Viva Italia! - March 09

At last we were out of rehearsals and heading off towards the culture that originally gave us roads, viaducts, irrigation and of course... pizzas. Okay, I'm going back a few years, but the Romans certainly took some beating when the rest of us were still sitting around in mud huts wondering who would be the first to invent anything remotely as wonderful as beer. I'm not knocking the worthiness of Guinness or Newcastle Brown Ale, but letís be honest, itís a bit brown isn't it?

Anyway, onwards to the land of the vine...

Day 1, 11th March

Steve on the Neptune

Steve on the Neptune

Up at 5am. We arrived early in Genoa. They don't call it sunny Italy for nothing; blue skies over the harbour, complete with three-masted galleon, which just had to be boarded.

Exploring the Neptune, used in Polanski's film Pirates, was just like being a kid again. A huge figurehead of the sea god himself graced the prow of the extraordinary full sized vessel, laden with cannons, rigging and below deck, creaky wooden floor boards. All that was missing was Robert Newton - cue Newton's wild-eyed rolling stare as he gazes aloft into the rigging, lamenting the demise of his predecessor Captain Bellamy... 'I left him hanging around'... Whilst I pondered the Hollywood legends of my boyhood, Nick Beggs' artistic skills surfaced as he produced sketch pad and pencil instantly capturing the boat's atmosphere in an illustrative style, reminiscent of a Boy's Own annual.

In the evening, both band and crew were invited by our Italian agents Blue Sky to the first group meal. We wandered through incredibly ornate piazzas of the old town in search of our restaurant. Clever trompe líoeils facades kept you guessing what was real and what was painted. At this stage I should explain that to British acts Italian tours often seem like continuous banquets, interrupted by the occasional musical interlude. It's the Italian way. Any seasoned performer will tell you to watch it on the starters because three different types of pasta are on the way... all before the main course! These meals are lethal if undertaken just before a show, but as it was a night off we went at it with relish.

Alan, Roger and Ben

Alan, Roger & Ben

Day 2, 12th March

Steve in Schio

Steve in Schio

A Palasport gig, the first show for this band line up. Yet everyone on stage played the balls off the old and new songs, despite a hairy moment when Gary O'Toole's mic died on him at the start of Firth of Fifth. Fortunately the whole audience came to the rescue of the old stage fave, complete with piano intro, courtesy of Roger King.

Jeezus, it was good to be back, knowing that youíve got a band that goes for the throat every time!

Day 3, 13th March

From the coastal range at Genoa we journeyed to the foot of the Alps, where siesta was in full slumber as we entered the deserted streets of Schio... 'Surely thereís no-one here to come to a gig tonight'... Wrong! Maybe it was a coincidence, but the local church bells seemed to wake up the sleepy town around 7pm. Teatro Astra was soon packed to the gills. Another barn-stormer from the boys in the band. The lads won over another cynical world-weary curmudgeon... me! I thought I'd heard it all from other players but these guys are (as I search for a word that isn't awesome)... truly STENTORIAN!

Roger, Nick, Rob, and Gary backstage, Schio

Roger, Nick, Rob, & Gary backstage, Schio

Reflections on Pordenone and Rome to follow...

Set List for the Italian Tour