Category: Italy


The two faces of Zu

zu

Zu – skronking at the Bronson club, Ravenna, Italy

When it comes to live music I’ve never been much interested in seeing artists who look slick and sound just like they do on their studio recordings.

Performances to me should be an audio-visual experience that takes the listener/viewer into a more spontaneous zone; in other words, to be a one-off event.

But the case of Zu, a band from Rome, is an odd one. They have a new album called Jhator out on the splendidly named House of Mythology label and their tour dates are ostensibly to promote this fact. Or at least they would be in the normal order of things. The sticking point though is that the new album sounds nothing like they did on stage at the Bronson club near Ravenna last night. Continue reading

deep-not-macho

A strong leader stands in an un-drained swamp.

“It’s so easy to laugh,
It’s so easy to hate,
It takes guts to be gentle and kind”
Lyrics by Morrissey to ‘I Know It’s Over’ by The Smiths

A recent survey carried out by the newspaper La Repubblica  found that 80% of Italians think the country needs to be run by “un uomo forte” (a strong man). In 2006, only 55% of the populace subscribed to this view while 60% held this belief in 2010.

This rising trend is worrying and depressing on many counts. It indicates that more and more voters are willing to be represented by leaders solely on the basis that they adopt strong opinions and maintain a posture of decisiveness.

On the surface this may seem logical and uncontroversial. After all, who would want a leader to be weak and indecisive? The problem lies with what exactly is meant by the word ‘strong’. Continue reading

rockinThe sight and sound of 1000 (or as near as dammit) musicians and singers joyously reproducing some of Rock’n’Roll’s finest moments is a memory that still cheers me to this day. This was the mother of all tribute bands.

What an evening it was on Sunday, 24th July 2016 for the provincial city of Cesena in Emilia-Romagna. Rain had threatened to dampen the event but the God of rock intervened to ensure it stayed dry.

The packed soccer stadium were not denied the pure pleasure of witnessing what the banners billed as the ‘Greatest Rock Band On Earth’.

The hyperbole was more than justified for a unique spectacle first dreamed up by local boy done good Fabbio Zaffagnini and directed with an extrovert flourish by Marco Sabiu.

In the summer of 2015 the massed ranks had played one song – Foo Fighters’ Learn To Fly – which succeeded in achieving the objective of getting Dave Grohl’s band to play a one-off gig in Cesena.

The crowd-funded follow-up project was to play a full stadium concert and its overwhelming success was proof that a combination of big dreams and collective team work can be steered towards positive goals.

cd-coverToday sees the release of CD recorded at the show and endorsed with the affirmative slogans – NO MORE CONFLICTS- PLAY ROCK’N’ROLL – STICK TOGETHER.

A full length video would probably have captured the occasion for posterity more effectively but film of the performance of Smells Like Teen Spirit gives a good flavor and the music alone works surprisingly well in putting across the raw energy and infectious enthusiasm of what was a wondrous spectacle.

Verdena live at Rocca Malatestiana, Cesena – 8th September 2016

verdena1If I had been hipper to the local music scene when I arrived in Italy over 20 years ago I would have been able to follow Verdena from their inception as Nirvana wannabes to the distinctive individuals I witnessed at this stunning open air concert.

My belated appreciation of this excellent band from Bergamo is a good motive for shaking the complacent attitude that goes with smug slogan T-shirt slogans like : ‘I may be old but I got to see all the cool bands’.

I have my daughter to thank for ‘discovering’ this cool band existing right now playing songs from current releases not running through a familiar back catalogue from way back when. Continue reading

Harpa

The shadows and light in Harpa concert hall are stunning.

Preparations and expectations are as much a part of journeys as arrivals but it was a trial to face mundane considerations of what to pack for my short stay in Reykjavík.

Most bloggers, tweeters and travel guides recommend winter wear even when traveling in the summer months. They are not wrong. At this time of year it is light all day but this does not mean there is constant sunshine.

Temperatures rarely exceed 23◦ C and are often much lower. The evenings are cool and it also rains a lot so waterproof clothing is considered essential. Dressing as you would for a typical Autumnal day in Northern England is a good rule of thumb guide. While I was there the temperature was a little chilly at an average of around 17◦ C  (I needed a hat!) but the air feels so good and pure.

Soon after arriving, I experienced a prime example of the pragmatism of the Icelandic people when I asked a tour guide if I needed rainproof clothing for a day excursion to The Golden Circle. She replied: “If it rains, yes!”

Town

A birds-eye view of Reykjavik

I can’t remember exactly when I began to get obsessed about the idea of going to Iceland but the wealth of amazing music coming from this small country was certainly a major factor. For this reason I has to pinch myself when the co-owner of the apartment I had booked turned out to be named Sigurrós. This is akin to a foreigner visiting Liverpool for the first time and being greeted by a John Lennon.

In just three full days I could only get a fleeting impression of the city. My sole out-of-town experience was confined to a memorable eight-hour excursion (with commentary in English & Scandinavian) to Geysir hot springs, the Gulfoss waterfall and the National Park (the Golden Circle).

Still, I’m happy to say that my spectacles remain as resolutely rose-tinted as they were before my trip. I’d love to return with more time and money to explore the whole island.

So, without further ado, here are some of my impressions :

The Icelanders.
The people are universally kind, friendly and nice. I saw an middle-aged man looking for a CD of local music being helped by a young female shop assistant who patiently explained what Indie music is without a trace of condescension. Continue reading

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