Around the time the Romans built this venue, Gladiatorial battles took place on a regular basis and the thought of 24,000 people in this arena, freshly built, witnessing such spectacles is awe-inspiring. Our little show seems tiny by comparison, certainly a little less gruesome, yet still as exciting in its own way. The 10,000 French fans that made up tonight’s audience were everything a band could wish for.
Rimini is our home hub for these few days and the Grand Hotel, once held in awe by the young Federico Fellini who used to look through its gates dreaming of a life of luxury like the hotel’s guests. Built in 1908, its classic style enhanced with Venetian and French antiques of the 18th century, and the original parquet floor and Venetian chandeliers have been restored. The best thing about the hotel for me it its location. Right by the beach. The Italians know how to do ‘beach’ and unfortunately, they also know how to charge for it. The going rate for a Grand hotel umbrella rental being 85 Euros. The staff here are lovely but some of the rooms are seriously tired, the whole place could benefit from some serious investment for a refurbishment but I can see why there would be reluctance, as the place is clearly popular with its guests. I overheard that some of our chaps are finding the coffee hard to drink. Personally, I love it when there’s no need to ask for a Double Espresso. It’s Rocket fuel.
Everywhere in Europe is hot now and shorts and t-shirts are essential day wear. We jetted, bare legged, our way to Nimes in the usual fashion (van, jet, van) and when we landed, we were informed we would need an escort the get us to the venue in the heart of Nîmes, as the police had closed a road. This appeared in the form of one of the promoters on an e-bike. A strange convoy indeed. At the venue, John Illsley and his family dropped by. John had played a couple of nights ago at the Guitar en Scène show, the night before us, supporting Joan Baez.
Night-time temperatures weren’t going to recede much so we were grateful for the breeze. The Mistral (sometimes the Tramontane) is a Northerly wind which has been known to blow for 7 days straight, sending local farmers a little doolally. The continuous howling noise of the tramontane is said to have a disturbing effect upon the psyche. In his poem “Gastibelza”, Victor Hugo has the main character say, “Le vent qui vient à travers la montagne me rendra fou…” (“The wind coming over the mountain will drive me mad…”) The crew removed the sun protection from the gear that needed it and we sound checked and swiftly vacated the stage for our support act for tonight, Swiss-born Veronica Fusaro, whose set I really enjoyed.
Assaad Debs has been our promoter here in France ever since the band first came, in the 70’s. With tonight being possibly the last show, it was a nice opportunity to take a picture of us together, myself, John, Mark and Assaad. Au revoir Arènes de Nîmes. Yet another incredible evening even if the hot, dry wind did not relent, meaning Tellson James, our lighting man, kept pumping smoke onto the stage which was immediately blown away. Apart from coughing our way through the set, we had an absolute ball and were sad to leave so quickly in a convoy escorted, literally to the steps of the plane by the local Gendarmerie. They certainly enjoy a bit of action, maybe they use this as training for when real dignitaries come to town. We were delivered to the plane earlier than planned and soon discovered there was no local air traffic controller in the tower. ‘Out to dinner’. As Danny said, France is the only country where restaurants close for lunch. We had to wait for over an hour on the tarmac before we could close the doors and request that our 1:30am slot be pushed forward. FAA regulations dictate that any slot requests must only be made by aircraft ‘ready to depart’. We were soon on our way and back in Rimini at the Grand just after 2am. A soirée held in Danny’s room became a music lesson as we delved into an old Billy Cobham album, which started to turn our tired, affected brains inside out.