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Home arrow Reviews arrow Concerts arrow David Gilmour - Venice, August 2006
David Gilmour - Venice, August 2006 Print E-mail
Written by Mike Ford   
Saturday, 18 June 2011

David Gilmour - Venice 2006 ticketFive years ago, David Gilmour was in the midst of his On An Island tour, and BD reader Mike Ford was one of those who decided to travel over to Venice, in Italy, for the concerts that were being held amidst the historical setting of St Mark's Square. As many of you will recall, things didn't go to plan, as you'll see from Mike's memories and pictures...

It was one of those gigs that you could only dream about. Seeing David Gilmour, playing live, in St. Mark's Square, Venice. The city for lovers. Ok, it wasn't Pink Floyd, but, as the publicity told us, it was the voice and guitar of Pink Floyd. Good enough. And it was at the Piazza San Marco, one of the best places to see a live band on this small planet. Apart from the Point in Cardiff. And, although the first set was to promote his latest album, the second set was wall to wall Floyd, except, due to contractual reasons and a bit of a falling out with Mr. Waters, not as much of The Wall as many would want to hear. We'd already seen him on this tour, in Amsterdam, which had been booked on the premise that, why see him in London and get ripped off for food and accommodation when we could see him in 'Dam and have a perfectly legal, and good smoke, at the same time. Without getting ripped off.

Let me introduce myself and my travelling companion. Mike, from Chelsea, London, and Delyth, from Rhiwfawr, in the South Wales Valleys. Both lifelong Floyd fans, although Mike, being a bit older, has been the only one of us to have seen the original line up perform, when stewarding for Wasps rugby club at Wembley Arena in 1979.

First step, get tickets. A visit to Brain Damage, the PF fans website, provided a link to the ticket agency dealing with this particular gig. After half an hour or so trying to decipher what was on the page in front of me, I noticed the cunningly concealed British flag in the corner. One press, and voila, we're off. Two tickets winging their way towards us via the vastly inflated exchange rate charged for having the temerity to offer payment in pounds instead of Euros.

Next, find out who flies there. Surprisingly enough, not many airlines fly there cheaply, and resisting the urge to book a flight with KLM that included a 2 day stopover in Amsterdam either side of the gig, we finally settled on our inaugural flight with Sleasyjet, flying from Bristol. Flight times were a bit iffy, the only one we could get was going to land at six thirty, which by the time we had boarded the vaporetto for the leisurely cruise over to the island would get us into St. Marks Square at eight on the Friday evening, as the first of the two concerts was about to start. Never mind though, we'd found a hotel literally one minute off the square, so we were relishing the thought of sitting in our room with a joint or two listening to Mr. Gilmour before we went out for the evening. Heaven. Little did we know.

When people talk of Easyjet, no one seems to mention that to board the aircraft, one needs to be in tip top physical condition and be in possession of a pair of running shoes, if you require, a. a window seat, and b. two seats together. This thought only crossed our minds as we were being jostled at the boarding gate by a party of elderly women, who had obviously been through this Grand National start procedure before. Barely had the thought left my mind then the boarding agents flung open the doors, standing well back in the process, and we were off! And it's Mike and Del in the lead, closely followed by little old lady and her husband with the bloke in the wheelchair bringing up the rear. As they approach the steps, it's, oh, one's fallen, little old lady's husband has fallen at the bottom of the steps, he'll take no more part in this race. It's neck and neck, up the stairs, heading for the door and yes, by a neck, it's Del, followed by Mike, with little old lady in third, husband retired and the bloke in the wheelchair using the powered lift access. Don't know what the stewards will make of that manoeuvre!

Bastards! In our haste the younger contestants had used the back door and taken all the good legroom seats. Still, we did manage to get two together and a window seat, although many weren't that lucky and spent most of the flight shouting in the direction of their significant other, seated at the other end of the plane. Nice one, Stelios. Get your boarding arrangements together and a lot more people might fly with you – twice.

When we'd been searching the internet for flights and hotels, we came across the fact that, as Venice was an island in a lagoon, the transfer from the airport may involve getting on a boat. We found that, for a price, you could get there pdq on a speedboat, or arrive at a more leisurely pace on a water taxi, or vaporetto. Visions of a cliché ridden ride with a local Venetian, taking us the long way round whilst asking us over his shoulder how long we were in town, and telling us the best places to go, in between swearing at other taxi drivers and assorted boats getting in his way, were dispelled as we left the airport and found ourselves on the quayside, looking at an assortment of converted barges with rows of wooden bench seats. At least we didn't have the grand prix start to get our seats, as we were the only ones there and were told by the captain that the boat didn't go for twenty minutes. We had a coffee from the local café, sat down and had a joint, whilst watching rich Americans having tons of luggage loaded onto speedboats, which then roared off in the direction that we were soon to chug in. As we watched the sun set over the lagoon, we reminisced about our previous trip to Amsterdam to see Mr. Gilmour perform at the Heineken Music Hall, at that time, after the gig, we had a two hour wait for a taxi in the freezing cold night, buoyed only by the ready rolled joints of Jamaican Haze purchased from a coffee shop earlier that day. The coffee shops in Venice only sold coffee, unfortunately, so we'd bought along some squidgy for this trip, a nice alternative to weed that wouldn't have the dogs howling at the airport.

A few more people strolled up, and we all took our seats as the captain sounded his fog horn, even though the sky was clear, and we pulled away from the quayside. We did indeed take the long way round, as this was more of a local bus than a taxi, seeming to call at every stop along the way, pulling into and out of every inlet along the way, eventually reaching the drop off point for St. Marks Square. We retrieved our suitcases, thanked the captain and proceeded to trundle our way along the waterfront to eventually turn left and into the square itself.

Mike Ford - Venice, 2006

Everything was surprisingly quiet, although there were thousands of people milling about, and as we turned the corner past the tower, our hearts sank. The concert seating was deserted, the stage was bare. For whatever reason, the concert had been cancelled.

As we wandered, shell-shocked, around the square, we came across the following note in English, ti-wrapped to a crash barrier. Technical problems? We made our way off the square, and literally through an archway and over one canal bridge, we were looking at our hotel. It was within a stones throw of the concert stage, and what had been previously thought to be a blessing was now a damning, as every time we stepped out of the hotel we would have to walk past the deserted stage. As we checked in, we asked the lady at the desk whether she knew the reason for the cancellation. Something to do with the scaffolding on the stage was the reply, although she didn't know if it was going to be fixed in time for the next night's concert. There was still hope.

Mike Ford - Venice, 2006

The hotel reception was truly opulent, full of marble flooring and columns, and original artwork on the walls. As we followed the porter into the lift, we thought at least we're in a decent hotel, not one of those pokey little numbers with rooms not big enough to swing a cat. How wrong could we be? Exiting the lift, we entered a maze of corridors with sickly looking carpets, and long undecorated walls, to be shown to our pre booked smoking room on the second floor. We were ushered into what can only be described as a broom cupboard, with a view, ironically, of the scaffolding in the courtyard of the hotel next door.

"Arglwydd mawr" murmered Del, as the porter left five euros richer and a scowl on his face, bemoaning tight British tourists. The English translation is Lord big, or good god, but I prefer "for f**ks sake". This was heard many times in the next few days, along with, "ma gen ti wyneb all cracio concrete" – a face that would crack concrete! Poor Del was stuck in the city for lovers with Mr. Grumpy. And to this day he has not been forgiven. Time had marched on, all the better restaurants were shut, but we found a Chinese restaurant around the corner for a couple of beers and some finger food, populated by a few similarly stunned Brits in Pink Floyd t-shirts and, bizarrely, two lesbians who couldn't care if the world came to an end, so far were their tongues down each others throats.

The next day we woke, had coffee in the restaurant accompanied by croissants and ham, and took off around town for a bit of a wander. Past the deserted concert stage. Past the queue for the Basilica, it was hot and Del was in a summer dress, they had big signs up saying that no one could enter without their shoulders covered. Past the ethnic bag sellers on the waterfront, hassling tourists. It seemed that if you even touched one of their fake Gucci handbags, you had as good as bought it. We watched as one woman was chased 100 yards down the street by a guy who had managed to get her to hold one of his bags.

Stopping off in a pizzeria, we ordered a couple of beers and some pizzas, and sat down to watch the world go by. I phoned my mate, Ed, in Cardiff, to see if he had heard anything about the cancelled concert. "Bad news, butt, they've both been cancelled. Seems like part of the scaffolding gave way during the sound check last night. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but enjoy your trip". Del could tell by my face what had been said. We finished our delicious pizzas and carried on walking, down around the waterfront and back towards the square. We stopped at the bridge that crosses over to the university to watch some of the street entertainers. One of them was a guy who had a massive trestle table set up, full of various sizes of wine glasses, filled with water, playing classical compositions. It was fascinating to watch. We carried on meandering until we came to the Rialto bridge. We found a spot where we could do some more people watching and sat down with an ice cream.

"Why can't they get any scaffolders to work on Saturday, then?" asked Del. "I dunno, they probably want too much dosh to work the weekend". Conversation was in short supply at the moment. "Well it can’t get any worse, can it?" What I didn't realise is that as I'd been getting cash out of my pocket for the ice creams, I'd dropped my house keys into the canal. I knew I had them before we approached the bridge, they were not there when we got back to the hotel. We walked back to the hotel, taking some pictures along the way of the Venetian scaffolding display team that someone had managed to get working on a Saturday, but who also seemed to be taking scaffolding down, and stopping to talk to the promoters agents who were handing out free gig posters and apologies to anyone that wanted them. We were told that the gigs were definitely going to be rescheduled, but at the moment they didn't know when. If we wanted a refund we'd have to do it when we got home, through the agents we'd booked them with. Sitting down on the steps behind the stage, we watched as Chinese and Korean tourists inexplicably covered themselves in breadcrumbs and were immediately besieged by almost every pigeon in the square. Apart from the dead ones lying about the place. Strange how some get their kicks.

Mike Ford - Venice, 2006

We retired to the sanctity of our exorbitantly overpriced broom cupboard to ready ourselves for an evening out. As Del was drying her hair, the fire alarms went off. Great. We read the instructions on the back of the door, and almost immediately joined the other guests on the street outside. The lady from the front desk ushered us in after informing us that it was a false alarm. I noticed our room number displayed on the fire alarm panel as we went back in. Oops. Just after we re-entered our room, there was a knock on the door. "Have you been smoking in your room?" asked the lady from reception. "Yes, it's a smoking room", I answered. "Well don't smoke under the detector". She turned on her heels with a tut, and walked off down the corridor. The detector was actually a heat detector, and because the room was so pokey, Del's hairdryer had activated it! For the first time, we had a good laugh. The evening was spent at a beautiful restaurant around the corner. After the meal, we finished the rest of our wine off with a cigarette. We noticed people looking at us. "Is someone smoking a spliff, cos there's a strong smell around here", said Del, quietly. "Oh fuck, it's me!" I'd rolled some one skinners and put them in with the ordinary ones in my tin. "Time to go, I think". We left, feeling the eyes of the waiters drilling into us as we walked down the street.

We left early the next day, taking pictures of the larger American water taxis, Venice's latest addition to increasing its tourist revenue. Our flight wasn't until the afternoon but we didn't want to tempt providence anymore, and spent a good few hours at the airport, reading, smoking and drinking coffee. The flight home was reasonable, we didn't even join in the scrum to get on the plane, Del had her house keys so we got in ok, although the patio door key was on my key ring, so I spent the next day drilling out the old lock and putting in a new one.

In the evening we sat down and discussed options. We still had the tickets, the gigs had now been rescheduled for the following weekend, and if we could get a 2 day flight, in and out, we'd only have to pay for a night's accommodation. After spending a good few hours on the net looking for flights, which at such short notice were pretty highly priced, we found one with KLM, via Amsterdam! The flight was duly booked, and we went to bed happy. We awoke early to the news that all airports had placed a ban on carrying liquids and there were huge delays at everywhere. Did we want to be on a plane that might be blown up? We decided to cancel, and luckily managed, with a phone call to KLM in Amsterdam, to get a refund, as the payment had not actually reached their office yet. Half an hour later, and we would have been spectacularly out of pocket.

The week after, I was looking for clips of the concert on youtube, and I found one taken from around about where we would have been sitting. It was 'Shine on you crazy diamond', but with a subtle difference. It turns out that Mr. Gilmour had been wandering around Venice and had come across a guy playing music on wine glasses, and decided that he would ask him to play the introduction to this song on stage with him!

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