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Goran Bregovic and the Wedding & Funerals Band - Live @ the Arena Gaslini, Pescara, Italy, 8th August 2002

by Anna Battista

It's really hot, but also incredibly wet here at the Arena Gaslini and people are quietly drinking and talking, as if they were gathered here to have a chat with their friends rather than to enjoy a good gig. But suddenly something happens: a trombone can be heard at the centre of the arena, right near the mixer area. Everybody turns and, in that very same moment, the sound of a trumpet joins in, intermingling with the trombone. Soon we detect two, then three, men wearing traditional costumes, making their way through the crowd as if they were following a coffin to the last journey on this earth. Slowly, another musician arrives from the dressing rooms area near the stage and the dirge they are all playing twists and turns and takes the sonority of a mad joyous track. Musicians start filling the stage, one, two, three, till they get to eleven and finally also Goran Bregovic arrives in his immaculate white suit. People cheer and clap to welcome them all, but after two seconds there isn't anybody around clapping anymore, there is just a mass of people jumping on the notes of a chaotic gypsy revolution.

Goran starts the set with the brilliant "Polizia Molto Arrabbiata", a song about the vicissitudes between Yugoslavian immigrants illegally crossing the Adriatic Sea and Italian policemen waiting for them on the coasts of Italy. Though the venue is simply crap and doesn't really offer enough space for Bregovic, his Wedding & Funerals Band and additional Bulgarian choir, by the time he has launched into the tracks taken from Emir Kusturica's movies such as The Time of the Gypsies, or in new songs such as the lusciously funny "Sex", people seem to have forgotten their surroundings, actually there's a mazurka going on in the back of the arena, a guy is stage diving in the front and the rest of the crowd is trying to imitate traditional Yugoslavian dances, without great success, but with great comical effect.

While Ognjen Radivojevic, the director of the Weddings & Funerals Band, sings and makes himself busy with the percussion, Goran Bregovic plays the guitar and frantically taps on the keyboard of his laptop, the whole while constantly gyrating the index finger of his right hand, drawing an invisible spiral of sounds in the air. Watching Goran and the rest of the band and listening to their music, is a bit like being on a journey, riding on a ghost train through different melodies: a scherzo for gypsy orchestra follows a quiet lullaby and then another mental ballad is delivered, enriched by a triumph of trumpets, trombones, tubas and sax. Right when the last song is coming to the end, a plane is flying up above the sky, but it's not one of the Nato planes that accidentally dropped bombs in the Adriatic sea years ago while on its way to Yugoslavia. The only bombs that are being dropped tonight are music bombs and though, unfortunately, there's no encore for us, and not even no highlight such as "Kalasnjikov", and people are left in a frustrating no-orgasm post-coitus moment, at least this, for tonight, has been a no-war zone, a place devoid of the tensions between a stupid government and desperate immigrants. And this has happened thanks to music, thanks to Goran Bregovic's music.

Issue 11, October 2002 | next article

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Pics by Anna Battista.