Rome-Verona 20, 21, 22 July

20, 21 July

A two night stand at the Baths of Caracalla. Built during the reign of Emperor Caracalla between 212 and 216 AD, they were the second largest Roman public baths. They were open to the public and included 2 libraries, one Greek and one Latin, as well as shops and recreation areas. Much of the interior mosaic floors are still intact as well as columns and large blocks of mosaics that decorated the walls and ceilings. Emperor Caracalla opened these baths to every class of people, admission was free, as a political ploy to elevate the publics opinion of him. Following soundcheck, I found my way into the interior and walked inside these ruins, viewing the complex mosaic floor designs and the enormous interior structure of the various halls of leisure and social gathering places. Against the exterior back walls of these ruins a stage and seating has been erected. The Baths serve as the summer home of the Rome Opera company as well as various concerts that included the first Three Tenors concert in 1990. While we’ve played many of the old Roman amphitheatres, the Baths was a first and a breathtaking experience, to turn around on stage during the show and see the towering walls behind us was like nothing else I’ve experienced.. There’s a great deal of information and photos of the Baths of Caracalla on Wikipedia…. it’s worth a look. The only draw back was the gulf of an orchestra pit between the stage and the audience. I was always aware of the separation.

Up early the morning of our second show here in Rome. Coffee then down to the gym for a solid push. While I’ve been laying low this final week of the tour, I was starving for a pizza and walked down the Spanish Stairs and threw myself into the nearest hole in the wall for a pizza and a pint. A late lobby call of 5:30 as no soundcheck was needed. Some reorganisation of wardrobe trunks, clearing out things to bring home that will not be needed when we resume touring North America next month. Everybody’s looking forward to going home for a short break but still very focussed and up for playing these last couple of European shows. Tonight’s, for another sold-out audience of 4,300, was a great one…. really well played all around. I’ll remember these two nights playing here with the Baths of Caracalla towering behind us for a long time to come.

22 July

And here it is… the final day of the UK-European tour. This great adventure commenced the 1st of April with rehearsals in London and has been a pleasure throughout. Just short of four months, the whole thing has flown by so quickly. The efficiency of our day to day touring is a large part of that and endless thanks go to Tim Hook, Pete Mackay and Paul Crockford. Tonight we bid adieu to our fab 5-star catering chefs, Chris Desmond, Dave Eskinazi and Scott Wyse….really wishing they’d be with us in the States. The meals have been remarkable, as they always are with these guys. The fourth member of that team Steve Bond will indeed be coming on the next leg to oversee the catering in America and Canada. Farewell too to our great drivers, two teams that hop scotched from city to city, driving us to each venue then whisking us away on runners each night either to a hotel or an airport, the second team meeting us at an airport at the other end to deliver us to a hotel in a new city. To Goran, Alex, Martin, Mat, Patrick, Piotr, Tobias and Markus…. thanks for all the smooth miles and supply of Augustiner Brau.

Tonight’s venue… Arena di Verona, a spectacular last gig. This amphitheatre was built in 30 AD and could hold 30,000 in old days. The outer facade was originally made of white and pink limestone but a major earthquake in 1117 completely destroyed the outer ring with the exception of a small part. In modern times when used for concerts the capacity is roughly 12,000. It was a sweltering day in Verona and at 5:30 when we sound-checked it was nearly 100 f. It’s been a brutal day for our wonderful crew from who never is heard a discouraging word. Of all, they deserve this break in the action more than any. The facilities backstage were little more than cubby holes with make shift air coolers and it seemed like an eternity until we took the stage at 9:15. The Arena was filled and tonight’s show was a perfect wrap up for this part of the tour.

A runner to the Verona airport where we got tied up at passport control for awhile eventually clearing and boarding the jet for a 2 hour flight back to London. A farewell tonight too to Daniella who looked after everything and all of us so well for so many miles. That’s it . The Brits were driven home to sleep in their own beds and us Yanks spent the night in the Heathrow hotel heading back to the States tomorrow. The tour will commence the 16th of August for a 5-week run of North America. Meantime, I plan to enjoy this time off with my family. I’ll pick these notes back up again in mid-August but for now I’m signing off. Thanks for reading.

Richard Bennett