Thursday, July 31, 2008

Paul Simon | The Auditorium, Rome | 29 July 2008

Paul Simon's last appearance in Rome was in what has now become the historic final performance with Art Garfunkel on 31 July 2004 in a free concert in front of the Colosseum before a crowd of 600,000 spectators who filled the entire length of Via dei Fori Imperiali as far as Piazza Venezia. Two years earlier Paul Simon had given another amazing (and again, free) concert at the Galoppatoio in Villa Borghese Park to a capacity crowd of 50,000. Having seen him twice, therefore, and knowing what a brilliant performer he is live I didn't hesitate at getting tickets for his first paid show in the capital and the chance to see him in the smaller setting of the Cavea at the Auditorium. Yet such is the energy of the man that even on a sizzling hot July evening he had everybody in the audience clapping and cheering as if they were at a stadium! Early on he commented (as many other performers before him have done) about the physical distance that separated him from the audience who were seated way back from the stage – I wish we weren't so far apart... - although by the end people were on their feet and dancing at the foot of the stage regardless of what the Auditorium rules might say!

When you're Paul Simon choosing a set list must be an arduous task – what DO you choose with such a staggering back catalogue behind you? I really enjoyed the selection which showcased his entire career with tracks from most albums including some real gems like Train In The Distance from Hearts and Bones, Duncan from Paul Simon as well as three tracks from his latest outing SurpriseOutrageous, How Can You Live In The North East and Father And Daughter. Graceland dominated the set list (who's complaining...?) with five tracks in total lifted from that award winning album. The Simon & Garfunkel tracks predictably went down a storm – the intro to Mrs. Robinson included a wonderful reference to Mystery Train by Elvis, The Sounds of Silence with just voice and guitar was a masterpiece of understatement and The Boxer was the audience sing-along song in the second encore. The most surprising Simon & Garfunkel inclusion for me was The Only Living Boy In New York.

All in all there were too many high points to mention. Sheer perfection! Am looking forward to next time!

Full set list (I think this is complete...if there are any omissions please feel free to leave a comment below!)

The Boy In The Bubble
(intro Mystery Train) Mrs Robinson
How Can You Live In The North East?
Slip Slidin´ Away
Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard
You´re The One
Train In The Distance
The Teacher
The Sounds of Silence
The Cool Cool River
The Only Living Boy In New York
Father And Daughter
Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes
Still Crazy After All These Years
You Can Call Me Al
That was Your Mother
The Boxer
Late In The Evening

Incidentally, Paul Simon was supported by blues guitarist and singer-songwriter Robben Ford who played a really enjoyable half hour set as the Cavea filled. I'll admit I hadn't actually heard of him before but will now investigate his work - I was really pleased to have arrived early enough to have seen him perform.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lucilla Galeazzi and Fabrizio De Rossi Re | Villa Doria Pamphilj, Rome | 28 June, 2008

Monday evening saw the closing concert in the series Concerti nel Parco in the wonderful setting of Villa Doria Pamphilj, the largest of Rome's public parks. The Umbrian singer Lucilla Galeazzi and the Roman singer and jazz pianist Fabrizio De Rossi Re both perform traditional Italian folk songs and this evening saw them revisit some classics in surprising and entertaining ways in a performance entitled Canti tra cielo e terra (Songs between Land and Sky).

I'm a huge fan of Lucilla Galeazzi and try to see her whenever she plays in Rome but thoroughly enjoyed De Rossi Re's exhilarating jazz reworking of some numbers, in particular the two songs which opened the show La storia di Isabella di Lorena and La mamma del mio amore and a duet with Giuppi Paone Mamma mia mi voi maridà.

From the second she stepped on stage, however, it was clear from the cheers from the audience, that most people were there to see the immensely talented folk icon Lucilla Galeazzi who, once again, gave an impeccable performance and literally stole the show with her incredible voice and charismatic presence. The set show stopper for me was the Luigi Tenco song Mi Sono Innamorato Di Te.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Björk | The Auditorium, Rome | 25 July, 2008

Originally uploaded by Maria Novella
Of the entire summer calendar of events in Rome this year this concert was the one I'd been looking forward to most eagerly...Björk last toured in Italy seven years ago so her appearance at the Cavea at the Auditorium on Friday evening was a major event. And what a spectacular show it was! The Volta Tour is a visually thrilling experience with the set draped in flags and medieval style pennants and a series of special effects throughout – explosions, lasers, strobes and a huge swirling snow storm of ticker tape in the finale – but at its heart there is the music of Björk and her extraordinary voice. She was proceeded on stage by the marvellous all-singing, all-dancing (and all-woman) brass band The Wonderbrass and then rushed out to ecstatic cheers and launched into Earth Intruders from Volta. From the first few bars it was clear that she was in stunning voice and this was confirmed as she then sang Unravel and the rapturously received Hunter.

An added instrumental bonus which served as a brief intermission of sorts was the Overture from Selma Songs, the soundtrack to Dancer in the Dark which was played by The Wonderbrass before Björk joined them again on stage to perform the oldest of the tracks that evening, Anchor Song from her first album Debut.

The Cavea is an intimate venue seating only 2000 people and concert goers tend to stay seated longer there than they maybe would anywhere else, and certainly the over zealous security guards often try to stop any keen fans from nearing the stage, so it was down to Björk herself to get everybody up on their feet – You're too polite! Stand up! she cried - and stand we did and those lucky enough to be sitting in the stalls could at last rush the stage! During Hyperballad too she encouraged the audience to sing along saying We are in Italy! closing the show with a frenetic Pluto which the audience kept on chanting throughout the applause till she reappeared for the Volta Tour anthem Declare Independence – Roma, Raise your Flag! An unforgettable evening.

Full set list:
Earth Intruders
Pleasure is All Mine
Desired Constellation
Hidden Place
Anchor Song
Army of Me
Triumph of a Heart
Declare Independence

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sigur Rós | The Auditorium, Rome | 12 July, 2008

Sigur Rós
Originally uploaded by fanny_
From the moment that Icelandic band Sigur Rós walked on stage and the opening notes of Svefn-G-Englar floated into the air above the Auditorium in Rome last night it seemed that more so perhaps than any other performer I've seen play there, here was a band whose music seemed made to be heard in that venue with its perfect acoustics. For those of you who have never been there, Renzo Piano's extraordinary design houses the three main theatres in insect-like pods so the whole effect is part organic, part other worldly, with those pods grouped around an open-air amphitheatre – the Cavea. Even the simple yet ethereal stage design set seemed perfectly attuned to the setting – a series of balloons hung like seven moons at the back of the stage.

A sell out concert - less fortunate fans were sitting just outside the entrance to listen - this was a stunning spectacle in every way. The four men moved around the stage playing glockenspiels to keyboards to percussion, as well as the electric guitar played with a cello bow, and were joined by an all woman string quartet and five piece brass band (who first marched on stage in a wonderful moment of showmanship as an interlude during Se Lest) with Jónsi Birgisson's extraordinary falsetto being the glue which somehow held the eclectic musical strands together into a wonderful whole.

When the audience were invited to get to their feet and clap during the pre-encore finale Gobbledigook I honestly believe that every single person was out of their seat and clapping and stamping their feet – and continued applauding till the band reappeared for a stunning encore closing the show with Popplagið (Untitled 8) – and then we applauded even louder and longer till the entire cast of players reappeared and took their bows. And yet after two hours of music the audience still wanted more and weren't happy till Sigur Rós came out one more time to take yet another curtain call. Unmissable.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Mercedes Sosa | The Auditorium, Rome | 9 July, 2008

Every now and again a concert is more than just a's an event that one feels privileged to have been there to witness. Wednesday night at the Auditorium in Rome was one of those special evenings when the Argentine singer - and certainly in Latin America, living legend - Mercedes Sosa performed in the open air Cavea at the Auditorium. The concert coincided with the singer's 73rd birthday and she seemed delighted by the spontaneous chorus of Happy Birthday in a mixture of Spanish and Italian from the enthusiastic crowd as she slowly came on stage and settled into an armchair. She then held court for over two hours singing the traditional Latin American songs she is most famous for (Todo Cambia was stunning) as well as tracks from her most recent album, the Latin Grammy Award-winning Corazón libre, accompanied on occasions by the numerous guests who joined her on stage to perform some of the songs - Franco Luciani on harmonica was astounding!

At the finale of the concert she removed the red shawl which she had worn throughout the evening and was helped to her feet to sing the Argentine National Anthem - Himno Nacional Argentino - for 9th July is also Argentine Independence Day.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Patricia Arquette at Roma Fiction Fest 2008

Roma Fiction Fest is an annual international television festival celebrating the small screen with showings on the big screen (at Multisala Cinema Adriano) of TV movies, series, sitcoms and mini-series. Yesterday evening the ever-lovely Patricia Arquette spoke briefly to a small audience about playing the part of psychic Allison DuBois in the Emmy Award-winning series Medium before two episodes from season 4 were shown.

Roma Fiction Fest runs until 12 July.

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