Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Iggy Pop and the Stooges, July 16th, 2010 Azzano Decimo, Italy

Do you know many 63 year-olds out there who pour water over themselves, get doused by water from other people, hop around a stage as though someone’s just stuck fibreglass in their underwear and are the target of bottles and other “unidentified flying objects” for the entire duration of their performance? Well, that individual is none other than the lunatic of rock and roll himself, Mr. James Jewel Osterberg, aka “The Iguana”, aka Iggy Pop!
Yes, the man who in the past was in and out of psychiatric hospitals, who probably abused off every known drug ever made, who once worked together with the “chameleon” or R&R, David Bowie, who no doubt also hung out with folks such as Andy Warhol and who’s been known to perform some rather “devastating” live shows (such as in London recently were he flew into the crowd, breaking a fan’s jaw with his army boots!) devastated once again a very, very packed audience of 4,500 people in the small Italian town of Azzano Decimo (Iggy’s only Italian show by the way) and in sweltering 35 degree Celsius heat (and with roughly 95% humidity too! Just look at my t-shirt up at the top of this blog if you don't believe me!). As Monty Python once said, “It was hot enough to boil a monkey’s bum” that night in Azzano!
Die-hard Pop and Stooges fans came as far away as Slovenia for this show, a show which also saw Stooge’s guitarist James Williamson (n.b. bass guitarist Mike Watt ACTUALLY came out on stage with a full leg-brace and was helped on and off the stage by roadies! Talk about dedication to R&R or what!). The entire band also made it recently to the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”, so it was to a certain degree also an honour to see them live. Pop was in top form, driving not only fans crazy with his high voltage performance, but also photographers under the stage as he was bouncing around at an incredible speed as though someone had just stuck a nuclear reactor in his “you-know-what”! Impressive also how at one point it appeared as though Iggy’s hip had caved in as he was walking around the stage in a slanted position! And after only 20 minutes into show he invited on stage a bunch of fans who were no doubt over-joyed to rub shoulders with the Iguana himself! Iggy and the Stooges were preceded by the Gang Of Four, a British post-punk band. The played for well over 1 hour as no doubt Iggy wasn’t yet ready to hit the stage (he arrived shortly before the concert by the way!). We photographers were wedged in between the stage and the barrier which separates the fans. That’s about 2-3 yards in width, so you can only imagine with some 4,500 fans ALL packed together, well, all those bodies generate even MORE heat!!! A young lassie instead was in a halter top and short shorts taking pics. I looked at her and said that “You’re probably THE sexiest photographer I’ve ever seen so far”! At one point, a fan asked me if he could jump up on my shoulders and then onto the stage. I said, “Yeah, right…” But I did warn my fellow photographers to watch out for some “UFO”: some kid ready to sacrifice his life as a flying missile and to be projected right up on stage next to Iggy! Iggy? The man’s completely nuts! It’s almost impossible to photograph because he moves around as though someone’s stuck fibreglass between his balls and ass (we only had two songs too so ya gotta work VERY FAST to try to get those good shots in)! 63 and full of energy and with yes, skin like that of an Iguana, his nickname. At one pt during the show, I looked at a fan and said: “But has Iggy thrown out his hip”? He was walking around the stage all bent out of shape! I also thought that at one point he’d perhaps throw his dentures out to the fans as a sign of “appreciation” (great too as he’d water himself down with small bottles of water, and then fans would shower him from below with MORE water and empty bottles. He didn’t even flinch!!!!).
I was hoping to hear “Wild One”, my fav Pop song, but he didn’t play it. A pity. He played for more than 90 minutes. Admittedly, you DID get your money’s worth for this show as he didn’t stay put for 5 minutes. Admirable indeed I must say.

Between Johnny Rotten (and the Sex Pistols at the Heineken Festival a few yrs ago) and Iggy, yes, I can DEFINITELY say that I’ve seen the CRAZIEST rockers in the history of r&r (you may also want to add Jagger during his youth as he too was a nutcase on stage)! I should also throw in the Slipknot boys who are basically a musical version of the film, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (I’ve seen the original AND the re-make)! A big success for this small town as Iggy’s concert was the only Italian gig last nite so it got some great publicity nation-wide!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

ZZ Top, Piazzola Sul Brenta, 14/07/2010

Thanks to the folks over at www.zedlive.com, Frank Beard, Dusty Hill and Billy Gibbons, aka ZZ Top, the meanest and coolest little blues rock band this side of the Rio Grande played in front of a super-enthusiastic crowd at the magnificent Villa Contarini setting in the small town of Piazzola Sul Brenta located near Padua (and not too far from Venice).

The Baroque-style Villa Contarini, surrounded by lakes and 40 hectares of land, had been presumably designed by the great Italian architect Andrea Palladio in the 1540s. It was indeed a “romantic” setting for this great little band which has been kicking some mean ass now for the last 40 years. The evening wasn’t only “hot” because of the music but because of the MASSIVE heat wave that has hit Italy in these days (close to 100 degree Fahrenheit/40 degree Celsius!).

The band was formed way back in 1969 in Houston, Texas and its image has been as unchanging and memorable as their own music. Their signature style of dress and accessories are hard to miss, as one can see by the pics. Gibbons and Hill often use the same synchronized dance moves while performing onstage, driving fans nuts. And with few exceptions they always appear in public wearing those famous dark sunglasses. Unquestionably coolness at its top!

It’s also ALWAYS great to see a band whose drummer’s last name is “Beard”, but out of the three, he’s the only one without a beard! In fact, in 1984, Gillette offered Gibbons and Hill $1 million each to shave their beards for a tv ad. They allegedly declined, saying "We're too ugly without 'em!"

ZZ Top was inducted by the Stones’s Keith Richards into the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame" on March 15, 2004. Memorable was Keith’s introductory remarks, as recalled by Beard in ZZ Top’s 2007 DVD concert shot at the Nokia Theatre in Dallas, Texas: Hill asks Beard what exactly Keith had said that evening because he had missed some rather important parts of the speech. Beard says: “Blah, blah, blah…..a tradition..….blah, blah, blah…..blues……blah, blah, blah……love em’ ZZ Top”! Beard laughs his head off recalling that episode while Hill, somewhat still perplexed, says: “Yeah, ok, that’s what I figured he had said”! Seems like Keith was so stoned that evening that no one really could figure out what he was trying to say! Typical Keith Richards!

And the origins of the bands unusual name? It’s often said to be a combination of two popular brands of rolling paper, Zig-Zag and Top. It’s also been claimed as a tribute to blues singer Z.Z. Hill. However, Gibbons wrote in his autobiography, “Rock + Roll Gearhead, that it actually came from a tribute to and a play on the name of blues guitar master B.B. King. The band had planned to call themselves Z.Z. King, but felt it was too similar. Since B.B. King was at the "top", they settled instead on ZZ Top!

Gibbons that night at the Piazzola concert also used his highly-prized 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard (nicknamed "Pearly Gates” after the barely-roadworthy car Billy had sold to raise the money to buy the guitar many years ago). And yes, much to the joy of all the fans Hill and Gibbons also used a pair of guitars that are the spinning "white fuzzies" (covered in white fake fur) used during the song “Have Mercy!", a tribute to hanging fuzzy dice in the custom street rods of the '50s.

The band was also joined on stage by two lovely and elegantly dressed women who gave Gibbons his infamous rock’n’roll cowboy hat. At that point, the band blessed us all with such unforgettably great hits as “Gimme All Your Lovin’”, “Jesus Just Left Chicago”, “Legs”, “Tube Snake Boogie”, “Cheap Sunglasses”, “Pin Cushion”, "Sharp Dressed Man", "Legs", “La Grange” and naturally EVERYONE’S all-time favourite, “Tush”!

But a very special and rather moving moment was also dedicated to the late, great Jimi Hendrix as the band played “Hey Joe” in his honour, with not only a large image of Jimi which was flashed on a giant screen but also Gibbons who at one point during the song turned to salute the Seattle native (n.b. legend has it that Gibbons had apparently taught Hendrix how to play the slide-guitar. True or not, it was nevertheless a nice added touch by ZZ Top for someone who is still today considered by many as THE world’s greatest guitarist!).

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