We’re wrapping up the year here on the back porch by republishing the final segment of the blog posts I wrote in 2006 while traveling with Will T. Massey on his triumphant comeback tour of Italy.
Bergoma, Caffe Litteraria
Another morning and another set of trains to catch, Besozzo to Milan to Bergamo by early afternoon. Stefano and Tino, two of our hosts from Soffia Net Vento (the association promoting the show) met us at the station and whisked us away to the Caffe Litteraria, a great bookstore with a concert space in the back. Patrizia, the bookstore owner, struggled with our complete lack of Italian and her limited English to get us through a rudimentary sound check while we waited on Edward to appear.
When he did, he not only brought along the long-awaited box of Letters in the Wind CDs (did I explain the saga of the CDs yet?), but a most pleasant surprise — Joanna had indeed come in from the Hague, after all and after describing how she was so disappointed she wouldn’t be able to make it. Wish you could have seen the grin on Will’s face when he looked up and saw her come in. Also arriving from another great distance (London) was an old friend of Edward’s and Joanna’s, Paul.
We all headed over to the local TV station for a live interview with Will and Tino and then a truly great dinner before returning to the bookstore for the evening show.
The show? Another fantastic one, of course, with many fans from earlier shows coming back for more. Afterwards, we sat around sipping wine before the long ride home to Pavia, lingering long enough that we nearly missed the opportunity for a final late night pizza and beer. We convinced them to sell us some before shutting down, so we wrapped up the night in the quiet of the town square, talking about dogs and music and Townes and Texas accents and all those other things you talk about at 3:45 in the morning when you don’t want to let go of the night.
Tonight, Will’s got the night off, so some guy named Bruce Springsteen is kinda filling in with a show in Milan.
A Brief — Bruce — Diversion
All work and no play, etc. so an evening off was in order for Will, and quite conveniently, Springsteen arranged to be in town for us.
One website even went so far as to say Will was the opening act for Bruce, but that is perhaps stretching the truth just a little bit. I won’t try and review the Bruce show (this is a blog about Will, after all), but a few words are in order.
So how was the show? Fantastico! Bruce was in fine form and the Seeger Sessions Band is simply astounding in both musicianship and showmanship. You could tell the whole crowd on stage was having a high old time.
And the audience? They were having at least as much fun, no, no, much much more fun than the band and Bruce. Lining up hours in advance and streaming into the arena, anticipation charged the air. Even before the house lights went down, portions of the crowd were launching into bits and pieces of the songs to come, especially, “Pay me! Pay me! Pay me my money down!” And throughout the show, they not only cheered, whooped, hollered, jumped up and down, waving hands in the air, but everyone sang along with the songs and kept every song going even after Bruce and band wrapped it up. His funniest line of the evening was, I know how the Italians hate to sing… He had the audience in the palm of his hand the whole show, not an easy thing to do with 12,000 people, but he sure made it look easy. By the time he told them he’d be back in the fall, they were crazy with love and holding back nothing.
(Editor’s note: YouTube recording of the entire concert here — enjoy!)
Will and Valerie and Ed and Deb managed to wrangle wristband passes down to the pit at the front of the crowd. I went with the international delegation of our group — Joanna, Paul and Niklas, a Swede in for Bruce and the Pavia show. Before and after the show, many fans recognized Will and came over to greet him. And in a strange twist, a couple of different people recognized me from Will’s show the previous weekend, pointing and saying, “Scandiano!” as I walked past and stopping me to talk. Startling to say the least — who would’ve thought a Texas tag-along could be spotted and recognized days later?
In all, a most excellent diversion — tip of the hat to the Boss.
The Finale — Pavia, Spazio Musica
Hard to believe the tour is coming to a close, but oh what a night for the closer. All along, Edward promised this as the best venue, the best crowd, and the best setting for the best show. Right on all counts!
But let me back up a little and set the Saturday scene. Ed arranged for a brief in-store appearance for Will at the local record store in the afternoon, a fine warm-up for Will and a handful of fans. Then we headed back to the flat where once again, Ed and Deb hosted a dinner party for artist and fans. I swear they will end up with a reputation among artists like the old Armadillo for the marvelous food they provide for their touring artists. Musicians on the road so often are forced to eat truly terrible food for weeks on end, so any hint of decent chow is greatly appreciated. And when its way beyond decent and into the incredible range with antipasto, two kinds of pasta and ice cream to boot (not to mention the marvelous wine brought by Ed’s boss, Marco), well, you’re deep into the legendary range of tour feasting. Not to mention the warm, welcoming feeling of visiting with friends, new and old.
Joining the party by now was Lexi, another long-time Will fan from 15 years ago, who had flown in from London specifically for the Pavia show. Like so many other European fans who remembered Will from his prior touring, she had spent several years wondering where he was, occasionally sending out mass emailings asking if anyone had seen or heard of him recently. But it wasn’t until she read some of the blog entries describing the early dates that she actually made her plans to get over here to see him for herself.
But on to the show — but what can I say? Generally, I hate comparing one show to another but this was easily the best overall show. Well, okay, Nidaba was hot, too, especially the climb up onto the tables, but in terms of the crowd, Will’s playing and singing and the overall reaction, this show sparkled even brighter than the rest.
The atmosphere of the club itself certainly helped, from the well-handled sound system to the warm introduction from Daniella, the owner. And the crowd of over 100 fans definitely did their part. Will was in fine form, walking the stage and pushing the people to join in. All night long, the momentum never flagged and carried us all to that special spot that only inspired music can take you. More than a few folks who’d never seen him before got their own personal conversion experience and came away with the glow of great songs solidly planted in their hearts and souls. As for the fans who’d waited 15 years for this, here was absolute affirmation of their belief in Will and a re-kindling of the flame that they’d kept burning for so long.
Wrapping up the show was hard and leaving the club was difficult, as well. So many farewells to so many friends, new and old…At least we will always share these shining moments, these stunning shows, and the incredible feeling of Will’s wonderful and inspiring music. Out into the Italian night we went, some humming, some singing, all lifted up and energized by the experience.
Mille grazie, Will! Mille grazie, Ed! Mille grazie, Italia! With this sort of tour, Will T. Massey will most definitely be back in the not-so-distant future!