Sunday, 22 December 2013

16 December 2013 - Rome - Atlantico Live

The venue in Rome was in the most desolate depressing place in the outskirts of the city, and I was glad that there were 5 of us together because queuing there in the early hours of the morning on my own would have not been an option. The venue is inside this really big gated area and there is quite a long walk then to the actual building itself. So you can imagine how we’d all been worrying about having to run to the doors once the gates opened. We were all really hoping that security would do something to prevent this as the path was wide - it was basically a long driveway wide enough for lorries, tour buses etc, and it would have taken at least a couple of minutes to get to the doors - none of us is a sprinter and besides, it’s not a very dignified way to do it - we really didn’t want to have to run like a herd of bison!

MOE was a much more civilised affair than the one I had attended in Birmingham. This time, Rebecca (who works for Hanson) came out to cross our names of the list in person and stamped our hands with a red stamp, which immediately reassured me because I knew that nobody other than fan club members would be allowed in. We were then allowed through the gates in small groups, and were asked to wait in line inside the gates. We arranged ourselves in a row of two abreast. The security guy was actually really nice and kept checking that nobody was trying to make a run for the venue. After what felt like forever (it was COLD), Rebecca came out again and checked our stamps. Again, this was incredibly reassuring. Then, after another long wait, two members of security said that we were to follow them to the venue in an orderly fashion. With my group (who had been there since really early in the morning) we had agreed to join forces with another group of Italian fans we knew, and we all linked arms and spread out to make sure nobody was going to overtake us. If this sounds a bit ridiculous, it is, and I laughed to myself thinking what would people think of me if they saw me walking like that, but it was fun and the sense of camaraderie among us was fantastic.

Once we were through the front doors we did however make a run for the stage, and all got really good spots on the front row. The venue itself was freezing cold and uninspiring - I had been warned about that by a friend who manages a very famous Italian rock band, and sadly everything she’d said had proved to be accurate.

MOE was very different to what I’d experienced in Birmingham. There were a lot less people and it felt a lot more intimate. The choice of songs was a little odd, as they played a few songs from very old members kits that not many people seem to recognise. I must admit that I didn’t really know those two songs very well although I have the EPs. After the first couple of songs though, the atmosphere really got going with more recent/better known songs. 

During the Q&A a friend of mine surprised us all - we knew she had prepared a question she hadn’t told us what. She said she had ‘a serious question’ and then asked what the band thought of the LGBT community. It was a very brave attempt to try and ascertain the band’s views on this, and as I expected, the band’s reply was very diplomatic. Taylor said that it was great that the LGBT was a community that supported each other. I can’t remember in much detail (I will ask my friend) of what else he said but he went on for quite a while. Then Zac also replied and said that they are not a very political band and that they deliberately stay out of things like that because it takes away from the love of music which unites people. He said that other artists may take stances for or against this or that and that (I’m paraphrasing) can cause division and that’s not what they want to do with their music. 
All in all, I think they handled the question very well - I wouldn’t have expected them to say anything more specific as they are very guarded on this kind of topic. But I really admired my friend for asking that, for sticking her neck out and asking something different. She asked the question in an open, respectful way and I’m sure the guys didn’t take any offence at her attempt to breach a ‘controversial’ subject.

Immediately after that I put my hand up too and Taylor picked me and asked ‘is yours a serious question too?’. I said that mine wasn’t that serious. I then said that during the last couple of weeks a lot of us had followed the band on tour and during that time friendships had been forged, we’d helped each other and supported each other and swapped migraine tablets, slices of pizza, etc. I asked, what is it about your band that creates this sense of community, i.e. (I’m paraphrasing) why are Hanson so special that their fans are so special? Taylor answered by saying that first of all by saying said I’d just boosted their egos and so high five! Then he said that maybe it’s because a lot of fans grew up with the band and the way they connected to the band since a young age then in turn creates connection with other people who went through the same. 

Isaac then answered too (that made me very, very happy!) and said something along the lines of the fact that some bands are bands that you feel that you should like, and you go to the show and everybody is kind of checking each other out and you’re there to be seen rather than to listen to the band. With Hanson you go because you want to go, because they’ve never been the kind of band that is fashionable and that’s also why people tend to connect with each other. Then Zac also answered and said something like ‘what he’s trying to say is that we’re not cool and neither are you’. I thought that was a fantastic answer to my question and the fact that all three obviously found the question interesting enough to say something back made me very very happy. I was also quite proud of myself because once again, I hadn’t felt particularly nervous about asking them a question, even if it was in front of a lot of people.

Another friend of mine asked a question about Shakespeare and what I remember from it was that Taylor said something about Shakespeare’s output being the first examples of modern literature, but Isaac kind of corrected and said it was modern English literature (or English language - something along those lines). I thought it was very thoughtful of him to say that, because he was addressing an Italian audience and of course we have our own authors too.

After the Q&A Taylor said that they know people were concerned about getting to keep their spots by the stage and he asked that people were respectful of each other. I thought that was lovely and we all much appreciated it, especially those of us who had been at Birmingham’s MOE. The security guy asked Rebecca if we could go by our numbering system but unfortunately she said no. 

Just like at Birmingham, we were asked to go and stand on one side of the room and then we were made to go to the stage barriers in small groups. The guys were there and we got to shake hands with them and I said to Isaac, ‘this is a lot less stressful than Birmingham’, to which I think he laughed and agreed. After the last group of photos, there was a bit of a ‘run for your life’ towards the stage but nowhere near as bad as in Birmingham. It was annoying, because two Italian girl took the spot of one of our friends and then refused to move, and it escalated into an argument because they were questioning the numbering system and saying that it was some kind of bullying. They were also blatantly trying to squeeze in one of their friends in the front row. Because of them, we packed so tightly that we could barely move. The entire front row was very vocal about this, and so were the people behind them. I thought, ‘great, I’m going to be stuck next to these people for the whole concert’ - not the nicest atmosphere. But thankfully, after a while they left - maybe they decided that it wasn’t worth it after all. I doubt that they suddenly developed a conscience - they probably just felt everybody was shooting daggers at them. So my friend, whose spot they had stolen, managed to get back there and I was very very happy because I knew I was between friends now. 

The concert started a little later than usual and we were all freezing cold. I can only guess that the delay was because they were hoping for more people to turn up, as there couldn’t have been more than 10 rows of people - my guess is it was probably less. The venue was freezing. When Hanson finally came on stage, we could tell that they were looking at the crowd and noticing how empty it was. 
The atmosphere soon warmed up though - we were all doing our utmost to make as much noise as possible, we sang and danced and clapped and did everything we could to show the band that although there weren’t that many people there, those who were there were having fun. It seemed to work because in turn, the guys were really putting 100% into their act. Taylor was interacting with people a lot, getting people to jump, Isaac was doing his usual ‘master of ceremony’ showing when it was time to clap and at what beat, and of course when he wanted us to wave our arms in the air during ‘Juliet’. They were making a lot of eye contact with us on the front row, and I guess it was because there weren’t that many people and they probably noticed that we were trying to make a big fuss of them.

When the guys went backstage before the encore, some of us put Santa Hats on in preparation of the Christmas songs. When they came out again, they noticed and seemed surprised. The encore was great and it was clear that the guys were enjoying themselves too, because by the end of the second song we saw Zac mouthing something to the other two and they then took centre stage and performed ‘White Christmas’ a cappella. It was brilliant and we couldn’t believe our luck (they didn’t sing that at any of the UK shows I’d been to).

So, although the crowd was small and the venue was depressing (with really poor acoustics) they still managed to give their fans an absolutely amazing performance. We absolutely loved the show.

After leaving the venue, staff were rather aggressive and shouted for all of us to walk away from the venue, so we had to all walk to the front gates (which is a very long walk - you can’t see the venue from the gates) and wait there. They said that the band weren’t coming out but we all had a sense that they would. The usual scenes of chaos took place and eventually some fans re-opened the gate and snuck back in. We didn’t really know what to do but eventually word got round that the guys had come out and were signing and taking pics. By the time we got there, Isaac had already gone in and as I’d had my chance to have a photo taken with both Zac and Taylor in Glasgow (in a much more relaxed setting) I stood back until my friends did. We then waited outside the venue’s gate again to see the bus leave, and we knew at that point that they were on their way to Milan. It was time for us to get some sleep too.

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