Sunday, July 22, 2007

Robert Plant, Lignano July 21st, 2007

So, do you know many 59 year-olds out there that can make 20 year-old kids go wild with songs that were written when they weren’t even born? Well, that’s the effect that Robert Anthony Plant, the former lead singer of the world’s greatest (live) rock’n’roll band of the 1970s had last night on about 2,000 people in the tiny arena located in the sea-side resort of Lignano, not too far away from Udine (something else to think that he, Page, Jones and Bonham not only were once part of that great 1973 documentary-film, “The Song Remains The Same" but that on more than one occasion they also sang in one of the world’s greatest indoor arenas, Madison Square Garden!).

I saw Plant 2 years ago in Pordenone. His band back then was pretty well the same one that he used this time round (but Plant with a couple of fewer kilos this time!). And yes, his traditional bushy lion-like mane of blonde hair was also the same as it’s always been since the glorious days of Led Zeppelin when he’d strut around the stage with his shirt wide open.

Half his tunes were in fact from the Zep era, much to the joy of this correspondent and the others present. Some included “Black Dog”, the beautiful ballad “Going To California” and one of my all-time favourite Zep songs, "Gallows Pole"! He concluded, as he did 2 years ago and 4 years ago in Rome (this was the 4th time for me to see Plant, the first back in MontrĂ©al in the late 1980s. He was on stage that night with another late, great artist, Stevie Ray Vaughan!) with Zep's epic, “Whole Lotta Love”. He played for about 90 minutes, more or less.

Personally-speaking, the voice was still there, even though with Whole Lotta Love he did a sort of re-mix of the song, sprinkling it here and there with some other tunes within the song itself. And at close to 60 years of age he honestly seemed to have gotten a big turn-on to see those below the stage going bonkers over some of his old tunes!

There’s been talk in the air of him and the other 2 surviving members of the band of getting together for a reunion in honour of the founding member of their record label, Atlantic (with quite possibly Jason Bonhan on drums). Every time I leave a Plant concert I wish I had in some way or the other the power to convince him to get back with his old band. I kept on looking at him and saying to myself, “It would no doubt be THE greatest world tour of the last 20 years!” The voice is still there and as we’ve seen lately, there’s a revival of "old-timers” out there, such as the Police and Genesis. The time would be perfect for them to reunite for one gigantic world tour.

Only one tiny sad note if we can call it that: after the concert we went for a couple of beers right in front of the arena. At 2 am as we headed out of the pub there in front of us was Plant’s long tour bus (with a semi-truck in tow) leaving for his next gig in nearby Slovenia. We looked at the dark-tinted windows and thought, “Here was a man who together with his three buddies would travel the world aboard a Boeing 737 jet with the words “Led Zeppelin” written on the sides and here he was instead going off on a tour bus"! Strange how life can be at times...

One can only dream though of hopefully one day seeing Plant next to Page as they play their last, epic and magnificent encore, “Stairway To Heaven”. At that point, all of us can then go in peace to rock’n’roll heaven (all pics by M. Rimati)!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Oh, why don’t you all just!

Anyone remember Monty Python’s epic film, “Life of Brian”? I think it had come out in 1978 (circa) and had been deemed to be rather blasphemous in nature by the Vatican (George Harrison, a great Python fan, had produced the movie and had actually appeared in it momentarily).

There’s one of my favourite scenes in the movie (and my father’s too). It shows Brian, who is played by the late, great Graham
Chapman, who is desperately running away from the faithful followers, led by that other magnificent actor, Mr. Silly Walks himself, John Cleese, who erroneously believes that Brian is the real messiah. After having fallen into a pit and having stomped down on the foot of a poor hermit, Brian pleads with the followers to bugger off. At one point he looks at them and yells, “Why don’t you all just fuck-off”! Cleese, not at all perturbed, no doubt stuns the Vatican back in Rome and says, “And how shall we fuck-off, oh Lord”? Indeed a priceless scene.

As blasphemous as it was back then, the Cassation court of Italy just handed down a (bizarre) ruling yesterday: that saying “fuck-off” to someone should not longer be regarded as an offence! The court’s reasoning is that the word (vaffanculo) has entered the Italian lexicon for quite some time now and shouldn’t really be regarded as a major swear word. A few years ago a report concluded that Italian youth are amongst the rudest in all of Europe (thanks also to Italian tv which doesn’t “beep” out swear words during prime time), so no doubt this new ruling will only make matters worse.

Just imagine the scenario: a young church-goer is being confessed for her sins. She doesn’t agree with the priest’s penance, and so out of the blue from the confessional yells out, “Oh why don’t you just fuck-off”!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Genesis, the “Turn It On Again Tour”, Circus Maximus, July 14th, 2007

About one year ago I was at the famous Circus Maximus for Italy’s victory in the 2006 World Cup final against France (at one point during the chariot races 2,000 years ago there had been up to 300,000 spectators at the C.M. The emperors after the shows would also pay a visit to the whores in the houses located right next to the C.M.!). Six years ago I had again been at the C.M. for Roma’s epic “scudetto” soccer victory. In the former case they say there were about 500,000 people whereas in the latter case there were about 1 million people. And exactly 10 years after Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Ray Wilson and the “new” Genesis, I would again be at the C.M. for Telecom Italia’s fifth free concert with Genesis, this time complete with Banks, Rutherford and Phil Collins (but no Peter Gabriel).

Some 500,000 people apparently turned up for the show. I was lucky this time as we had tickets in the VIP section, so I got to at least sit on a small table to take pics and to film the entire show (the previous four shows have meant standing for an incredible amount of hours breaking my herniated back!).

The show lasted more than two hours with about twenty-four songs. They opened with “Behind the Lines”, followed by “Duke’s End” and then one of my favourite, “Turn It On Again”. While I profess to not be THE world’s greatest Genesis aficionado, it was nevertheless nice to hear some of the golden oldies such as “In the Cage” and “Domino”. The last two encores were “I Can’t Dance” and “Carpet Crawlers”, no doubt a fav of die-hard Genesis fans. While not a Genesis song per se, I was nevertheless hoping for “Sussudio” as a closing song which would have brought down whatever’s left of the old C.M. (which is not much).

The dream I think of everyone there was that Gabriel would join his three buddies on stage. Unfortunately, no such luck. There’s talk that perhaps two years from now they might team up again. Unlike the four previous editions (Sir Paul McCartney, Simon&Garfunkel, Sir Elton John and both Bryan Adams and Billy Joel together), the show was at the C.M. just because of the massive size of Genesis’s stage (the other four were held right in front of the Coliseum, a hop, skip and a jump from the C.M.): a stage 64 metres long and with a height of some 29 metres plus 90 million small LED lights. The screen was 54 metres wide and 12 metres high. Some 18 semi-trucks were required to haul the material around. Collins? In splendid form, both with his voice and with his drumming, especially with Frank Zappa’s former drummer, Chester Thompson (for this modest drummer, a real treat to hear the both on their “Drum Duet”).

The concert was also special for Rome fans as Genesis concluded their European tour in the Eternal City. There next conquest is now North America (all pics by M. Rimati).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Rolling Stones, Olympic Stadium, Rome July 6th, 2007

The greatest rock’n’roll band in the world touched down on planet earth, more specifically on the Eternal City, after a 17-year absence from Rome (and I was there for that one too). Two hours of great non-stop music which kicked off with their classic, “Start Me Up”. Jagger, Richards, Watts and Wood were in splendid form, a notch higher than last year’s concert in Milan’s San Siro stadium (perhaps given to Richards banging his head after falling from a tree and Wood with his drinking problems). I was fortunate as I got to sit in the press box of the Olympic stadium, site also of the 1990 World Cup final between W. Germany and Maradona’s Argentina (and I was there for that one too!). The great thing is that I got there using an old NBC pass from when I worked two years ago for NBC and anchorman Brian Williams during pope JPII's funeral and the Conclave. I just went marching up to a security guard who knew English like I know Swahili! The guy panicked and let me by to the second guard, who also let me by. I made my way into the press box where some gracious twenty-year old hostesses again blocked me. They too knew English poorly, and so I got to not only sit comfortably about 200 metres from the stage, but I also filmed it and took about 500 digital pictures!

The concert, which lasted two hours, had the following list:
1. Start Me Up
2. Got Me Rockin’
3. Rock Justice
4. Rocks Off
5. She’s So Cold
6. Ruby Tuesday
7. Can You Hear Me Knocking
8. I Go Crazy (a James Brown song with a truly magnificent Lisa Fischer on vocals!)
9. Tumbling Dice
10. A Richards’s song
11. Happy
12. Miss You
13. It’s Only Rock’n’Roll
14. Can’t Get No Satisfaction
15. Honky Tonk Women
16. Sympathy For The Devil
17. Paint It Black
18. Jumpin’ Jack Flash
19. Brown Sugar

And Jagger? At the ripe old age of 64, he was simply fantastic. A great concert which also had in the crowd Rome’s mayor, Walter Veltroni, and Martin Scorsese who had just shot a film-documentary on the Stones. Jagger hit the nail on the head with what he said a zillion tears ago, “It’s Only Rock’N’Roll (But I Like It)”! (all pics by M. Rimati)