I went to the Rolling Stones concert in Lucca Italy, but I didn’t “see” the show. Probably only about 10 percent of the 55,000 people attending were able to see the show, because it was general admission on a flat field, that sloped slightly downhill the opposite direction. It didn’t take long for the crowd to get frustrated and soon drunk concert attendees were climbing up anything they could find to get a glimpse of the stage. Trees and concert rigging were popular places to perch, but it seems the best seats in the house were on top of the portable toilets! The Rolling Stones concert in Lucca Italy can only be described as a spectacular disaster, but I’m still glad I went!
I didn’t go to Lucca with the intention of going to the concert. But on my second day there we drove by the venue where they were erecting the stage and I realized that the Rolling Stones would soon be playing only three blocks away from where I was staying. So, I decided to go, but by that time tickets were next to impossible to find. I tried buying some online but the websites were all in Italian and they would only snail mail the tickets. With only a few days to wait before the show, I didn’t want to risk the tickets not arriving in time. Finally, I looked on Craigslist and got lucky! An American many (Jason) was going to go with his girlfriend, but she cancelled on him at the last minute. Like I said, I got lucky, and he got $200.
The venue for the concert was a large field next to “the wall” in Lucca. Lucca is a small town surrounded by five kilometers of a wall that was built in the 16th century. The wall is about 20 feet tall, and the field was only about the size of a football field. The town’s population is only 87,000. So, when you add 55,000 concert attendees in such a tight space, it’s bound to be chaotic and crazy! The set-up was horrible; minimal parking, bottle neck entrances and exits, no seats (so we had to stand for four hours), and only about a dozen toilets for 55,000 people!
If people went to the Rolling Stones show in Lucca Italy just to see the show, they were probably disappointed, because hardly anyone could see the stage. However, if they went for the thrill of just being part of it, of joining in the spectacle and madness, they weren’t disappointed. After the initial shock of the lack luster planning, a certain surrender encompassed the crowd and we decided to just make the most of it. In general, the crowd was astonishingly patient with the chaos. I lost Jason when he went to the toilets. A cell signal was impossible to find and he apparently stood in line for an hour and half! Meanwhile I was in the center of the field and the crowd was surging forward and pressing against me. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I got the hell out and headed to find a safe spot on the perimeter.
It was on my way over towards the vendor tents that I unexpectedly was kissed by an entertaining intoxicated man with a British flag wrapped around him. Shortly after that, I met Sep and Christian, from London. They were hilarious and well stocked with a wide variety of intoxicants. They had me relaxed and laughing in no time, and after several $8 beers and some Monty Python impersonations, I was in a much better mood!
Somehow, during all the madness, I did manage to enjoy the music. There is no doubt that the Stones still ROCK! Seriously, they gyrate and jam like young men. Mick Jager may be 74 years old, but he struts across stage like a young rooster that rules the roost. Aside from an hour long intermission, they plaid nonstop and without even an opening band.
The first hour of the show didn’t impress me, as it was mostly new songs, but after the intermission they really started to rock like only the Rolling Stones can! They entertained us with their old school classics, including Sympathy for the Devil, Honkey Tonk Woman, It’s Only Rock n’ Roll, Satisfaction, You Can’t Always Get What You Want (I think that had special meeting to the crowd at the time), Midnight Rambler, and Gimme Shelter.
Gimme Shelter was surprisingly my favorite song of the night. It touched me deeply as they showed footage of 1960s riots and protests. The lyrics “It’s just a shot away” made me think a lot of the western world’s problems with gun violence, and I was suddenly happy about the inconvenient, but tight security, getting into the show. I liked that they end the song about love, and then switch the lyrics to “It’s just a kiss away.” If only that were true. I’ve had many kisses sadly void of love, but that is another whole blog post.
The night was wonderful and horrible all at once, but it was a spectacular disaster I will never forget. At the end of the show, even though I had blisters on my feet, and had only a glimpse of the stage for about 10 seconds during the entire concert, I was glad to be there. I was happy to be alive and well in beautiful Lucca, Italy, watching one of the most iconic rock n roll bands of all time!