Thursday 01 December 2016

Past, Present & Future

Following the recent trend of these diaries, I shall continue to swim in three separate time streams - of which the present is much the least interesting, even if the cold snap in Broadchalke did make my morning jog more bracing than normal. At breakfast with Robert recently, I commented that I would happily take the pointed stick of my jog each morning rather than his cold shower. This morning it felt like I got both. Thereafter the day was spent mostly co-ordinating the concerted multi-agency attack on rogue elements within the website. We shall overcome!

The historic thread, following the recent King Crimson tour, moves from Florence to Rome (via a four hour non-stop trip in a "luxury" coach on which the toilet facilities had neither light nor flush. Somewhat unfairly challenging for the female members of the party). Our hotel, the very smart Hotel de Russie, was in the via del Babuino, about a seven minute walk from the Spanish Steps (and not approachable by the toiletly-challenged luxury coach, causing us to decamp to four people carriers for the last few miles). My thanks to Luisa and Alessandro Bruno for inviting Indeg and me to their home on the first night - complete with a whistle stop tour of the ancient delights.  You can really only get under the skin of a city when taken round by a local.

The view from outside the venue - the Auditorium Conciliazione - is a familiar one...

Apparently there is a lift backstage, leading to a passage direct to the Vatican, so that the Pope can attend concerts without mixing with the Hoi Polloi. Sadly, I do not have any reason for believing that he is a closet King Crimson fan. The view on the opposite direction...

 

The gig is roughly by the furthest street light - just by the stalls selling "Cigarettes, ice creams, figurines of the Vrgin Mary" (I did suggest an impromptu performance of that chorus for the set list, but sadly not all my ideas come to fruition).

On the second day, my wife and I got the chance to visit St Peters and the Vatican. We were somewhat bemused by the huge crowds squeezing to get in through the door into St Peters (many of them led in prayer groups by crosses). It was only later that we learnt that this was one of the last days before the Holy Door (Porta Sancta) through which we entered was closed for another 25 years. We also (after being completely bemused by the Italian signposts) visited the palace and the Sistine Chapel. My overwhlming sense of the Vatican was not of a religious space (as St Peters) but that this was a seat of power. A Palace, as for a King or an Emperor, built to impress and control a submissive world. Wonderful architecturally and culturally, but hard to reconcile with Jesus, the carpenter.

Yes, yes, Mr Singleton, enough with the tourism. What about the concerts?..

These were not a totally happy experience for all the band - the hall was very "live" and reverberant (as is often the case with classical halls which are designed to amplify sound not mute it). After the shows, we made the decision to carry drapes on future tours, giving us the ability to dampen the worst excesses (at the possible cost of needing a second truck - making  the "very expensive tour" into the "very, very expensive tour"). If the purpose of this band is to prove that musical performance can still change the world, and to aspire to the very highest standards, then we must do all we can to make the sound quality match the performance quality. Despite all the above, Jakko felt that the second concert in Rome was the best he has ever played in King Crimson - with a few wrinkles removed, a possible contender for an official bootleg. But that is for the future.

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