July arrives and a couple of extra dates have been added to the Italian tour.
On the 6th, I fly to Bergamo, the little regional airport served by budget airlines handily located for the first gig of this leg of the tour.
Bergamo’s old town is a beautiful historic hill settlement once ruled by the Venetians, it has a cathedral, pretty square, winding streets and gorgeous Italians on scooters round seemingly every corner. The newer part of town, which I only see the outskirts of, seems to be full of Russians, which leads to some confusion when I ask for directions. There is a youth hostel pretty close to the venue and I meet Clarabelle and some of the other regulars when I get there. We’d had an offer to stay with a boardie in Milan, but in the end we needed to be nearer the venue and not reliant on begging for lifts.
The venue, Il Lazzaretto, is a walled outdoor space between the hostel and the old town. Clara and I spend time in the old town sightseeing and eating ice cream in the summer heat. I have never been to Italy before and this place is what I imagined it would be like, sleepy shuttered houses and a steep climb to discover hidden treasures. There’s even a funicular up the hill. This trip already feels more like a holiday than these jaunts usually do.
When we check out the venue there is some unease in the queue. We don’t get the details until later, but something is amiss. There are rumours about some kind of security breach. We later piece together some details – someone on the AtEase message board had posted a bomb threat, so the authorities were searching and securing the venue. Lack of information, more than anything else, puts people on edge, the usual early arrivals are here sheltering from the sun with umbrellas and makeshift shades rigged up over the queue barriers and to be honest I’m only really getting my normal reading of stress from them. I missed Thom rehearsing Neil Young’s Down By The River on piano during the sound check. I will not queue on this tour, I’m on my summer holidays and the weather is glorious, there is food to be eaten and art to be admired. We spend the larger part of the day in the old town soaking it up. Back later and the venue is filling up like nothing has happened, everything seems to be back to normal.
Low are the support band on this tour, I remember the band mentioning their Things We Lost In The Fire album as a favourite. Much as I like their records, as a live act they are a little subdued for the levels of anticipation generated by a Radiohead crowd, particularly one largely made up of Italian fans (who are exuberant and rather vocal bunch, especially when they spot Colin watching from the side of the stage). Low play a delicate set as the sun goes down.
I was deep in the crowd somewhere, it was hot and sweaty even as the evening cooled and I had no great desire to be in the crush. Radiohead’s stage set is minimal with the vertical strip lights at the back the only physical element, the lighting design is the main thing, mostly bathing the band in blues, pinks and purples. They start with There There, Jonny and Ed’s drums already on the stage. Thom has a jacket on for the first songs but is soon down to his white short shirt sleeves.
It’s a heavily HTTT-weighted setlist, but Talk Show Host makes a slinky appearance fairly early on. Punch Up At A Wedding has found its groove and when Thom gets to the “Hypocrite” line he swaps in “Berlusconi” for “opportunist” to cheers from the Italian crowd. Thom fights off the mosquitoes and barely says a word of introduction until the encore. The Italians make up for any language barriers by shouting general noises of encouragement and when they can’t sing along they loudly hum the guitar lines, much to the bemusement of the travelling contingent. I sink into the noise and the lights, trying to get the immersion I need, trying to dance, trying not to faint in the heat.
At the end, the crowd are quickly herded out of the enclosure. There will be no party for us tonight, backstage is locked down.
Back at the hostel someone has a bottle of Cinzano found cheap in the local supermarket and we brave the sauna-like conditions of the hostel to stay up late not yet ready to struggle to get a couple of sticky hours sleep.
In the morning, as we’re all gathering to move on to Florence, I finally meet Gabi, a fan from Argentina who saves up to travel to see the band in Europe. She’s one of the few others who has been a fan as long as I have, but we don’t talk much yet, still unsure of each other.
Onwards to Florence…