Strategic geographical advantage plays a huge role in why cities are where they are across the globe and Milan is a fine example of this phenomenon. Situated in what is clearly the gateway to the Italian peninsula, Milan and the surrounding region of Lombardy have been the subject of constant disputes over the centuries. Celts, Romans, Goths, Lombards (Lombardy is one of twenty regions in Italy and is home to one sixth of the national population), Spaniards and Austrians have all ruled the city at some stage of its history and for the most part, the city has capitalized on its position and has emerged today as the undisputed economic and cultural powerhouse of a united Italy, not without occasionally fighting back against foreign dominators.
Milan’s name is derived from the Latin words medio, meaning “in the middle”, and lanus, “plain”, but it has been suggested that its original roots could lie more deeply in the city’s Celtic heritage being founded originally by the Insubres, a Celtic people. The city was later conquered by the Romans and became the capital of the Western Roman Empire. More recently Milan suffered terribly during the 2nd world war and was pretty much destroyed but a post war boom transformed Italy from a relatively backward, agricultural country to an industrial world leader. Milan became a major financial centre and the region’s new–found wealth attracted myriad workers from the south of Italy in a wave of immigration. It remains the major Italian center for commerce, finance, publishing and of course, design and fashion.
This morning, risking the potential wrath of the Four Seasons breakfast staff once more, I had an urge for more hearty morning banter typical of a breakfast club gathering. I was the first to appear and the staff recognized the fat that there would most likely be six of us and impressively layed a table in about 15 seconds flat. I was soon supplied with orange juice and cafe latte both of which were tip top. Tim, Glenn, Pete, Paul and Mark soon followed and within minutes we were guffawing away as usual, regaling stories and anecdotes from our consolidated touring past, probably a combined 150 years worth. That doesn’t warrant to much thought. After a cup of Yorkshire Gold in my room accompanied by fresh Italian milk, I decided to head out to Peck and stock up on all things delicious. I limited this to Parmiggiano, Prosciutto and olive oil as the old Briggs and Riley’s magical storage powers are determinate. Laden with luxury, I trundled back to the hotel and in the elevator, a hotel employee recognized the Peck branded shopping bags and registered his approval.
The prospect of a show in Milan is always exciting and although I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve played here, we always look forward to ‘entertaining’ Milanese audiences. One thing about our shows here in Italy that has fascinated me since our shows in the mid-80’s is how our audiences have evolved. We talked about this in the hotel bar after the show, it’s plain to me that as we as a band have evolved and moved on, so have the fans. No longer do we play to a screaming, shrieking, sweaty throng, this has changed over time to a calm, appreciative, respectful, listening audience who clearly love to hear us play just as much as anyone, anywhere. Admittedly, most of our shows now are seated but even the standing shows early in this tour had this remarkable quality. They still go bonkers at the end and love to come and rush the stage at the beginning of Telegraph Road, as has now become the tradition, but the whole event seems to be a more ‘grown up’ affair. The other change to note is the number of young children in attendance, possibly and hopefully enjoying their first live music experience. Clearly a case of life-long fans sharing their experiences with their children. Heartwarming to see and extremely enjoyable from the point of view of those on stage.