Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mr. Eric “Slow Hand” Clapton, Lucca, July 7th, 2006

We travelled some 700 kms (there and back) to the small walled-in town of Lucca (the only one apparently left in Italy with standing walls), not too far from Pisa, to see “Mr. Slow Hand” himself, Eric Clapton. He began on time at 9:30 pm and played for 2 hours non-stop with just one encore. He began with “Pretending” which is one of my favourite. Clapton was backed up by 11 members, including some pretty young guitarists who could have even been his kids (just think of the honour of playing next to him!).

This was the second time for me to see Clapton. The first was way back in 1995 in Rome. He began that concert by saying, “If you’ve come to hear my old hits, forget it, as I’m only going to play blues”. Which he did. In Lucca instead (a splendid town by the way) he played some old and new hits, such as “So Tired” and everyone’s favourite, “Cocaine” and “Layla”.

His opening act was the great American soul-rock guitarist, Robert Cray. A special treat as Cray later joined Clapton for a few tunes, including “Crossroads”. While staring at Clapton, I kept on thinking about his long relationship with friend George Harrison, especially on the song “Layla” which was named in honour of George’s first wife, model Patti Harrison (who then hooked-up with Clapton). So great was their friendship that they remained good friends with Clapton rendering George homage one year after his death in London’s famous Royal Albert Hall with the “Concert For George” concert. I also kept on thinking about the concert for Bangladesh. Harrison had organised that event in 1971 in New York’s Madison Square Garden to also help his dear friend and mentor (on the sitar), Ravi Shankar, Norah Jones’s father. He got some good friends involved, such as Bob Dylan and Clapton. Harrison’s assistants would rush to JFK to await for Clapton’s plane from London, but he wasn’t there. So they’d go back. And he still wasn’t there. He finally showed up but was in pretty bad shape as he was going through a rather bad period with drugs (Dylan on the other hand was extremely nervous to be on stage again). But there was the great Clapton on stage playing next to Harrison, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. The guitar solo part as we all know belongs to Clapton who had originally recorded it with Harrison, and, if I’m not mistaken, is on The Beatles’s “White Album”.

Clapton played about 20 songs that night in Lucca. Someone in the 1970s had written on a wall somewhere in England: “Clapton is God”! Slow Hand’s performance in Lucca still confirmed that unique statement (all pics by M. Rimati)!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hey! Bo Diddley

Yes, Mr. Hey! Bo Diddley himself at Rome's new Auditorium on April 22nd, 2005! I couldn't miss one of the great'ol blues men on one of his rare concerts in Italy. Born in 1928 in Mississippi, Diddley also copied Berry’s duck walk (he had also played together with Berry on the "Two Great Guitars" album). He’s also been famous for his rather bizarre-looking guitars (created by Diddley himself). Diddley’s popularity got a boost when in 1963-1964 he backed the Stones, the Everly Brothers and Little Richard.

Diddley was the opening act of Rome’s new Blues Festival in 2005. His five-piece band also included two women, one on bass and one on keyboards. This was Diddley’s 50th anniversary tour. Two hours of great non-stop blues music which included “I’m A Man”, his most famous “Hey! Bo Diddley” and “I’m Bad”. Diddley was seated throughout the concert holding in his hands some of his typical handmade guitars. One of his opening remarks? “A graveyard is noisier than this place. Let’s make some noise”! So we all got down and made some mean noise, as ordered by Mr. Diddley himself! Towards the end of the concert Diddley actually got up. We all thought that he was going to leave the stage to come back for the usual encore (which actually lasted almost 20 minutes). Instead, he gave his guitar to a roadie and walked next to his drummer and then took two drumsticks and began playing the floor tom-tom and then the hi-hat. This went on for about 15 minutes. Something rather unusual for a rock concert, I must say. Not a full house but nevertheless a most entertaining concert with someone who has rubbed shoulders with the likes of Carl Perkins and the great Janis Joplin (pic by M. Rimati)!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hail! Hail! Rock’n’roll!

Yes, the inventor of the famous duck walk, in Rome! This was about two years ago. Tickets were rather high (47 euros) but I thought I couldn’t absolutely miss Mr. “Johnny Be Goode” himself. Berry was on the eve of his 80th birthday that night. He was accompanied by both his daughter and son. He played most of his hits, including also Maybellene and Sweet Little Sixteen. He only played for one hour and with not even one encore! His duck walk? He did it for about 3 seconds and naturally the crowd went wild.

As I got up close to the stage to take pictures, I kept on looking at him in awe for here was a man who had inspired thousands of musicians all over the world, beginning with The Beatles (the one artist which the Fab Four sang most of their songs from 1962-1966 was Berry himself), Keith Richards (Richards had organised for Berry’s 60th birthday in 1986 two concerts in St. Louis. That would be eventually turned into the Hail! Hail! Rock’n’Roll video and album) and his former mate, bass guitarist Bill Wyman (who played for more than 30 years with the Stones). In fact, Wyman likes to tell the following story in his DVD on the history of the blues: he was 18 and on military duty in Germany. He came back to London and one day went to a movie theatre where there was a Berry movie. The year was 1957. Watching Berry for the very first time doing his duck walk (copied to by AC/DC's Angus Young), Wyman himself said the following: “Not only was it the most exciting moment of my life but the hairs on the back of my neck stood up”!

John Lennon had also been a keen admirer of Berry and had him play at the Toronto “R&R Revival Festival”. Lennon’s drummer that day was Alan White who would later go on to play with that other great band, Yes Berry’s encore that evening in Rome was naturally Johnny Be Goode. And we all naturally went crazy (all pics by M. Rimati)!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

B.B. King

This concert with “Blues Boy” King took place just a few years ago at the “Centrale del Tennis” in Rome. I think the tickets were about 57 euros. Kind of funny as King kept on saying in English: “I’m so happy to be in Rome” (no kidding, with the money he made that night!). This was the second time for me to see this great old bluesman, a musician who has also played with Eric Clapton, one of his many admirers (Clapton's album, "Riding with the King", together with King is pretty damn good). Also, the Stones together with AC/DC’s Angus and Malcolm Young do a great version of King’s “Rock Me Baby” in their 2003 four-set DVD, “Four Licks” (all pics by M. Rimati).

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The crown king of soul!

Yes, Mr. "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" himself BIG Solomon Burke (and I mean BIG!!), near the border with Austria a few years ago! This song was also made famous by the Stones and was part of that epic movie, "The Blues Brothers". I was in front row for this show, one of the best I've seen in a long time. Burke back then must have weighed some 300 kilos or so. In fact, they brought him out on a "throne" with the curtains drawn and they moved him out the same way. So good was his show that at one point he invited anyone who wanted to jump up on stage and sing and dance. In the Stones's great 2003 "4 Licks" DVD set they show Burke joining the band on stage and singing "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" together. I think at one point Ron Wood says that the stage floor began to go up and down as Burke came on (all pics by M. Rimati)!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Le Mystère des voix bulgares

Well, no one can accuse me of being stuck in my ways when it comes to music! Yes, I even saw the famous Bulgarian choir made up entirely of women. The concert took place about one year ago in Udine. And how was it? Actually, quite entertaining (it was also free). The ladies’ voices were certainly magnificent too (all pics by M. Rimati).

Rolling with the Stones in Milan!

A great 2003 concert in one of the ten temples of international soccer, San Siro stadium: the Rolling Stones! Of the four Stones concerts that I’ve seen so far (the first one in Rome in 1990 with Bill Wyman on bass guitar), this one was perhaps the best, with Mick Jagger on the eve of 60 years of age in splendid form (he had MORE agility on stage than Totti on a soccer pitch! And he STILL does at age 64 and counting). Richards, Watts and Wood were also great. The back-drop was magnificent too. There were roughly 60,000 of us that night to take in Mr. Jumpin’ Jack Flash (the story behind that title is apparently the following: early one morning after a wild night of booze and no doubt also drugs, Jagger and Richards were crashed out at Richards’s place. They were half asleep when all of a sudden a loud “thumping” noise woke them up. Startled, Jagger asked what the noise was. Richards said, “Oh, that’s my gardener Jack. It’s Jumpin’ Jack (n.b. he was wearing heavy rain boots as he was walking around the garden)”. The “Flash” was later added to the song. All pics by M. Rimati except for the collage of Jagger and Richards).

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Some of the rather interesting churches in Italy and around the world.