Tuesday, June 30, 2009

UB40, Azzano Decimo, June 28, 2009

With poor Joe Jackson out of the way, finally the UB40 boys! As Joe was finishing up his last songs, I had noticed in the corner of the stage Robin Campbell, Ali`s older brother (the former lead singer of the reggae fusion band who left recently), smoking a ciggie. I approached him, and looking at the venue (it looked sort of like a country fair fete with a large tent next door where one could eat and drink), said (in English): “Kinda strange that just a few years ago you guys were in front of thousands and thousands of people at Hyde Park for Live 8, and now you`re here in front of about 500 folks (n.b. That extraordinary event, staged again by Bob Geldof, had some pretty BIG performers, such as Paul McCartney, Elton John, The Who, Madonna, Coldplay, the original Pink Floyd members, Bill Gates, David Beckham and Robbie Williams, just to name a few!). He looked at me and said, “We play anywhere”! I also told him that I had first seen them some 20 years ago in Montreal at the St. Denis theatre, and again twice in Rome. He kind of chuckled when I said Montreal. I wished him good luck with the show, and what a fine show it really was!

The band, which dates back to the late 1970s , made up of 10 members this time at the Azzano concert, has sold some 70 million records (the name`s band comes from the British unemployment form code. The designation UB40 stood for Unemployment Benefit, Form 40). Many of the band members were unemployed at the time, ergo the reason for the band`s name). After 30 years with the band, Ali Campbell left due to “management difficulties”. The band's new album, “Twentyfourseven, UB40's last with the original lineup, was released in 2008. One of the artists with whom they`ve also worked with has been Chrissie Hynde, the former wife of Ray Davies of the Kinks (and I saw Hynde some years ago in Rome with her old band, The Pretenders!).

One of their more loyal band members was banging away with extreme precision on the drums, James (Jimmy) Brown (n.b. off to the side Jackson`s drummer was talking to his bass guitarist and commenting on Brown`s unique drumming technique).

Songs: I was QUITE satisfied as I got to hear to of my all-time fav UB40 songs, “Rat In The Kitchen” (sung by Astro on lead vocals) and no doubt everyone`s other favourite song, “Red Red Wine”, which is a cover version of a Neil Diamond song. This was on their no. 1 album (UK charts), “Labour Of Love”. “I Got You Babe”, which was once made famous by Sonny and Cher, is also one of their best (with the duet by Chrissie Hynde and Ali Campbell), not to mention also Their most successful worldwide single release is the cover of the Elvis Presley balad, " (I Can`t Help) Falling In Love With You” which was also the main title to Sharon Stone`s 1993 movie “Sliver” and was a number one hit across Europe and the U.S.

Always a very, very classy act UB40 , NO matter where you see them (all pics by M. Rimati)!

Joe Jackson, Azzano Decimo June 28, 2009

The small town of Azzano Decimo, located about 30 kms west of Udine, has been hosting their very own small music festival for some years now. The other night they had a double treat, a rather interesting combo made up of Joe Jackson and UB40.

A major downpour threatened the event but luckily stopped just in time for Jackson`s performance. As photographers we were permitted the first three songs in order to shoot pics (this is usually the norm). As we were preparing from upon the stage came Jackson`s manager who insisted that we shoot from the crowd and “only side shots, no frontal pics”! Quite odd was his “order”, seeing that nowadays, at least in Italy, you can shoot from the audience with pretty well anything (cell phones with built-in cameras, small and large digital cameras, etc.).

With not much choice we had to oblige (was the request given perhaps Joe`s many possible face-lifts?). Something else that was to be rather odd also happened, but towards the end of his performance.

The show was a wee bit too lengthy, running almost close to one hour over an acceptable time period. Nevertheless, some of his songs brought back nice memories, especially one song which was now a whopping 30 years old and that we`d all hear on the car radio, the 1979 hit “Is She Really Going Out With Him”? Jackson, an Englishman, was once part of a trio along with Elvis Costello and Graham Parker that had challenged the punk scene and who had brought a new wave sound to the U.S. in the late 1970s. He played the entire evening on piano and was backed-up on stage by two members, Graham Maby on bass guitar and Dave Houghton on drums (he`s been with him since 1979). He also played some tunes from his latest album, “Rain” (2008). His pieces actually weren`t bad but some of the songs began to drag on a wee bit, until his pain-in-the-ass manager got up on stage, while Joe was playing a piece, and from behind his shoulder placed a piece of paper on the piano. As he was playing, Jackson read the note to himself. Once the song ended, he told everyone: “I was going to play two more songs but they`ve told me I can only play one”! This is for me no doubt a first where an artist is told to “knock it off” (were folks a wee bit tired and wanted the UB40 boys finally up on stage?). He took a quick bow, not even right up to the edge of the stage, and simply walked away. Apparently, he didn`t even stop to talk to local organisers and just disappeared (all pics by M. Rimati)!

Laura Pausini, Villa Manin 27/06/2009

Close to 10,000 people showed up at the splendid Villa Manin on Saturday night for a woman who`s not only won a Grammy award (2006: Best Latin Pop Album, “Escucha”), a Latin Grammy Award (2005: Best Pop Vocal Album by a Female Artist, “Escucha”) but who has also been the first female artist ever to have played at Milan`s San Siro Stadium (one of the 10 “temples” of international soccer) on June 2nd, 2007, in front of a crowd of 70,000 spectators. I`m taking about Italy`s Laura Pausini, an artist who`s so far sold some 50 millions records worldwide.


Her Villa Manin set list contained 22 songs and well over 2 hours worth of concert, including my favourite (which was part of the final encore), “Primavera In Anticipo”. Some of her other songs also included “La Mia Banda Suona Il Rock” and “Io Canto”.

Pausini`s certainly no newcomer to the world of music as she began singing in local bars with her father when she was only 8 years old. At the age of thirteen, she had her first recording experience with the album “I Sogni Di Laura”. By 1993 she won the prestigious Italian Sanremo Music Festival with one of her best known songs, "La Solitudine”. Six years later the late, great tenor Luciano Pavarotti invited Pausini to his annual "Pavarotti and Friends" concert.

And it doesn`t certainly hurt that Laura`s got a great voice too. This was especially noticed during a rather touching moment of the Villa Manin concert when just two days after the tragic and sad death of Michael Jackson she sang his song, “Heal The World”. Images of MJ were flashed on the two side screens with the words “Ciao Michael” that were instead flashed on the main central screen. No doubt a person or too in the crowd had a tear in their eyes and certainly all those present appreciated Laura`s nice and thoughtful gesture. An eight-member band accompanied her on stage, including her long-time companion Paolo Carta (all pics by M. Rimati).

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