Saturday, July 28, 2012

Madonna's Woes and Tramping Abroad

Madonna got into a bit of trouble overseas in France. link  I'm mostly bored with the details and won't go into them. The crowd's reaction reminded me of a Patti Smith concert I saw in Florence, Italy, back in 1979.  Smith really riled the crowd and retired from performing afterwards.

My mother salvaged an old diary I kept on that trip and returned it to me last month. Here's what I said about that concert then.
Martedì 10 settembre [1979]
Rome, Villa Borghese 
Wow what a night last night. I went to the Patti Smith concert at the stadium in Florence. The stadium looked like a huge bathtub. I couldn't believe it when I arrived. It was as if Led Zeppelin were playing. There were people all over 5 hours before the concert began. We waited away from the noisy mob collecting near the gates. I caught some sleep. Then there was a shout--the gates were opening. We made for the nearest gate.
After waiting in the hot noisy crowd (like so many grains of sand all trying to get through the neck of an hourglass) we broke through to the inside and picked ourselves some good seats.
Below it was like pigs to a feeding trough, pushing shoving, shouting, etc. I remember laughing as we watched people scaling the fence around the field track. At the top there was 3 wires of barbwire and some people would get their shirts or pants caught.
Well after some length of time the music began. First it was tapes. Lynyrd Skynyrd "Street Survivors" and then Dire Straits--"Down By The Waterfront."
When the equipment was tested, I thought at first it was just the roadies tuning up stuff, but then they played songs, rock like "You Really Got Me" and then quit--the tapes continued. But when the real band began I realized it was the same musicians.
Patti Smith had a hard time with the audience. First of all she barely knew a word of Italian, only "ti capisc" which she pronounced like "ti capeach."  Secondly the audience couldn't understand a word of English.
She had a problem with people climbing up on the stage--the crowd was absolutely unruly.
"Hey man, you wanna climb the stage, get your own stage, man."
The last song they played was "My Generation."  Before this though the guitarist played the first few notes of the Star Spangled Banner (like Hendrix at Woodstock) and a big American flag came up behind them. Then all the Italians gave it the finger. Then the Who song--then a finale and then chaos; people surged up onto the stage like the pressure of being pushed forward reached a breaking point.
Then "Hey man, get the fuck off the stage" but there was nothing that could be done.
Patti tried to talk with them. "Hey you know" she said to one, "you light up my life." She tried to get him to sit down at the piano "fucking sit down, do you say sit down in Italian" she said through 80,000 pairs of ears--but to no avail.
The chaos ended when the road crew swept the undesirables off the stage and then, like a giant bathtub, the moment came when the plug was pulled and it started to drain, not without leaving a residue of paper, cans, and bottles though. So went the concert in Italy.
My own recollection of the same concert, written a year and a half ago from memory is here.
It's interesting for me to compare the two accounts--one fresh and the other filtered by 30 years of  experience and memory.


  1. "The singer will next perform in France on Aug. 21, in Nice."

    Once can only hope that they will be 'nicer' there...

  2. I can't imagine wanting to see Patti Smith at a stadium. She is definitely more a small venue or even better club sort of act. Strange. Great post though.

  3. As for Madonna, you think the word would be out--she has become derivative of Lady Gaga, which is funny because Lady Gaga is derivative of early Madonna.

    The only one I know who would find that entertaining is Ann Althouse.

  4. Bruce, That's why an investigator tries to interview a witness asap. The memory begins eroding almost immediately.