Cattolica is a small community to the South of Rimini, along the coast, that started life as a resting place for pilgrims who travelled the Bologna-Ancona-Rome route, on their way to the sanctuary of Loreto or to St. Peter’s in Rome. It would have been an obvious spot for a rest, the beaches here are as beautiful as they are in Rimini, one can only imagine the beauty 7 or 8 hundred years ago.
It certainly felt like a sleepy town and as it turned out, one of the strangest gigs of then tour so far. The venue “certainly ain’t Nimes”, as one member of our crew put it and the Supermarket next door added a certain ‘reality’ to the load-in and setup. With onlookers everywhere you looked, it was a curtailed sound check. The catering area had to be hastily thrown together in a gym building behind the stage, which meant a short walk across a public area. I was accosted as soon as I left, apres-soup, to go to sound check but found the people very sweet and respectful. Of course everybody wants a selfie these days, I can see why, but it can take a while.
The roof of the stage was, well, a roof, but that was about it. Of course it rained and because the roof was so high, it was partially inadequate as the rain came in from the side, onto my keyboard rig. Thankfully, the rain remained light and the nearby storms stayed away. We have been extremely fortunate with storm avoidance on this trip.
The backstage area was extremely cramped, for a production of the size of ours and squashed into the space beneath the stage at the Arena della Regina, a purpose built venue in the heart of the town. Thanks to the rain, which soon passed, the evening temperature was perfect and before the show started, most of the band came upstairs from the dungeon to get some air. The show was held for 10 minutes, we couldn’t hold any longer, we had a plane to catch to Rome. There were inevitably still plenty of people coming in. This is where the problems started. We took to the stage and the commotion in front of us was all too apparent.
A lot of people who came late, couldn’t get to their seats due to so many standing in the aisles. Seats that had already been taken by opportunists, thinking they were free. The rain had washed the seat numbers away and the ushers who were there before the show were nowhere to be seen and security seemed inexperienced. There were clearly a lot of very confused frustrated people making a huge fuss in front of us, and at one point it looked like it might all ‘kick off’.. Saint Pete Mackay, our tour manager was out there doing his level best to sort out the mess and it took him about 4 songs before calm was restored. Poor organisation was clearly to blame. Then to make matters worse, towards the end of the show, security failed to allow people to come to the front of the stage. The suppression was evident. It wasn’t until during the very last encore that the crowd had had enough and sheepishly surged. It was only then we saw their beautiful smiling faces, full of joy, parents with their entire families, small kids, released from their shackles, allowed to bask in the last 16 bars of the set, before we disappeared, reluctantly into the night leaving the roaring cauldron behind us. It was in the cars and vans we learned about the full facts. During the show it just looked from the stage like a few pissed off fans. There was more to it of course. At least it didn’t rain.