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).

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