An eye-witness report on Vangelis' concert in Rome, 1989
On the evening of July 17, 1989 Vangelis performed a charity concert for research against cancer in Rome. It was supported by the President of Italian Republic. The Concert was at the Roman thermal baths of Caracalla. There were approximately 3000 people at the performance. The concert was articulated in two parts.
During the concert Vangelis played many pieces ("Pulstar", "Alpha", "To The Unknown Man", "L'Enfant", pieces from "China", "Direct", etc.), many improvisations and new versions of well-known compositions. All music was performed continuously. Usually the pieces were quiet, abstract or melodic.
After a pause, Vangelis played again. At the end of second part of the concert, he played a long version of "Chariots of Fire" (with many improvisations) and a long version of "Hymne" (with bombastic final).
In homage to Italian public, Vangelis played, final piece, the traditional Italian song "O sole mio". The piece started with an assolo of mandolino (on keyboard, of course) and finished with "pure Vangelis" bombastic full orchestra and percussion.
Vangelis played every keyboard alone, without anybody help. Even the mixer was regulated, on the moment, by Vangelis. The sound was surprisingly full. Vangelis used the sequencer but with no automatic bases. He also used, while he was playing, a wide spectrum of his typical percussion.Because he was alone, he used many pedals (see photo 1) connected with digital samples of his percussion (and harp glissandos, exotic sounds, gong...). In this way Vangelis played music and percussion like a full classical orchestra. Mainly the music wasn't catchy or rhythmic. Instead it was more abstract, complex, even pieces well known were almost unrecognizable. It was, for me, a clear test of Vangelis' intellectual honesty. With simpler music he could have attracted the public easier.
The stage was in the middle of the ruins of Roman thermal baths of Caracalla (photo 2). Vangelis was on the stage with only his electronic equipment (unfortunately covered with metallic panels). Lights were not too bright (neither psychedelic effects or laser or projections). It seemed he was in his house sitting room!
The only special effects were:
The public was enthusiastic, but not all of them. Some boys were disappointed (maybe they intended to participate to a pop concert). Ironically, somebody in the public didn't appreciate the piece "O sole mio".
Vangelis was very serious and concentrated during the concert (if you attended a J. M. Jarre concert you can perceive the difference). Only during the performance of "Chariots of Fire" he stood up and greeted the public's ovation.
Photos and flashes were forbidden. After the concert I tried successfully to go on the stage and I took some photos of Vangelis' electronic equipment (photo 1). Then I found Vangelis in the backstage with some people and young ladies. Near him, a great Caravan and a Mercedes. I called him "Evangelos" and embraced him, touching his beard and praising his music. Vangelis smiled and was very gentle. He told ladies that I was an admirer of his music.
I asked his personal photographer to take a photo with my camera. The man told me that Vangelis hates flashes (perhaps for his eyes problems) and the photographer himself took photos with a 800 ASA film. In any case Vangelis posed for this photo (see photo 3) and signed me a CD.