Friday, July 29, 2011

Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club ® featuring Omara Portuondo | Auditorium Parco della Musica | 28 July, 2011


Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club and Omara Portuondo in Rome

After dazzling audiences at the Auditorium Parco della Music when she shared the Sala Santa Cecilia stage with jazz pianist Chucho Valdés in May this year, Cuban diva Omara Portuondo was back in Rome again yesterday evening, this time with the legendary Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club, as part of the summer season of outdoor concerts in the Cavea.

Sadly, many of the original Social Club members are no longer with us, but this latest incarnation of the Buena Vista project under the orchestral direction of trombonist Jesus Aguaje Ramos, continues to keep the flame of Cuban music burning brightly all over the world, introducing younger players such as Rolando Luna on the piano and charismatic singers Idania Valdés and Carlos Calunga, alongside stalwarts Guajiro Mirabal on trumpet and lute player Barbarito Torres, as well as the undisputed star of the show, “la mas sexy” Omara Portuondo. There can surely be very few eighty year old performers able to sing and dance with such enthusiasm and energy and be greeted by fans cheering “sexy sexy sexy”!

On a surprisingly chilly July evening, it was Omara who really warmed things up and got everybody up and out of their seats and dancing, and as always, Omara who was the last to leave the stage and her adoring public. Draped in the Cuban flag that she had waved throughout the final number she left us with a tribute to Italian music with brief snatches of two Domenico Modugno classics - Piove (Ciao, Ciao bambina) and Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (better known, of course, as Volare), prompting an impromptu singalong from the crowd!

Once again, a fantastic evening – catch them if you can.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Made in Italy at the Gagosian Gallery

Andy Warhol Vesuvius, 1985
2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy and to mark the occasion the Gagosian Gallery in Rome is currently presenting an exquisitely curated show called Made in Italy. Whilst the Grand Tour may have been all the rage in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Gagosian demonstrates through this group exhibition of pieces by some of the most important international artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, that art continues to be influenced or inspired by Italy right up to the present day.

With almost forty works of art on display this gem of a show is well worth checking out and, as ever, the Gagosian easily holds its own against competition from the major contemporary galleries in town. There is, quite literally, something for everyone here - Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman riff on Leonardo da Vinci, Giorgio De Chirico and Caravaggio, whilst portrait busts of Italian women by Alberto Giacometti and Jeff Koons are displayed dramatically side by side. One of my favourite painters Cy Twombly, who had made Italy his home and sadly died in Rome earlier this month, is represented by a sculpture in the main room.

Be sure to visit the final fourth room where four works by Joseph Beuys are displayed, including one of his last, playful pieces - Capri Battery. Set apart in this small ante camera and installed in glass cases, they have all the air of somewhat ironic holy relics.

Made in Italy continues at the Gagosian Gallery at Via Francesco Crispi, 16 until 29 July, 2011. Highly recommended!

Image © 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York (Web-resolution, fair use)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cyndi Lauper "Memphis Blues Tour" | Auditorium Parco della Musica | 11 July, 2011

Cyndi Lauper on stage in Rome
 Of all the artists lined up to appear during this season's Luglio Suona Bene, the annual open air summer concert programme in the Cavea at the Auditorium Parco della Musica, last night's appointment with Cyndi Lauper was my personal must-see show of the year. Italian Cyndi Lauper fans have had a very long wait to see her play in Italy since her last visit to Rome in 1987 on the True Colors Tour, but the passage of time has done nothing to dint the sheer enthusiasm and energy that she brings to every performance and her voice has, if anything, improved over the years and is perfectly suited to the blend of rock 'n' roll and blues that are showcased on her latest Grammy nominated album and during her current European tour - Memphis Blues. Fittingly, she was joined on stage yesterday by a veritable who's who of blues giants including Archie "Hubbie" Turner on keyboards, Michael Toles on guitar, and the legendary American blues-harp player and 2010 Blues Hall of Fame inductee Charlie Musselwhite, as well as Scooter Warner on drums, Stephen Gaboury also on keyboards and long time collaborator William Wittman on bass.

There was no question that this was an audience who simply adored Cyndi Lauper, but on hot steamy nights when the thermometre is still lingering close to the 30° Celsius mark even after sun down, Rome audiences can be slow to get up out of their seats and start dancing – that all changed, however, when the singer quite literally threw herself into the crowd during Don't Cry No More, even climbing the side stairs to the upper level where she was swamped by amazed fans who clapped and danced around her. I've seen numerous concerts at the Cavea over the years and this is the first time I've seen anybody break protocol and defy the usually overly zealous Auditorium security guards in such a spontaneous way – I was only rows away when she sang Change of Heart in the midst of her fans and can report first hand that she barely missed a beat!

Cyndi Lauper is one of those artists who manages to connect with each and every person in a venue, swaggering up and down the entire length of the stage and constantly requesting that the house lights stay up. Referring several times to her Italian-American background she apologised for not be able to speak Italian during the between song banter, but did sing along to an impromptu version of Mambo Italiano!

Dressed in a leather-look black trouser suit, with chunky boots and her trademark birds-nest of bleached blonde hair she looked fantastic and gave so many powerhouse performances in one night that it would be hard to select a best bit – this really was, hand on heart, a faultless show. In the first set I really enjoyed her duet with Musselwhite playing harmonica on Down So Low, as well as the lovely All Through The Night and the crowd-pleasing footstomper Goonies 'R' Good Enough.

Generous to a fault, the encore saw her perform five extra songs – a wonderful cover of the Marvin Gaye classic What's Going On, followed by an exhilarating Lyfe, and then it was time for the massive selling hits from the 1980s, the songs that probably more than any others, are most associated with her - Girls Just Want To Have Fun, Time After Time and a final, gorgeous True Colors with Cyndi playing the Appalachian dulcimer left alone on stage with only Charlie Musselwhite once again on harmonica.

Unmissable!

Watch Cyndi Lauper in concert in Rome below or click here to watch on YouTube.



The full set list as follows:
Just Your Fool
Shattered Dreams
She Bop
Early In The Mornin'
Crossroads
All Through The Night
Down So Low
Down Don't Bother Me
Don't Cry No More
Goonies 'R' Good Enough
Change Of Heart

Encore:
What's Going On
Lyfe
Girls Just Want To Have Fun
Time After Time
True Colors

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