Most tours reach a point where it feels like you have arrived at a summit, Taormina in Sicily has that feel to it. Certainly the most beautiful location of the trip so far, the picturesque small town on the East coast of Sicily is everything it’s advertised as. We arrived to a day off in blazing 100% sunshine and weary from the previous day of travel, I’m not sure anyone in the band did much at all except laze in the sun. Our hotel is the Grand Hotel Timeo situated in one of the many ‘prime’ positions on the mountain top overlooking the coastal town of Villagonia with the horizon dominated by the predominant stratovolcano, Mount Etna. Currently standing in at 10,922 feet it is twice as large as Mount Vesuvius on mainland Italy. We’ve had run-ins with volcanoes on past tours and seeing whispers of exhaust coming from the summit was a stark reminder. I wouldn’t want to be on its slopes when it goes off.
The evening band dinner was sheer Sicilian culinary bliss at the restaurant of the sister hotel to the Timeo, Villa Sant’Andrea located right on the beachfront surrounded by subtropical gardens in Taormina Mare. With local Sicilian food and wine, more detailed description is unnecessary.
The venue here is probably the oldest of any tour. Built in the 7th century BC, the Teatro Greco or Greek Theatre is one of the most celebrated ruins in Sicily. The location is stunning and convenient as it is within a few yards of our delightful hotel. The walk to the stage from the hotel back gate, through which we were granted access to avoid the audience, was no more than 30 yards. After our second day of pure luxuriation and relaxation, we had a beautiful dinner in the hotel taking in the spectacular view; we were rearing to go.
The doors opened at 7:30 and the happy mob which had for hours been assembling outside our hotel were allowed in a few at a time due to the narrow entrance and historic nature of the ruin.
At 9:15 or thereabouts we took to the stage. The atmosphere was electric, if only the power had been. Without the use of a lighting truss, a local ruling to preserve the venue, Simon had to improvise with only ground based lighting and two follow spots. There simply wasn’t enough power available to run the lights seen in the picture below atop the ruin. The result was I’m sure perfectly fine for the audience but for the band it was akin to playing in complete darkness. Jim, Ianto and I probably had the most difficult time as the lights would light you but not the keyboards. It was quite strange and we often found ourselves playing by feel. Ah well, if we can’t do that by now, there’s something wrong. If Ray Charles can do it, so can I.
The atmosphere in the star and moonlit arena was fantastic and when we launched into probably the band’s most loved song after a hiatus of a month or so, the crowd went simply nuts.
What a night, what a venue, what a place, what a tour.
pic Jules Bowen
After show drinks on the hotel veranda was next up with the band and management toasting a fabulous tour and in particular, a tremendous crew whilst they undertook their very difficult load out. Cross-loading was necessary as the very small and steep streets leading up to the venue and hotel would not accommodate any of our trucks or buses. Our truck (we only use one for shows like these with local PA and lights) was parked up at the foot of the hill and everything is loaded onto a smaller truck which climbs the hill and is offloaded at the venue. All in all it’s a very time consuming process which the crew are well used to. It just requires meticulous planning. They finished their load out at around 2:45, I know this because Jules sent me a few pics she’d taken from off stage left.