Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Road to Muse in Rome

You know that awkward moment when you travel around Europe spontaneously, and don't spend enough time creeping tour dates, meaning that you end up in the same city as one of your favourite bands, but without a ticket to their sold out show? What, that's just me? Oh. 

Way back in 2008, I'd barely even heard of Muse, so I gave absolutely no thought to the fact that they were in SA... they were filed away with The Killers, in that section of my mind reserved for bands that sounded scary. And there they stayed for approximately... well, the month or two that came between their performance at Coke Fest, and they first time I listened to 'Starlight' properly. I do apologise, Matt Bellamy, your band is awesome. 

And so I spent the next 5 years thinking that it would be pretty cool to see Muse if we happened to be on the same continent... I mean, I'd be willing to do a little traveling for them, but nothing that involved flying across an ocean. Unless, of course, that 'ocean' was just the English Chanel, and Muse just happened to be performing in France when I was in the UK to see The Killers! Unfortunately this plan quickly unravelled when I found out that their Paris and Nice shows were both sold out. Hence I ended up arriving in France the day after their Paris show, and 3 days before the Nice show. Aw, sadness, but I'd get over it.

Roll on the 4th of June, when I sat in a hotel room in Florence, Italy, plotting my route to Rome. I frowned to myself as I attempted to dredge up some vague memory ... Muse... tour... maybe I read that they were playing in Rome... on the 6th... hold on a second ... THAT'S THE DAY I GET TO ROME! The fact that the show was sold out did nothing to diminish my excitement this time: I'd discovered a handy little website called Seatwave, that claimed to still have tickets. 

Now, I'm very wary when buying tickets from anyone but the official retailer. I'm even warier when I have to pay online using my credit card as there's no outlet, and even more so when I find out that I won't be told where to collect my tickets until I have paid for them. I hesitate and eventually decide to make a call on the day of the 5th, I'll give myself some time to think it over, because this could go very, very wrong. Seriously, how would I know if it's some kind of scam, run by a corrupt computer nerd who's now using my credit card details to book himself a quick getaway flight to a remote part of Colombia? 

So what do I find myself doing on the 6th of June at around 12pm? Using the hotel's computer to purchase two tickets for Muse at Stadio Olimpico, Roma, Italia. My feelings of dread only increase once the booking is final, and the address for collection is given as a mail box. Huh? It's with some trepidation that we make our way to the general region around 3.30pm (collection time is 5pm sharp), and by the time we've located the correct street and walked up and down it twice without finding mailbox 1, you could say I've hit, well, Panic Station. Popping into a hairdresser's near the end of the road proves to be my saving grace: at my request for directions to number 1, the receptionist smiles and asks "Tickets?" then points me down a flight of stairs next door. Aha! So it does exist. 

In that case, we may as well walk around a bit and kill time before we collect the tickets. The weather's looking a bit ominous, but it's nothing to worry about, surely just a few clouds that'll blow over long before the show starts. Other than that, it's been another beautifully warm day in Italy, and I'm in jeans and a t-shirt, with a thin jacket just in case the temperature drops during the show. 

We set off across the road to the Piazza del Popolo, and are happily snapping some pictures in front of a fountain when the first drop of rain hits the top of my head. I don't even bat an eyelid. Then I feel the second one. And the third. That's when I notice the tourists running. Not even just speedwalking to the nearest bit of shelter, I mean flat-out, omg-there's-a-monster-chasing-me running. "Haha, why are these fools running, have they never seen a drop of rain before?" But the words have scarcely left my lips when the heavens open. I'm drenched before I can move a muscle. As we flee the square in search of shelter, I'm forcibly reminded of that scene in 'The Day After Tomorrow', when the tidal wave is destroying NYC, and they only safe place is the library. No lies. We manage to get under the eaves of a building, but it's not much help. This is literally end of the world type weather, the piazza is already flooded, the gale force wind is blowing the icy-cold rain onto us, and we're forced to just give up and wait it out. My shoes are disintegrating, and my jeans and top are soaked through. 20 minutes later, we're granted a brief reprieve, and manage to make it back across the piazza before the rain comes back with a vengence, and we're forced to take cover under an archway. By the time round two eases up, it's almost 5pm, there's no time to go home and change, the ticket collection office is about to open, and I look like I've just had a bath in the Atlantic. Great.

Ticket collection goes off smoothly (minus the two small puddles left behind from the residual rainwater evacuating our hair and clothes onto the floor of the ticket office), and before we know it, we're stadium-bound, with real, live tickets for MUSE! Well, at least I hope they're the real deal. I'll only get excited once I'm in my seat, there's still too much that could go wrong.

The Internet claims that the best way to get to the Stadium is to hit the Metro to Ottoviano, and then take the bus number 32 to the stadium, but being the seasoned concert pro's that we are, we're pretty sure that it'll be quicker and easier to walk from the station. Having ascertained that we're going in the right direction, we set off for the stadium, a couple of hundred others also giving up on the bus and following suite. Twenty minutes later we're in the grounds, we've scanned through the turnstiles (massive sigh of relief), and we're in line for merch. While my thin top has dried a bit by now, my jeans are still soaked, but at least my new Muse t-shirt is warm and dry. I should also mention here that there's NO SECURITY at this stadium whatsoever. No guards, no handbag checks, no sniffer dogs, no metal detectors, nothing, nada, zip, zero. Maybe that's why it's so easy for the guys behind me to get their weed in. Ew. 

Seats located (halfway through the second opening act, thanks to ushers who have no idea how the stadium layout works), we're supposed to be in the 'limited visibility' area, but I can see just fine! I'm not at all surprised to see that the set up for the night includes giant, light-up neurons and something that looks a lot like a gigantic blow-up lightbulb. It's Muse, after all, and they're known for ridiculous live performances. The stage itself is set up much like Coldplay's, T-shaped with a B-stage at the end, where Matt will, no doubt, perform the slower songs on piano.

Some time later, a disembodied voice says a few words in Italian, and then one that I can understand: "DVD". We're being filmed!

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