Last night

As I wait in my dressing room in Panama I am thinking about this long time on the road. Three months of continuous touring, across two continents. I worked out that we’ve travelled about 68,000 km. That’s a record for me, and I believe it’s the same for everyone in the team. It hasn’t always been easy – friends who look at my photographs, read my tweets and facebook posts will probably think it’s a wonderful holiday. Actually it’s hard, tiring work and requires expertise and professionalism whatever the obstacles may be. Faulty equipment, headaches, fevers, sore throats, uncomfortable airline seats, hotels that are nice only on brochures, jet-lag, bad wifi, sick children at home, stressed spouses on the opposite side of the globe: these are all problems the artists and crew have had to deal with.

Still, it’s been a dream. Every concert a success, and impeccable performances from the musicians, from Il Volo and from our crew.

I tried to make the best of the little free time we had and I have to say that there were some good moments. My previous post describes events till our visit to El Salvador.
Nicaragua was next – I celebrated my birthday in Managua and went on a great trip to Granada, Masaya and the islands of Lake Nicaragua. Definitely one of the highlights on this trip. I was very lucky to make friends with a lovely person from Guatemala. She took us to the old capital city, Antigua, a virtually unspoiled town from another age. Our concert in Guatemala city was unforgettable. Everyone gave a great performance – under the pouring rain!
Our trip to Honduras was so short that we only saw the venue and our hotel. This place wins the award for loudest screaming audience, hands down. We were blown away….
We flew to Santo Domingo on a rickety propellor plane. Scary. I have to say that I found Santo Domingo rather sad and abandoned, but the show was great and we had a great audience.
Puerto Rico was like a deja vu. Same venue as last year, same hotel. I had just enough time for a 15 minute swim in the warm Caribbean sea.
After that we had one of our longest trips, all the way down to Santiago. I loved the Chilean capital, even if there was only one morning for sightseeing. And their mote drink is delicious.
Buenos Aires is almost like a second home for me. I spent a few months working there many years ago and I am always happy to return. The three sold-out performances at the Gran Rex were unforgettable. Two of the singers had colds but they still managed to deliver. That’s one of the things that separates the greats from everyone else.
Brazil – what can I say? It rained most of the time, so I was rather disappointed, especially in Rio. We consoled ourselves with a lot of red wine and churrascheria… And Giovanni Di Caprio and myself fearlessly faced the elements on top of the Pao de Azucar.
Back in Panama and back to this moment. We are soon starting the show. I will be starting the music for the last time with Il Volo, at least for a while. Thanks guys, for everything – it’s been a wonderful adventure and I will be happy to share a lot more with you in the future. Besos.

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Where am I and what am I doing here?

As I wait in my dressing room in Panama I am thinking about this long time on the road. Three months of continuous touring, across two continents. I worked out that we’ve travelled about 68,000 km. That’s a record for me, and I believe it’s the same for everyone in the team. It hasn’t always been easy – friends who look at my photographs, read my tweets and facebook posts will probably think it’s a wonderful holiday. Actually it’s hard, tiring work and requires expertise and professionalism whatever the obstacles may be. Faulty equipment, headaches, fevers, sore throats, uncomfortable airline seats, hotels that are nice only on brochures, jet-lag, bad wifi, sick children at home, stressed spouses on the opposite side of the globe: these are all problems the artists and crew have had to deal with.

Still, it’s been a dream. Every concert a success, and impeccable performances from the musicians, from Il Volo and from our crew.

I tried to make the best of the little free time we had and I have to say that there were some good moments. My previous post describes events till our visit to El Salvador.
Nicaragua was next – I celebrated my birthday in Managua and went on a great trip to Granada, Masaya and the islands of Lake Nicaragua. Definitely one of the highlights on this trip. I was very lucky to make friends with a lovely person from Guatemala. She took us to the old capital city, Antigua, a virtually unspoiled town from another age. Our concert in Guatemala city was unforgettable. Everyone gave a great performance – under the pouring rain!
Our trip to Honduras was so short that we only saw the venue and our hotel. This place wins the award for loudest screaming audience, hands down. We were blown away….
We flew to Santo Domingo on a rickety propellor plane. Scary. I have to say that I found Santo Domingo rather sad and abandoned, but the show was great and we had a great audience.
Puerto Rico was like a deja vu. Same venue as last year, same hotel. I had just enough time for a 15 minute swim in the warm Caribbean sea.
After that we had one of our longest trips, all the way down to Santiago. I loved the Chilean capital, even if there was only one morning for sightseeing. And their mote drink is delicious.
Buenos Aires is almost like a second home for me. I spent a few months working there many years ago and I am always happy to return. The three sold-out performances at the Gran Rex were unforgettable. Two of the singers had colds but they still managed to deliver. That’s one of the things that separates the greats from everyone else.
Brazil – what can I say? It rained most of the time, so I was rather disappointed, especially in Rio. We consoled ourselves with a lot of red wine and churrascheria… And Giovanni Di Caprio and myself fearlessly faced the elements on top of the Pao de Azucar.
Back in Panama and back to this moment. We are soon starting the show. I will be starting the music for the last time with Il Volo, at least for a while. Thanks guys, for everything – it’s been a wonderful adventure and I will be happy to share a lot more with you in the future. Besos.

Closing Night

Tonight we play our final concert for the 2013 USA and Canada tour with Il Volo. It’s been a memorable experience. We have driven across the continent for 6 weeks and played some wonderful venues. Just a couple of days ago we were at the Radio City Music Hall with a great orchestra of New York musicians. I have to thank conductor Brian Onderdonk for his stellar work and unending patience! Radio City was the climax for this tour, so how did we face last night’s concert at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City? Well, we were actually so relaxed and carefree that we really enjoyed playing. The artists and the band were so relieved and happy – things had gone so well in NYC that they felt free to be a bit looser than usual. There was a fair bit of improvisation and musical fooling around at the Taj, and that is good.

Today we are in Wallingford, a small city in Connecticut. The last show in a tour is guaranteed to be different from all the previous concerts. Generally anything can happen on stage and behind. Artists, musicians, technicians – everyone has unwritten permission to play a few jokes at anyone’s expense! Nobody is immune.

In years of touring I have seen a fair amount of wierd things happen. Zombies walking on stage. A snare drum filled with water. Music sheets replaced by cuttings from porn mags. Hanging percussion instruments replaced by Coke cans. Pedals covered with shaving foam. A saxophone reed smeared with fresh Calabria peperoncino (that was going a bit too far…). A soft piano seat completely soaked – imagine what happened when I sat down! Unexpected silly musical interludes. Uninvited guests on stage. Masks, costumes, various animal noses…

And the craziest things are said over the in-ear system. So if you suddenly see people onstage laughing during what is normally the saddest song, you now know why.

Tonight, who knows…?

Keeping it fresh

As we travel from Holmdel NJ to Westbury on Long Island, I am reflecting on the great concert we just had. We have now been on the road for over three weeks. The show is well-oiled and running smoothly, thanks to a wonderful team of talented professionals. Audiences all over have been appreciative and supportive – they really seem to love the show. The question I occasionally have been asked is – how do the artists and musicians on stage keep enjoying what they do after so many consecutive concerts?

Some tours I have been on feature frequent songlist changes and lots of improvisation. The Il Volo concert is different – this is a carefully choreographed and scripted show that doesn’t leave much room for impromptu changes, although they sometimes do occur.

First of all, every venue and every audience is different. The acoustics change, the songs sound a bit different. People react in different ways to different songs.

Musically speaking, the devil is in the detail. As a tour proceeds every arrangement, every individual musician’s performance changes. I would like to think it is a kind of evolution. As you become intimate and comfortable with a piece of music you put in a little more of yourself, take a few more risks, keep ideas that work best and throw away others. Yes, even if they “didn’t do it that way” on the original album. It’s interesting to see how things change when comparing recordings taken a month apart during a tour. Having such a group of talented musicians means that there is a wealth of experience and good taste working in the background. Every night someone will put in some little variation and the others may react accordingly. Then, of course, there may be private musical “jokes” that audience might not be aware of. Look out for inexplicable laughing expressions on stage. To add to that, sometimes pretty funny things are said over the in-ear system we all have….

It all helps to keep the good humour going…

Some of the shows on this tour feature an added 35 piece orchestra. That of course changes just about everything. It is stimulating, exciting, tricky and requires lot’s of concentration. It’s a good wake-up call after a number of “easy” situations.

Whenever we can we spend a few minutes jamming and playing different material during our soundchecks. We had a blast playing Michael McDonald’s “I keep forgetting” a couple of days ago. Gianluca loves Frank Sinatra songs, Ignazio is crazy about Stevie Wonder. It’s good to let things loose once in a while.

Anyway, as I finish writing this post we are already in Florida and will be playing a new song at the next concerts in Tampa, Miami and Orlando. Soon we will be moving to Mexico and travelling all over South and Central America. There are bound to be a lot of changes to cater for the different audience. Ready to roll!

A day off…

Last night we had a great concert in Upper Darby, on the outskirts of Philadelphia. Playing at the famed Tower Theatre with Il Volo was a nice experience. The venue is old and has history written all over it. Backstage, all the dark passages, narrow staircases and ancient props and switches make it seem like something out of a noir movie.

Once the show was over we met some fans and friends at the “meet and greet”. Some might wonder what happens once the show is over. The technicians dismantle the whole stage in record time and load the trucks. The work they do is unbelievable.

We musicians have it a lot easier once we step off the stage. Generally  we chill out for a while in the dressing rooms, take a shower, get into comfortable clothes… many shows on this tour are “back-to-back”. That means that we leave the city we’ve just played in right after the show, travel all night and get to our next venue in the morning. It’s tiring, but not as bad as it might sound. By midnight we’re usually relaxing in our tour bus and ready to leave. These buses are pretty cool – they have living quarters in front and behind, kitchen, bathroom, home theatre systems, playstation, wifi… and twelve sleeper bunk compartments. Generally we sleep throughout the trip and wake up in a new place!

The band travels with the artists and their personal assistants, also known as parents 🙂  Everyone was in good spirits last night after the show – we slammed out some Gino Vannelli music on the bus speakers, chatted and joked and after an about an hour of travelling we were all fast asleep

This morning I woke up in one of my favourite U.S. cities  – Boston.

What a town! This is one of the few American cities that truly give me a deep sense of history. The centre of Boston is a pleasure to walk around. From the Waterfront to Boston Common, to the Old State House, all along the freedom trail among the red brick walls…  We got to the wonderful Quincy Market near Faneuil Hall. There is something of a human element in Boston that makes you feel like you’ re strolling around Paris or Madrid. A glass of fresh lemonade in the sunny square and I was at peace with the world.

Boston is also an important musical hub, with it’s Berklee College of Music attracting  talented students from all the world. In the evening we decided to listen to some local live music. It was enough to step out of the hotel revolving door. One of the taxi drivers was playing a soprano saxophone on the kerb. Needless to say, as soon as he heard we were musicians he took us to a smoking jazz club called Wally’s. It was full of young Berklee students jamming away. I’ve got to say that some of those kids could have put us, seasoned musicians, to shame!

A block away and we were soon dining at Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen. There was a great R&B group playing there. Wonderful stuff. I loved the singer Melissa Bolling and was particularly impressed by her bass player. Think Erykah Badu and Chaka…

Tomorrow it’s back to work – we’re playing at the Bank of America Pavilion, and I can’t wait to get my hands on my keyboards again.

Quincy Market - Boston

Quincy Market – Boston

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Street Artist

Boston Common

Boston Common

  Boston Common

The Band

Much has been written about the talented boys I am currently touring with: Gianluca, Ignazio and Piero, better known as “Il Volo“. Most Il Volo fans however might not know much about the fantastic musicians that are on the stage with them this year. Let me introduce you to them.

I must start off by writing about the man who set this band up and supervised the rehearsals: Marco Rinalduzzi.

Marco is a hugely-respected guitarist, composer and producer in Italy and elsewhere. He has performed and recorded with practically any big Italian artist you could care to think of, through a career that has spanned four decades. Some names: Mina, Cocciante, Venditti, Baglioni, Pravo, Barbarossa, Mike Francis, Zucchero, Morandi, Morricone, Alex Baroni, Giorgia, Bocelli… the list is endless. I am infinitely indebted to Marco for the things he has taught me, for his music and his friendship. This year he is not on the road with us, due to other commitments, but the results of his work can be heard by all.

Let’s get to the guys in the band. Our backbone is drummer Luca Trolli. What can I say? Luca is one of my favourite drummers, and I don’t just mean “favourite drummers I play with” – I mean absolutely. He is up there with the greatest, as far as I’m concerned and most people who have worked with him and listened to him would agree. Solid, amazingly musical, reliable. He’s worked with loads of artists and played in top TV orchestras in Italy. He has performed and recorded with Alex Britti, Fabio Concato, Alex Baroni, Renato Zero, Patty Pravo and many others. To top it up he’s a modest guy and a total blast to work and travel with. Luca is the guy who puts up with my walking mania and is always ready for a brisk walk across Manhattan, the hills of El Paso or the rain forests in Panama!

Our bass player is Patrizio Sacco. Talented and infuriatingly good-looking, he’s definitely one to envy. Patrizio is the youngest member of the band (no, I am not going to write about our ages) and already has a great curriculum. He graduated at the UniversitĂ  della Musica in Rome, after studying with bass giants like Massimo Morriconi, Luca Pirozzi, Gianfranco Gullotto and Dario Deidda. Since then he has performed with the Keil Philharmonic Orchestra, Berliner Sinfonie Orchester, Fabio Concato, Sergio Caputo, Pino Daniele, Coolio, Alberto Fortis, Rosso Antico… the list goes on.

This year on keyboards we have Giampiero Grani. Damn, this guy is good. And funny. And as charming as a single Italian man can get. Ladies, you have been warned. I first met Giampiero with the Sanremo Festival orchestra in 2004. He can read and play just about anything and it’s a pleasure to have him on board. He has played and arranged on dozens of big TV show, and worked with artists like Samuele Bersani, Riccardo Cocciante, Gino Paoli, Fabrizio Frizzi, Fiorello and Loredana Bertè.

Last, but not least, our guitarist Giovanni Di Caprio. Versatile, dependable, a virtuoso on any kind of guitar you could think of. And he’s left-handed. Some say that’s a sign of artistry and creativity, and in this case they must be right. I have known Giovanni since we toured together with Antonello Venditti in 2009. His distinctive sound has graced the music of Venditti, Fabio Frizzi and dozens of other artists on the Roman scene.

TIFFs, Fried Mars Bars, Cork Houses and Barking Squirrels

One thing my fellow band members often joke about while touring North America is the fact that I seem to know someone in practically every city we visit.

“Hey guys – Aidan needs ANOTHER pass for his guests at the concert tonight.”

Childhood friends, cousins, colleagues from my old university days, musical companions, friends of friends – you name it. Somehow I almost always find some kind of personal connection with even the most remote places I step into. The Web and Facebook have naturally played a big part in all of this. I never cease to be amazed about the way we can keep in touch, and reconnect with people around the world. A few years ago this would have been impossible.

Dallas, Panama, Buenos Aires, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Sao Paulo, Toronto – I always make it a point to hook up with people who somehow have some kind of connection with me. Aside from the interpersonal gratification, it allows me to live my new surroundings from a unique perspective. For this I am particularly grateful to my profession as a touring musician.

Today we are in Toronto – I immediately called my colleague and friend Maurizio Guarini, from my Goblin days. Maurizio is an amazingly talented musician and computer wizard, and has lived in Toronto for several years. We met up and he took us around the city. Suddenly we were cruising through the aisles of the Toronto International Film Festival, packed with stargazing people hoping to catch a glimpse of Julia Roberts or Brad Pitt. The atmosphere is electric. We guiltily shared a deep-fried Mars bar after a delicious meal at the Hogtown Pub. How weird is that?

Maurizio then drove us into a dark street somewhere near the College district and stopped in front of an absolutely absurd house. It is totally covered with corks and thousands of plastic creatures. The place is hard to describe and was really eerie at night. I guess you could say that, in his own way, the owner had turned the building into an art piece. A few blocks away we drove through the majestic university campus. For a few minutes it felt like we were on a Harry Potter set.

These unusual experiences are part of what helps a travelling musician make it through the rigours of touring and the homesickness. I’m pretty sure I would otherwise have never known what a barking squirrel is.

With Maurizio Guarini, Cinzia Cavalieri and Giovanni Di Caprio. After the deep-fried Mars bar.

With Maurizio Guarini, Cinzia Cavalieri and Giovanni Di Caprio.
After the deep-fried Mars bar.

The cork house

The cork house

Snake in the house

Snake in the house

Don't ask...

Don’t ask…