POP / On The Road: Wise. Free kick. Bang]: One half of Everything But the Girl on fag smoke and Waitrose queues

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This is the first time we have played a club tour in the UK as a duo for 10 years, having trawled the concert hall, theatre and university circuit in between. I never knew how much I was missing it - the nearness and tight focus of the experience, the shared atmosphere of willingness. During the days we are sitting in contraflows, pulling off motorways to find pubs instead of service stations and visiting radio stations local to the evening's gig.

The photographer at Star FM in Slough muscles into the cramped radio studio. He peels the velcro Star FM logo off the wall and places it squarely between our heads before tugging the DJ into the shot and firing off several rounds of blinding flash photography. It is 11 in the morning and we are off-air while our record plays on live radio. The studio is in a shopping mall: out of the window people are shuffling around lethargically. The photographer looks like a relation of Des Lynam and Jason King. He has all the lines. 'Don't all laugh at once.' 'Cheer up, darling.' We scowl meaningfully at the camera. Back on air, we chat breezily and play a few live acoustic songs. Five minutes later it is all over and I am buying a chicken sandwich from the Waitrose on the shopping level below.

In the evening, the gig in Windsor is crammed. The Old Trout. A bearpit by the river, steam and fag smoke rising from the audience like marsh gas. The on- stage sound is warm and fuggy. Like a public bar. I wear a tight white Seventies shirt with big stitching that I found on a second- hand rail in the town centre earlier in the day. I feel like one of Kool & The Gang.

Tracey tries to slip for a drink before we go on, but is confronted in the corridor by three Japanese girls who start to shriek in unison and show no likelihood of ever being able to stop. She is forced to turn back. She says she felt like all four members of the Beatles at Shea Stadium. The in-house engineer plays me a track from the new MC 900 FT Jesus album. It is so good that I momentarily think of cancelling the gig and retiring.

At Moles Club in Bath two nights later, the stage is so low and the room so packed that I am singing directly into the forehead of the man in front of me. There is no oxygen. A woman faints over by the stairs. Backstage afterwards we hang around drinking with 3-D, Mushroom and G from Massive Attack who have all come down from Bristol to see us. Phil, the club owner, lets us use a room above the club, as the dressing room beside the stage resembles a small, damp dungeon.

Hammering back down the M4 in our Nissan Serena mini-van at two in the morning I am full of hope for Chelsea's chances at Wembley the following day. When I get in, there's a message from Danny Thompson on my answerphone. All it says is: 'Are you going? The blue and white army? Wise. Free kick. Bang] Top corner. One-nil]'

As support on the tour, we have invited the lead singer and lead guitarist from a band called P E Z over from Olympia, Washington - a town 60 miles south of Seattle. They are a kind of surf-acoustic-noise band and, at the Ronnie Scott's gig in Birmingham on the Sunday, I watch wryly from the side of the stage as someone eats cheesecake in the front row to a howl of fuzz guitar during their 30-minute set.

When we come on later, the audience is relaxed, knowledgeable and attentive. Strangely, I find I am missing the lurid medieval spectacle of a packed Moles Club. Back at the hotel a girl tries to call my room. I am astonished. The last time anything like that happened was in Belfast eight years ago, when I was propositioned next to the catering dustbins behind the gig.

The next day, we stop off at a Little Chef on the way down to Portsmouth's Wedgewood Rooms and a session on Fareham's Power FM. Jimmy, our roadie, eats an Olympic breakfast at four in the afternoon while the Little Chef sound system plays 'I'm Only 24 Hours From Tulsa'.

Next week: Tracey Thorn

(Photograph omitted)

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