. Superlative stuff
If the room provided the ideal Big Apple backdrop, then Bemelmans delivered a pitch-perfect Manhattan musical moment. We were ushered quietly through a dreamily relaxed, low-lit piano bar, the meticulously maintained Art Deco details creating the sensation of having slipped into 1920s celluloid. To complete the tableau I ordered a top of the top shelf Carlyle Manhattan (a cool $38), and settled back to listen to the resident Earl Rose Trio. Superlative stuff. Truly. The only niggle was the knowledge that quintessential New Yorker Woody Allen was playing a sold-out show that we had wanted to see in the Café Carlyle just yards away…
The next evening my band also played a sell-out gig across town at the no less historic (but not quite as ritzy) Bowery Ballroom. Perhaps Woody Allen couldn’t get tickets for our show either. He could have asked. We could have squeezed him on the guest list. Probably. C
The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel, 35 E 76th Street, New York, NY 10021 USA
+1 212-744 1600; rosewoodhotels.com