‘We were in a cafe, you could hear the guitars play. It was very nice. It was paradise.’ These are lyrics from Berlin, and they sum up this Lou Reed tour beautifully. This was how I spent my afternoons on that tour: enjoying the sunshine, forging friendships that I still cherish, and listening to the sound checks.
The venues we played were unusual, venues that few rockstars venture to. For example,we did shows in Copenhagen’s Opera House, Lisbon’s Bullring and also various Roman amphitheatres around Italy and southern France.
We even ventured down to Cagliari in Sardinia on the 2007 leg. The amphitheatre there is incredible – hewn in the second century AD, it’s built almost entirely into the sloping rock and would have been used for gladiatorial games and public executions. Thank you, Lou Reed. Great music; great venues; great company.
One particularly memorable show, however, was in Arezzo, Central Italy. My grandfather, then still alive, lived nearby, and he’d asked if I could deliver some water butts. (For some reason he said he couldn’t buy them in Italy.) I’d carried the blasted things in the trailer for several shows beforehand and now finally my grandfather had come to collect them.
‘You must be unloading at the stadium,’ he said. ‘Anywhere else in Arezzo will be impossible. It’s a bit tight in the centre as a pedestrian, let alone with a truck.’ Well, we like to see problems as challenges, don’t we? ‘Fuck that,’ said Namibian, driving the second truck. He didn’t at all like the sound of driving up to the Piazza Grande. And you’ll see why.
A motorcycle police escort led us up a pedestrianised area…to a slippery, flagstoned street. The incline must have been 20 per cent. To make matters even scarier, we had to be doing a certain speed at the top when turning left – in order to roll the trailers over some steps (which had a metal plate covering them).
But not so fast that the trailers would rock and tip over. Then it was just a two hundred yard reverse into the Piazza Grande. Piece of cake.
Men of Good Fortune
But when we came back at night to load up the equipment again, it was even more difficult. No weight in the trucks; not enough traction. Namibian went up first and hadn’t given it enough gas. ‘Fuck, wank, fuck,’ he cried in typical Etruscan manner, trying to reverse back down and have another attempt.
His steering, however, was a little…over-zealous, shall we say. Consequently, the trailer was getting a bit close to a fourteenth century balcony, and the front of the trailer was doing the same. Whoopsydaisies. He couldn’t go backwards, and he couldn’t get any purchase forwards. Tee hee.
The fire brigade had to be summoned. Wending their way to the top of the hill by an alternative route, they winched Namibian straight…and then he had to start all over again!
Great memories, Lou Reed. Adventures aplenty. RIP.