Arena di Verona. This has to be the most spectacular place to finish up on this wonderful trip around Europe. Another stunning Roman amphitheatre which has hosted so many spectacles in its 2,000 year history. The opera season is in full swing and a walk around the venue is a view into the world of large show logistics as the scenery for all the productions is outside in the open. Each show has its own set of backdrops, fake walls and giant statues and miraculously, these are lifted into the arena with the help of a giant mobile crane which sits right outside our dressing room.
Rome was where this incredible day started and most of the band appeared in the restaurant before 10:30am to have a full Hotel de Ville, Rocco Forte breakfast. I said cheerio to Laurie and Leon who were flying home whilst the band headed out to Ciampino airport for the last 2 trips aboard the magic carpet with Daniella looking after us. We were dropped at the GAT terminal and it was time for hugs and farewells to our amazing drivers in team’B’, headed by Alex Fischer. The boys have been completely awesome, their professionalism and driving skills have been appreciated greatly by all of us. Of course we wish they could come to the US but it can’t happen. Daniella was waiting on board and as soon as we took off she rolled out the most delicious Charcuterie plates accompanied by Strawberry and Champagne Risotto, Very ’80’s.
Eventually we descended into Verona and were bussed to the terminal where team ‘A’ were waiting to drive us into town. The searing heat hasn’t relented in Italy and when we got to the Arena, Dave Hall mentioned that the on-stage temperature during load-in reached a ridiculous 121 degrees Fahrenheit. (see photo) The crew who knew full well these last few shows would be the toughest, never complain and when we roll up for sound check, everything is always perfect. The admiration and appreciation we hold for these guys is genuine, even though we rarely say so. Mark did thank them for an amazing trip during the show. The whole day was tinged with sadness as we said goodbye to our amazing catering team. Dave, Chris, Scott and Steve have looked after band and crew superbly over the past few months, but the good news is that Steve will be coming to the US to oversee the local catering situations wherever we go. We also said cheerio to Simon Jayes, our drum tech who cannot be with us in the US. Simon is a stellar chap, a fabulous mate on the golf course and one of the finest drum techs known to mankind. Backstage, I arranged to meet my Verona friends from the Montecariano Valpolicella winery. I was here a year ago when Laurie and I came to the opera for her 60th birthday and the Montecariano boys looked after us so well. Also, Alessandro, our dear friend from the Italian record label came to see the show.
Never a day goes by when we don’t thank our lucky stars and when we left the dressing room and walked out into the arena, we knew it was going to be a great night. The roar of the crowd, so easily heard in this perfect amphitheatre ensured the band got off to a cracking start. The intensity of the evening was contrasted by the silence during the quiet songs and the wonderful applause, especially after every verse in Romeo and Juliet, clearly touching the hearts of so many in this special place. During ‘Postcards From Paraguay’, Ben Byford, one of our sound techs couldn’t help himself and danced his way onto the stage. As the show concluded, I hugged all the crew I could on stage-left before we left the venue.
All good things come to an end and this miraculous 57 date trip has clearly been the best by a long way. The show was over all too quickly and we were back in cars and off to the airport where we hugged and said “Ciao, abbi cura di te” to Goran and driver team ‘A’. Inside the terminal we queued with many package holidaymakers catching late evening flights home. Security took an age but we hardly even noticed, still euphoric after the evenings show. We were soon bussed out to the jet for the final flight, Daniella serving up ribs, Chicken wings and all sorts which were duly despatched by the hungry band. Our original plan to land at Luton was scuppered, somehow they denied us our original slot so we headed for Stanstead. Not ideal as it extended to final journey times but to be honest, no-one really minded. And so we all head home for 3 weeks break, most well earned by the crew…coinciding with a heatwave hitting the UK right now. Can’t wait to take this amazing show to the USA. Me, I’m off to the beach. See you soon.