Saturday, September 4, 2010


Leonard Cohen and band in Piazza Santa Croce

After a longer drought in terms of pop concerts, we went to not one, but two concerts by big acts this week. First up, on Wednesday, was Leonard Cohen in Piazza Santa Croce here in Florence. This was probably the biggest concert in Florence this year, and it seemed like half the city was here. The start of the concert was a typical Italian situation: apparently not anticipating that anything could actually start on time, the first two songs were basically disrupted by people trying frantically to find their seats. I also had the impression that Cohen needed a little while to warm up (not surprising, considering that he's 75!), but after a few songs he had found his groove. He played most of the favorites on his Live in London album (a fantastic album -- check it out), and added some of his older songs, like Chelsea Hotel No. 2, Famous Blue Raincoat, and The Partisan. Like Bob Boilen, I was particularly intrigued by Javier Mas, one of Cohen's bandmates, who got to shine on various stringed instruments such as bandurria and archlute, especially on an extended introduction to Who By Fire.

Arcade Fire in Bologna

The next day, we went to Bologna for the I-Day festival, which had the impressive lineup of JoyCut, Chapel Club, Fanfarlo, Modest Mouse, and the highlight: Arcade Fire. We had rented a car (there's no way to get back from Bologna after 8:30pm using public transportation) and got there quite early, during the first set. Since it was still quite empty, and also sunny, we sat down in the shady grass at the outskirts of the festival grounds during the decent sets of JoyCut (an Italian indie band) and Chapel Club. The crowd started to grow a bit during Fanfarlo, who played a good, though brief, set, and seemed genuinely excited to be there, taking pictures of the crowd. I think their neo-folk/indie style resonated well, at least with me (maybe it's the trumpet, but they reminded me a bit of Beirut). Next up were Modest Mouse, and Kristen joined me in front of the stage. I wasn't too familiar with their music, but I liked their energetic set. They were a good opening for the highlight of the evening: Arcade Fire. What can I say? They're an awesome live act, and a fantastic stage presence as well, going all out. I thought the songs from their new album, which sometimes seem to go on a bit long on the record, worked much better in a live setting. And there's nothing better than thousands of people singing along on Keep The Car Running or Wake Up. Apparently the concert was broadcast live on Italian radio, and there's a YouTube of that here.

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