Saturday, September 13, 2008

Vasco Rossi, Stadio Friuli Udine, 12/09/08

Great show in Udine’s Friuli stadium by Italy’s veteran 56 year-old rocker from the town of Zocca, located in the Modena area of the country.

Rossi, a former radio disc jockey who began singing at the end of the 1970s, attracted some 30,000+ people to Udine’s stadium, just two days after the 2006 World Cup winners, the Italian men’s national soccer team, played in front of 30,000 in a 2-0 victory over tiny Georgia for the 2010 World Cup qualifier in South Africa. And the fans for Rossi came naturally in all sizes, shapes and colours (some fans lined up as early as 3am on the day of the concert, which took place at 9pm that evening, while others included dads and moms who accompanied their teenage kids!).

The only major drawback to the show, which had quite the impressive stage, was the lighting, or rather, the lack of it: the Udine area got hit shortly before Rossi’s show by high winds (80 km/hr) and heavy rainfall which ended up pretty well knocking out the delicate and intricate lighting software/hardware. The show wasn’t totally in the dark mind you, but had the rain not fallen that evening, no doubt Vasco’s performance would have been even MORE spectacular than it actually was. Vasco, affectionately called “Blasco” by his armada of devoted fans throughout Italy (some came as far as 1,000 kms!), was wearing his traditional greenish-olive cap, a leather jacket and a t-shirt underneath with the letter “V” emblazoned on it. This tour was part of his latest album, “Il mondo che vorrei” (The world that I’d like to have) and included new and old hits, such as some of my favourites, “Gli spari sopra” (the video was shot in Los Angeles) and “Rewind”.

Blasco concluded with the soft and beautiful ballad “Vivere” as his encore. The show went on for nearly 3 hours and no doubt left NO fan unhappy after having paid 40+ euros to see him. Fans just under the stage were treated to a further delight: at one point the “old” rocker (together with Luciano Ligabue, the two are the closest thing to an Italian version of Bruce Springsteen) threw his cap to the audience below, then his a long coat-like shirt and then finally the very t-shirt that he was wearing, leaving him as a Tarzan-like figure on stage. Well done Blasco, no doubt Udine will always be happy to see you sing again (all pics by M. Rimati)!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Gianna Nannini, Villa Manin 03/09/08

Italy’s 53 year-old rocker Gianna Nannini packed a small and yet mighty punch in front of about 5,000 fans at the splendid Villa Manin venue near Udine. Nannini, who is the older sis of former Formula 1 driver Alessandro (anyone remember him? He had had an accident with the family’s helicopter and ended up having his forearm severed by the helicopter’s blade), is perhaps Italy’s most famous female rocker who began her long career back in 1976 (she’s also famous because along with a Neapolitan singer. Edoardo Bennato, she sang the popular theme song to the 1990 Italian World Cup, “Notti Magiche”, which was actually the first time in World Cup history that the major soccer event really had its own theme song. Your correspondent STILL has fond memories of that great sporting event as he was not only Korea’s interpreter but he took in several matches, such as the Argentina-Cameroon opener in Milan, the semi-final between Argentina and Italy in Naples and the W.Germany-Argentina final in Rome).

The V.M. concert opened, luckily on time, with “Mosca Cieca” and followed with some of her older hits, such as “Bello e Impossibile”, “Radio Baccano” and “Sei Nell’Anima” all the way to more recent hits such as “Io”. A nice ditty was “Meravigliosa Creatura” which the folks over at Fiat’s advertising company have recently used to launch on tv. networks one of their newest cars. Gianna was backed up by 6 fine musicians who helped her through a 90 minute show. Apparently, on May 24, 2008 at Monaco’s Olympiastadion, Gianna’s energetic performance even impressed a fellow by the name of Bon Jovi as she opened for him in front of some 60,000 people. She’s also one of the few musicians in Italy who also happens to have a university degree (University of Siena, 1994). She’s also sung together with Paolo Conte (all pics by M. Rimati).

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Macy Gray, 29/07/08 Tarvisio

The 41 year-old Macy Gray (born Natalie Renee McIntyre on September 6, 1967 in Canton, Ohio) from the States put on quite the high-energy show in the mountain resort of Tarvisio (located about 80 km north of Udine and right next to the border with Austria).

The scenario for Gray’s concert was rather picturesque, right in the town’s main square and in front of a church with a rather nice bell tower. The concert itself was part of Tarvisio’s “No Borders Music Festival” which in the past has also attracted the likes of Buddy Guy (SUPREME his performance with the Stones in Scorsese’s movie, “Shine A Light”!) and Salomon Burke, not to mention also Ms. Sinead “I-tear-the-pictures-of-popes-to-bits” O’Connor!

Gray was flanked by two ladies donning bright red dresses and blonde wigs (see pics), not to mention a funky five-piece back-up band. Gray herself had emerged out of a mix of Hip-Hop, Funky-Soul and R&B music and is famous for her raspy like-voice and a singing style which is reminiscent of Billie Holiday. To date, Gray has received five Grammy Award nominations and has actually won one award.

Her performance in Tarvisio was rather good and she managed to avoid the embarrassment of what happened to her in 2001 when she was booed off stage at the Pro Football Hall of Fame exhibition game after forgetting the words to the American national anthem! But in the midst of that controversy, Gray's The Id became a commercial stillborn, largely stalling on the U.S. charts, in spite of appearances by John Frusciante and Erykah Badu on the album's hit single "Sweet Baby".

In 2003, Gray released her third studio album, The Trouble with Being Myself, to rave reviews. The lead single "When I See You" became a radio hit in the U.S. and a top forty hit in the UK, although the album wasn't as well received by fans.

But the bad news for Gray didn’t end with the anthem episode. She began 2007 badly after being kicked off-stage at a concert in Barbados for profanity (which was part of the show), but she wasn't aware that it was against the law in that country. She gave a public apology that night to avoid arrest.

About 2,000 people filled the tiny square in Tarvisio for a show which lasted roughly 90 minutes (all pics by M. Rimati).

Saturday, July 26, 2008

R.E.M. Villa Manin (Udine), 24/07/2008

Admittedly, R.E.M. aren’t my all-time favourite group, but for one small and simple reason: years ago lead singer Michael Stipe had “attacked” The Beatles, I think by saying something along the lines that they weren’t all that good, and seeing that the Fab Four are my all-time fav band…

The concert at the beautiful Villa Manin, just 15 kms from Udine (I spoke to someone from the band’s entourage who was quite impressed with the setting!), attracted about 10,000 people, even from nearby Slovenia. The show opened up with the Editors, an English band. At one point, Mike Mills snuck up on stage to watch the opening band (few in the crowd had noticed him). As he turned around, from down below I waved to him and he gave me the peace sign. The Athens, Georgia band’s repertoire consisted of a whopping 26 songs, 5 alone in the encore section. They opened with “Living Well” and concluded with “Man On The Moon”. Other hits included “Losing My Religion”, “Back To Rockville” and “Hollow Man”.
Stipe was in an energetic mode, squirming (and even spitting!) about on the stage. Peter Bucks was instead rather tranquil on guitar.

Seeing that I had to park about 1 km away, and seeing that there would be a special on the Rolling Stones that night on late tv, I headed out rather early in order to avoid the traffic and to catch the Stones (no offence to R.E.M. fans out there, but the Stones are just a few notches higher than the American band, unless Stipe has the same feelings for Jagger and Richards as he’s had for Lennon and McCartney!). All pics by M. Rimati.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Paul Simon, Udine Castle, 22/07/08

Another fine concert in Udine’s splendid little castle, this time with 66 year-old Paul Simon. The diminutive Simon sang 2 hours non-stop in front of an appreciative crowd of some 2,000 people, a lot of them over 60s too (wonder why?)!

A hush fell over everyone as one of his songs was “Sound Of Silence”, to be followed by another favourite, “Mrs. Robinson” (that song by the way is now only 40 years old as “The Graduate” came out in 1968 and its soundtrack also won a Grammy award). A pity that Paul’s old mate Art Garfunkel wasn’t also on stage, but at least in my case, I got to see the two a few years ago in Rome in front of the Coliseum for the free concert (opening band: The Everly Brothers! And on drums for Paul and Art was Jim Keltner, someone who’s played with Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Roy Orbison and the Travelling Wilburys, not to mention having played drums on perhaps my all-time favourite album by John Lennon, “Walls And Bridges”!). Perhaps royalties and contractual red-tape still tie the two together, but one of their most famous songs was missing from the castle’s concert: “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.

Simon was backed up by 7 other great musicians. His voice was actually still quite good and he managed to also belt out hits such as “Graceland”, “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard” and “Slip Slidin’ Away”. He also slipped in some songs from his last album, such as “Outrageous” and “Father And Daughter”.

As I was watching him I kept on thinking of almost 30 years ago when one night back in Canada, as I would quite often do on Saturday’s, I was watching “Saturday Night Live”. The host for that evening was Paul Simon and for the musical part of the show, he called on stage a certain fellow by the name of George Harrison. Exceptionally memorable was their performance (acoustic) of George’s “Here Comes The Sun” (all pics by M. Rimati)!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Loreena McKennitt Castle Udine, 12/07/08

A nice little concert with about 2,500 people in Udine’s gracious antique castle with Canada’s (and Manitoba’s!) very own Loreena McKennitt. Loreena had come to Udine area back in 1996 and had left quite the nice impression. She certainly did once again as the fans present appeared to be indeed most appreciative of her 2-hour performance (and backed-up by a supporting band made up of 9 great musicians). She no doubt felt quite at home as her music consists of the Celtic nature, and here in Udine, the Celts were very much at home many moons ago. The production of the concert, as described by a local paper in Udine, was defined as being “super”! Loreena played a total of 17 songs, alternating between the piano, the harp and the accordion.

But the interesting thing about the concert it what happened after. As she sang her last encore, Lorreena was seen whisked away by some assistants to a nearby lodging in front of the stage where she went to change and perhaps to a get a bite to eat. She finally came down the stairs and was surrounded by a small mob of adoring fans. In true Italian nature (and she must have REALLY loved this one!), many kissed her on the cheek and also took pics with her. I on the other hand had brought my 1988 map of Manitoba as I had found out through reading the local papers that she was actually born in the town of Morden, located some 70 kms or so from my hometown and Manitoba’s capital, Winnipeg (I also think that Morden had when I was living there some sort of mini-stampede). So I approached her and said: ”This is probably THE strangest thing you’ve ever autographed”!, and showed her the map of Manitoba! At which point she naturally laughed and asked me where I was from (she’s been living for years in Stratford, Ontario). I told her that I try to “push” Canada as much as I can in Italy, and no doubt she was very happy to hear that (all pics. by M. Rimati).

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sex Pistols, Heineken Jammin’ Festival, Mestre 20/06/08

So picture the following scenario: two young school kids are talking. One says to the other: “My grandad is great! He takes me to the zoo and buys me ice-cream and toys and plays with me at home right after he takes his daily afternoon snooze. So what does your grandad do”? The other looks and says: “Oh, well, he goes around the world singing and yelling “fuck” to people who throw at him bottles, shoes, shirts, you name it on stage. He’s also one of the “fathers” of punk music”! The grandchild (could) be taking about his grandad, none other than that madman of punk rock, Johnny Rotten (his real last name is Lydon. Rotten comes from the crappy teeth he’s always had!), the lead singer of the Sex Pistols, who landed with their mayhem act in Mestre (located near Venice) at this year’s great Heineken Jammin’ Festival (loads of great beer and great chicks too!). Rotten, sans that other “saint” of punk music, Sid Vicious, was joined on stage by original band member Steve Jones on guitar and two other musicians.

The Sex Pistols formed in London in 1975. The band originally comprised singer
Johnny Rotten, guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook and bassist Glen Matlock (who was replaced by Sid Vicious). Their initial career lasted only three years and produced only four singles and one studio album, perhaps their best work, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols (Never Mind the Bollocks was released on 28 October, 1977, to mixed reviews. Rolling Stone praised the album, comparing its sound to "two subway trains crashing together under 4 feet of mud, victims screaming", and applauded the band for playing "with an energy and conviction that is positively transcendent in its madness and fever").

They’ve been defined by the BBC as "the definitive English punk rock band." Their fame is due to the fact that they’ve been widely credited with initiating the punk movement in the UK and creating the first generation gap within rock and roll. Their shows and tours repeatedly faced difficulties with organisers and authorities, and public appearances often ended in mayhem. Their 1977 single "God Save the Queen” was regarded as an attack on the British Monarchy and British nationalism (no kidding! Listen to some words from that song: “God save the Queen, she ain’t no human being”!). Just imagine what Queen EII must have thought about the boys when that song was no doubt constantly played on the air-waves! More info from Wikipedia:

“The Pistols' second single, "God Save the Queen”, was released on 27 May, 1977. Though widely perceived as a personal attack on Queen Elizabeth II, Rotten later stated that the song was not aimed at her specifically, but was instead intended to critique the deference given to royalty in general. However, the perceived disrespect to the monarchy caused widespread public outcry. The record was banned from airplay by the BBC, whose Radio 1 dominated music broadcasting. Rotten later remarked, "We had declared war on the entire country—without meaning to!" During the week of Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee, the single reached number one in the NME chart, but only number two in the official UK chart. Many suspected that the data had been massaged, believing that the record had actually qualified for the top spot, but that the charts had been rigged to prevent a spectacle. At least one radio station announced the song at number one, but refused to play it, as they had been advised it might incite disruptions of the national celebration”.

Vicious eventually died of a heroin overdose in February, 1979 (he had also been apparently involved in the murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, a drug addict and occasional prostitute from New York with a history of severe emotional problems). Another classy guy as Vicious was found in a hospital, having carved the words "Gimme a fix" in his chest with a razor! In 2006 the Sex Pistols were inducted into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but they refused to attend the ceremony, calling the museum "a piss stain".

That evening in Mestre they naturally played their major hits such as “Pretty Vacant” (pronounced in such a way as part of the second song sounds like the word “cunt”!), “God Save the Queen” and “Anarchy in the U.K.”. Anarchy served as “a statement of intent—full of wit, anger and visceral energy. Despite a common perception that punk bands couldn't play their instruments, contemporary music press reviews and live recordings reveal the Pistols to have been a tight, competent and ferocious live band”. And naturally for all the kids present, their performance was a catalysts for pushing, shoving and throwing water around (we naturally got showered and pushed too).

Rotten hadn’t, at age 52, given up his old ways in Mestre as he was still squirming and making faces on stage, including showing off his chest and slight pot-belly! But just to give you an idea of the mood that evening (and where the Pistols come from!), here’s what Jones had been up to in 1976 on a programme in England. The episode naturally created massive publicity for the band. “Appearing as last-minute replacements for fellow EMI artists
Queen, band and entourage took full advantage of the green room facilities, and consumed significant amounts of alcohol. During the interview, Rotten used the word "shit", and host Bill Grundy, who was apparently drunk at the time, flirted openly with Siouxsie Sioux: "We'll meet afterwards, shall we?" This prompted the following exchange between the host and Steve Jones:

Jones: You dirty sod. You dirty old man.
Grundy: Well keep going chief, keep going. Go on. You've got another five seconds. Say something outrageous.
Jones: You dirty bastard.
Grundy: Go on, again.
Jones: You dirty fucker.
Grundy: What a clever boy.
Jones: What a fucking rotter.

But more would happen as one day they were about to board a a plane at London Heathrow Airport. The band reportedly spat on each other and verbally abused airport staff. "One witness claimed the Sex Pistols were doing something so disgusting that she could not repeat it for publication ... it became generally believed Jones had been vomiting on old ladies in the preflight lounge," reported Rolling Stone. EMI released the band from their contract two days later. "I don't understand it," Rotten remarked at the time. "All we're trying to do is destroy everything."
And speaking of alcohol, every time Rotten went to start in with a song in Mestre, he’d go to his drummer, pick up a bottle of whisky, have a sip and gargle with it! At times he’d even spit it out, indeed a really classy kind of guy!

An honour having seen Sex Pistols as they directly inspired the style, and often the formation itself, of many punk and post-punk bands during their brief existence, such as
The Clash and Siouxsie & The Banshees who are among those in London's "inner circle" of early punk bands that credit the Pistols. On 4 June 1976, still early in their career, the Sex Pistols performed to a crowd of around 40 people at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester. It was to become one of the most important and mythologized events in rock history. In addition to the groups they directly inspired, the Sex Pistols influenced many later bands as well. Among those who have acknowledged their debt to the Pistols are Nirvana, NOFX, Oasis, Green Day, Venom and Guns N' Roses.

Finally, in 1997,
paleontologists Jonathan M. Adrain and Gregory D. Edgecombe named a series of fossil trilobite species in honour of the Pistols' members: Arcticalymene rotteni, A. jonesi, A. cooki, A. matlocki and A. viciousi. Looking at some pics of Rotten, the paleontologists got it certainly right…(all pics by M. Rimati).

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