Friday, July 31, 2009

Lenny Kravitz, Tarvisio 29/07/2009

So how many people out there know that 45 year-old New York-born Lenny Kravitz is the son of a woman who once starred in “The Jeffersons”? Probably not too many, including yours truly!

Kravitz hit the “No Borders Festival” in the northern town of Tarvisio on July 29th with his “Let Love Rule Tour”. He played to a packed house (the “house” was actually the town`s quaint main outdoor square) with about 4,000 fans (gosh, how strange too, most of the fans were women!), many also from neighbouring Austria (which is actually right next door to Tarvisio, about 90 kms north of Udine) and Slovenia.

As one of the official accredited photographers for this concert we only had two songs in which to be able to take our pics. Some artists are pretty laid-back about it while others, such as Madonna, have pretty rigid rules regarding official pics (in her case we were allowed 3 songs. Ditto for David Byrne). But for Kravitz we only had 2 songs and only to the right of the stage (his left) with some particular orders, such as only shots regarding the left side of his face (Joe Jackson was even worse as we could only take side shots and no frontal ones, according to his strange manager!). As with Bryne who for the first 3 songs had poor lighting, we noticed the same for Kravitz’s show: awful green lighting which went on and off like strobe lighting. Was it just a mere coincidence or did his staff do it on purpose? As the second song was up and we had to leave the area directly under the stage, Kravitz`s management used much better lighting. I think, and I don`t exactly know why (perhaps some bad run-ins with photographers around the world?), but some artists have to be real pricks with photographers, as in the case of Kravitz! And seeing that I was right under the stage, I had placed one of my cameras on one of the speakers. As soon as Kravitz hit the first chord with his guitar, my light pants and t-shirt literally started swaying back and forth because of the air movement which came out of the speaker. Ahh, my poor eardrums!!

The show? He started in (it was to have started around 9:30 pm but he didn`t hit the stage until about 9:50) with “Freedom Train” and then followed up with “Bring It On”, “It Ain`t Ove`Til It`s Over”, “I Belong To You”, “Believe”, “Dancing `Til Dawn”, “I`ll Be Waiting” and “Fly Away”.

But the song that I was instead waiting for, and which he obviously played, was “American Woman” which is taken from the song track of the movie “Austin Powers II: The Spy Who Loved Me”. This was especially nice to hear because as many may (probably) know, the original version of this rather anti-American song (it was actually banned from the American airwaves in the 1960s. Just imagine back then some of the lyrics: “American Woman, stay away from me….and your war machine…”) is from that great Canadian band, The Guess Who, who just happen to hail from my hometown, Winnipeg (the Guess Who were unquestionably Canada`s most famous band of the 1960-70s until B.T.O. arrived on the scene)! The concert ended with “Are You Gonna Go My Way”.

While perhaps not THE most popular musician on the planet, lest we forget that Kravitz also once played on Mick Jagger`s solo album, “Gid Gave Me Everything”. Indeed a wee bit of a prima donna (as one can see from the pics), but all-in-all, it wasn`t such a bad show considering he played for only about 90 minutes (and with only 2 measly songs for us photographers)! And for the first time in 197 concerts Kravitz at one point took his daughters digital camera (we had a young girl next to us taking pictures so we presume it was his daughter or relative) and began going down to the crowd and taking pictures as a memento of his last concert on this three-month tour. Lucky him as the lighting for HIS pics were certainly better than what we had!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bruce Springsteen, Udine 23/07/2009

“This guy buries everyone”! These eloquent words belong to a friend of mine who was also at the superb, magnificent, grandiose, amazing, exciting, fun, hot, terrific, wonderful, exhilarating, and tremendous (have I forgotten an adjective?) Bruce Springsteen and his “Working On A Dream Tour” concert in the small town of Udine! And for this show I was about 10 meters from the stage in a MASSIVE crowd of people (yes, just like a teenager as a 50 yr-old friend of mine said the other day!).

Something to add to the immense joy that The Boss has been bringing to all of us around the world in more than 30 years? Absolutely NOT. At 60 years of age (come September) Bruce delivered a knock-out concert worthy of a Mike Tyson right hook: he simply floored the 35,000 fans that were on hand with his enthusiasm, smiles, laughter and high rock`n`roll energy. He also floored the folks in this part of Italy (many of whom speak the local language, Friulano), as he came up on stage accompanied by the big man of sax, Clarence Clemons, and approached the microphone and repeated three times, “Mandi Udin!” (“Hello Udine”)! Just those two simple words uttered by the man from New Jersey was capable of immediately captivating all those that were present (even those who don`t live in this part of Italy but who came as far away as Hungary).

This concert, no. 196 for me, was particularly special as my good friend Marco from Ontario, a son of Friulani like yours truly, was also on hand. It was special because 25 years ago Marco and I travelled 250 kms from Kingston (Bryan Adams`s birthplace), where I was doing my Master`s degree, to Toronto`s CNE stadium to catch The Boss during his epic and astounding “Born In The USA” tour (now who could EVER forget that album which was played constantly during the 1983/84?). So here we were, 25 years later with some extra kilos and a grey hair here and there listening once again to Bruce belting away “Born In The USA” and other musical delights which will be listed below.

And what to say about the legendary E Street Band? With the exception of wife Patti Scialfa and the unforgettable Dan Federici, all other historical members of Bruce`s band were there to give him all the thrust that was needed to make the Udine show indeed a memorable one, starting with the great drummer Max Weinberg, guitarists Nils Lofgren and Little Steven Van Zandt, bass guitarist Gary Tallent, the “professor” Roy Bittan on keyboards, Clemons on sax, Soozie Tyrell on fiddle and Charlie Giordano who`s filled in for Federici on piano (Tyrell, Giordano and two other members of Udine`s gig have also been part of Bruce`s Pete Seeger Session band and were already here in Udine 3 years ago for a memorable concert which I`ve placed in the top 10 so far of great, great shows).

Bruce kicked off the spectacle with “Sherry Darling” and then hit the crowd with everything he had under the sun, including “Johnny 99”, “Badlands”, “Hungry Heart”, “Outlaw Pete”, “Working On A Dream” (which he also played at this year`s half-time Super Bowl Show), “Born To Run”, “Born In The USA”, “The Rising”, “American Land”, “American Skin” and everyone`s favourite, “Dancing In The Dark” (which brings back wonderful memories of Kingston and when I`d hang out at the grad house shooting pool and drinking beer with the buddies).

The funny thing is that fans under the stage continuously held up signs for him to see. Many of these signs had the title of his songs, so he`d simply pluck them from the fans, look at the rest of the band and ask if it was ok to play that song, and would sing it! A kind of a first among artists who usually follow a rather strict set-piece (like AC/DC for example).

Three years ago when he played near Udine at one point he asked the crowd the following: “Udine e` anche famosa per la grappa, ma dov`e`” (“Udine is also famous for its grappa, but where is it”?). As many who have lived in Italy know, grappa is one mighty fine Italian spirit, and here in the Udine area they make some of the best (not to mention that the locals drink the stuff mixed in with their morning coffees!). So at one point someone in the crowd raised a sign in broken English which said: “Hi Bruce grappa is here”! And so it was that Bruce picked up the sign, gave it to Little Steven and proceeded to mimic grappa being poured over his head by Little Steven and a sponge (it was soooo hot that in between songs Bruce would cool himself off with a sponge and water). Bruce, being showered with what was actually water, shouted: “But this isn`t grappa”!

And to top off a fantastic summer evening, The Boss paid homage to the Isley Brothers and to The Beatles as he did his own version of “Twist and Shout” which also mixed in with bits from “La Bamba”. It couldn`t have been a “funner” way to end the second visit of Springsteen to the Udine area.

On a final note, the day after I made my way to the Astoria Hotel, which is located about 300 meters from my place in Udine, Bruce and the band was ready to leave town for Spain (Clemons was not in the best of shape for the Udine concert as he got in the mini-van using a cane) so there was a handful of fans on hand hoping to catch a last glimpse of Bruce. And sure enough, the Boss Man appeared for all below the hotel (the hotel photos are courtesy of fellow photographer Ricky Modena So enthralled were all to be able to see him up close one last time that I shouted to him from down below the window: “Bruce, sings us one last song”! He chuckled as I also added: “O` Sole Mio”! For that comment (he didn`t unfortunately sing the famous Italian ballad), I got a laugh from those around me. And how was Bruce up close? He looked very, very relaxed and actually quite content to sign autographs and to say hi to the adoring fans, including me (with all the respect for the Udine gig but his 2003 performance in Florence with Federici and wife Patti was a notch superior: he played a record three-and-a-half hours with three encores. At one point, he joked with Little Steven and shouted in Italian: “I`m dead tired, I can`t take it any longer”). He also played a song called "Ramrod" which can be viewed in the 2002 DVD of his Barcelona show. That song for me is THE symbol of rock`n`roll: pure joy! All pics by M. Rimati (with the exception of the hotel pics).

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