Radio Italia Live concert in Palermo, Sicily 6/2019
Back from my 5 day trip to Palermo. It may sound a lot of effort for three songs but the performance was definitely worth it and Sicily is one of my very favorite places so this event was something I didn’t want to miss. In Sicily there’s often a lovely breeze near the sea so despite of the hot weather it seems a suitable place for me to visit. I love the unpolished style, I love the food and I love watching people especially with their dogs. There are so many beautiful churches in Palermo and my B&B for the first two nights was in a former monastery and in many ways a lovely experience.
The B&B was owned by a married artist couple, a traditional Sicilian singer and a composer, and their apartment was huge and so beautiful that on the second day I spent hours just writing in my room and felt absolutely not guilty about that at all, I felt I was surely in one of the prettiest places in Palermo. The decoration of the apartment was vintage style with old photographs and instrument collections, they even had a big salon just for their performances, and carefully chosen music, different depending on the time of the day, was playing on the background all the time. I never listen to music like that at home, it would distract me too much, but there it was like a part of the atmosphere. I was like in a magic place and I really enjoyed my stay and gave also a lot of attention to their sweet family dog.
For the rest of my staying I had booked an apartment almost next to the venue (for the location) and the first night there was scary, I didn’t sleep at all. The place was too big and lonely with all the noise outside but otherwise it was tidy and everything worked well and the owner organized my transportations and generally helped me in every way (so it wasn’t a bad choice at all).
The event day was ups and downs as every event in Italy. There was the usual chaos of course. The day was incredibly hot and I spent it standing more than 15 hours in the middle of the people I didn’t know, without toilets and the most of the time also without any water, and I replaced my daily coffee with five caffeine painkillers. I burnt my skin and took at least 5 full showers my clothes on (the security watered the audience during the day because of the heat). And it was worth all that. Mika did a full soundcheck in front of the crowd and it gave me strength to stand in the heat waiting for the evening and the final performance was absolutely amazing. I had so missed seeing him on stage like that. It was well worth the effort, no question about that at all.
The gates were supposed to open around 13 on Saturday but to get a barrier place I went to Foro Italico, a giant green area next to the sea, in the morning. A large group of teenagers was already there but I had seen the huge stage (pic above) and knew the barrier would be big enough for at least a couple of hundreds of people. I was lucky to meet a young very sweet girl called Iris who came from Acquedolci and spoke really good English and she kindly gave me a summary of everything what was happening and later also translated everything what the security said.
The security arrived and divided people in different queueing sectors to wait for opening the gates. They explained the rules almost immediately. No batteries for mobiles, no cameras. That was quite disappointing, I had looked forward to taking photos of Mika on stage and had my camera because remembered using it during the last gig I saw in Palermo. Luckily the apartment was only a couple of minutes from the venue so I asked if I could go and leave my camera and be back. I was told to go and then come back to the end of the queue and not to my current place. Or, the security guy suggested me, I could always lie that Iris is my daughter and then just come back to her. Oh this kind of Italian mentality, I didn’t even try to understand it and I went and left the camera at the apartment and just pushed my way back to the queue without saying a word to anyone.
It was time to open the gates and surprisingly the gate for our sector wasn’t opened, only the ones on our right and left so we had to push our way through the crowd to those and say good bye to our barrier places. I hurried to the area and luckily saw a small space on the very side of stage and immediately went there even though I noticed most people wanted to go to the area directly in the middle of the stage. I’m not young and my back always hurts after standing that long and there was no way I could survive in the middle of the crowd so a barrier place on the side felt the best option. I wasn’t going to take many photos (the camera with a zoom was at the apartment and the tiny one wasn’t enough from that far away) so eventually I was quite pleased with my place and felt excited for the event. I didn’t know the sound check schedules but was ready for Mika and in a few seconds he was on stage already.
It was lovely to see the sound check as I knew that in the evening the area between the stage and us would be full of vip people and that the sound check was the only time to see Mika without anyone between us. He rehearsed Ice Cream, Love Today and Stardust and especially Love Today with the signature drumming was such a pleasant surprise I got unexpected new energy for the long waiting. After Mika many other artists did their sound check as well but behind the curtain and just coming to say hello to the audience in the end which made me appreciate Mika rehearsing in front of the people even more. Security gave us water when we arrived but stopped giving it during the afternoon and it was quite hard to be in the heat the whole afternoon and evening without anything to drink.
The line-up for the event was really good I think. I know I’m in the minority saying this but I enjoy these numerous events Mika is doing in France and Italy. I’ve worked really hard not to feel a total outsider and done a trip after a trip to the both countries seeing not only gigs but also many festivals, radio concerts and television recordings and it’s finally paying off. Almost all the artists I saw first in Verona and now in Palermo felt familiar and I could recognize their songs as well. Obviously I don’t know their lyrics well enough but in Palermo I almost felt like singing along with the crowd and I enjoyed watching the artists before Mika, not because they are something particularly my taste or something I would listen to without Mika’s influence but because it was such a pleasure to recognice them and to know their music even I was a foreigner in their country. Of course I’m still an outsider but having all this travel experience makes a big difference and feels now so valuable. Before Mika we saw singers like Ghali, Benji e Fede, Paola Turci, Giusy Ferreri, Fabrizio Moro, Nek and Achille Lauro, all of them so familiar.
I spent my whole Palermo visit alone and was fine with that because I’m used to spend a lot of time alone and done also a lot of traveling alone. Going in the middle of the total strangers felt weirdly natural. I went between two people I didn’t know at all simply because there happened to be some space but of course I couldn’t stay quiet. I started to ask my usual questions – who is that? what is happening now? – and usually people who know me well can ignore my questions quite easily or simply silence me saying “you don’t need to know” but strangers are afraid to do that and they answer me and the lady next to me didn’t even speak English but it didn’t matter because I could mostly understand her answers in Italian. I didn’t much talk with the young people behind me but they obviously acknowledged my presence and instantly asked if “signora is okay” when I went down to breath for a moment when it felt too tiring to stand and I found that very cute and I’m sure they would have asked help very quickly if I had needed any.
There were separate water points in the area but naturally it wasn’t possible to go there from the front barrier, it would have been impossible to walk through the crowd and come back (so no water or toilets during the day) and at some point I almost begged the security guy in front of me to give me something to drink, felt very dehydrated, and the guy was nice and actually took a half drank bottle from his colleague’s hand and brought it to me and I drank that and felt quickly totally refreshed. At the same moment I saw people cleaning the stage and instantly knew Mika would be next. For who else would they clean the stage? For no one else, and it was his turn indeed.
Mika came on stage and his performance was absolutely fantastic, he was at his very, very best festival mood in front of that huge crowd. He was on fire and the audience went wild and I loved everything. I absolutely loved it. It was exactly what I meant when I earlier talked about Mika being the star. Love Today with the drumming was unbelievable and I thought this is the reason why I came to Palermo, I knew I have to be in Palermo. Sometimes I have that kind of a strong feeling and I always later learn the exact reason for it. I was actually really far away, there was a big vip area between us so I couldn’t even see Mika that well but I was inside of his energy field and that was enough, I really enjoyed the performance and I enjoyed all the three songs but especially Love Today that was both fresh (because of the orchestra) and familiar (because of the drumming and the energy) at the same time.
Then his performance was over and I felt absolutely exhausted so I said good bye to the ladies at the barrier and waved to the young people behind me and left. I would have loved to see Fiorella after Mika but felt simply too tired and dehydrated. I walked on the side of the venue and had a look at the gate on my way and saw two police motorbikes followed by a black van driving in and again instantly knew they were there for Mika. For who else would they organize a police escort? For no one else. Seeing the motorbikes made me smile because I couldn’t see any immediate need for that kind of an escort but it was somehow cute as well and I thought oh please protect him, he’s precious. And in two minutes he left indeed but in a closed van (with Fiorella as I later learnt) so I just watched and didn’t wave good bye. I had only two minute walk to the apartment and magically saw an ice cream bar on my way and went in and had an espresso and a pistache ice cream and the both were absolutely delicious and that was a good ending to my good day.
Now back home and I’m still astonished how powerful the performance in Palermo was. The atmosphere was absolutely incredible. I’ve seen so many brilliant performances and yet they can still amaze me this way. Also, I’m trying to catch up with the interviews Mika has done in France and Italy lately (there are some translations on MFC and social media) and I find the information and stories he’s sharing so special and important and I feel each new interview helps me to understand better and makes me even more excited than I already was. Can’t wait to learn more X