Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Rome has one thing in glorious abundance. History. High summer is probably not the best time to see this magnificent city as simply walking the streets becomes hugely draining and with a list of sights and historic buildings as long as any city, walking is what you need to do. For me, it was enough just to have an exclusive stay at the Baths of Caracalla for 2 days, albeit nearly 2,000 years after its heyday.
Over the period of our stay here, we were able to wander the baths free from tourist distractions. Emperor Caracalla was as ruthless as any previous ruler of Rome, a tyrant and cruel leader who enacted many massacres and even had his brother, Geta, killed. Caracalla then persecuted and executed most of Geta’s supporters and ordered a damnatio memoriaepronounced by the Senate against his brother’s memory. Geta’s image was removed from all paintings, coins were melted down, statues were destroyed, his name was struck from papyrus records, and it became a capital offence to speak or write Geta’s name. In the aftermath of the damnatio memoriaed, an estimated 20,000 people were massacred. Those killed were Geta’s inner circle of guards and advisers, friends, and other military staff under his employ. His legacy is certainly one of severe brutality, it is no wonder his gift to the city in the form of these ancient baths which could accommodate around 1,600 bathers at any one time, was required to promote some semblance of popular support. It didn’t last.
Midsummer heat in Rome is notorious and the crew weren’t looking forward to this load-in. With no roof whatsoever, the stage was open to the elements all day long whilst the backline was set up. Protection from the searing heat was the priority, especially with all the digital gear which can so easily overheat. My 2 MacBook Pros on my riser had a large cooling fan on them all day long and into the show which seemed to do the job well. Our first show here coincided with Laurie’s birthday and she and Leon, our youngest son, flew out to both Rimini and Rome. It was Leon’s first visit and introduction to one of the most wonderful things about Rome, the food. The day before was a day off and we hooked up with some good friends who flew out from the UK and enjoyed a fabulous birthday dinner. We started the evening with drinks with the entire band on the rooftop bar on the brand new Hotel de Ville which overlooks some of the many domes across the city-scape, including the extraordinary Vatican. The only example in the world of a country within a city.
At the venue on show day 1, it was decided to keep sound check to a minimum since the heat was unbearable, although to be honest, it was a good 5 degrees cooler than the last time we were in Italy. The scene was set and the backdrop was the baths. The show began and our first reaction was the shock of isolation. I’ll explain. Without a roof, the on-stage sound is free from all reflections and as a consequence, sounds very ‘dry’. Rather like a studio. Also, the fact there was a large empty orchestra pit in front of the stage meant further isolation from the ambient sound from the crowd. We knew they were there, we just couldn’t hear them! This is without doubt the most beautiful setting we’ve ever performed at in Rome and there was something very special about the first show. Our theories were confirmed afterwards as all our friends and guests were blow away with the whole thing. I had no idea the local lighting rtig would be so effective and the PA seemed to do the job too. My new friends from the fabulous Italian company RRD (Roberto Ricci Designs), who make equipment for windsurfing, kiteboarding and Standup Paddleboarding and also have a fashion department, came along to the show and brought along some gifts, for us. We had a few drinks in the Band dressing rooms backstage after the show and then went back to the beautiful hotel rooftop terrace for further libation, with a view. The hotel were particularly tolerant of our insistence in bringing our own wine and beers from the gig. The drivers in team ‘A’ had gifted the band several cases of Augustiner beer and with only a few days left of the European tour to go, we needed to get cracking with its consumption.
Next day, was slightly hotter and Laurie, Leon and I had lunch with our friends, poolside, at their hotel. Then I joined the band at the venue for show number 2. No sound check today as the crew would not relish uncovering the gear when we know what the place sounds like now. It was difficult to see the audience at any point during both shows but we did see the banners being held up and in particular, the one thanking Mark for 40 years. Very touching and much appreciated. Thank you Rome. I sure hope we will see you again.
Guy Fletcher’s full Tour Diary, including photos and more tour diary entries, can be found here.