June 30, 2005

Zucchero sweetens flagging Rome Live 8 concert

By Robin Pomeroy

ROME (Reuters) - Many of Italy's biggest pop stars haveshaken off their initial skepticism about Live 8 and agreed toperform on the Rome stage of the international anti-povertyrock extravaganza on Saturday.

Bob Geldof, who publicly chided Italian stars for theirreluctance to appear, has even persuaded Zucchero, one of thefew Italians to have a Top 10 hit in Britain, to perform inRome as well as Paris where he was first scheduled to play.

By playing at Rome's Circus Maximus and then flying to theParis gig at Versailles, Zucchero will be doing a mini-versionof Phil Collins' feat when he flew Concorde to play both theLondon and Philadelphia shows of the original Live Aid in 1985.

"The distance is shorter, but it's more or less the sameconcept," Zucchero told Reuters in an interview.

Zucchero's no-frills jet-setting is not a publicity stunt,rather an attempt by Geldof to beef up the bill in Rome wheremany local stars had been reluctant to play, fearing beingoutshone by the higher-profile events elsewhere.

"At the start I asked to play Paris because I was alreadythere working on my new album. Geldof called me last Friday andsaid: 'Rome has a few problems, I need you in Rome'."

While the Live 8 concert in London is receiving massivemedia attention, the Italy gig has barely been mentioned on TVand many Romans have no idea why the big stage and lightingrigs are being erected in the ancient chariot racing track.


Britain's 1980s popsters Duran Duran and U.S. country starFaith Hill will represent the English-speaking world, but mostof the acts are home-grown.

Whereas many British and American superstars jumped at thechance to appear in what Geldof touted as an epoch-definingmoment for pop, Italian stars have been harder to convince.

Vasco Rossi, who like Zucchero has a gravelly rock voiceand massive box-office appeal in Italy, pulled out and has sofar ignored Geldof's pleas to return. Zucchero put the generalreluctance down to the parochialism of Italian rock stars.

"I think there's a problem of insecurity. Before taking adecision, Italian artists wait to see what the others aredoing," he said. Many local heroes have now confirmed,including Jovanotti, Laura Pausini and Claudio Baglioni.

Zucchero -- "Sugar" in Italian, his real name is AdelmoFornaciari -- hit the British charts in 1991 with a partlytranslated version of his song "Senza una Donna," duetting withPaul Young.

He has also performed and recorded with Eric Clapton,Sting, Miles Davis and John Lee Hooker and last year filledLondon's Albert Hall duetting with a roster of internationalstars.

He said British and American musicians are readier to worktogether than Italians. "Here in Italy, we never talk to otherartists. There's always a sort of provincialism, a sort ofclosedness. They're a bit like our politicians, they can nevermake a decision."

And it is the politicians in Italy who are partly to blamefor Live 8's low profile, he added.

"I haven't seen much of a reaction (from the Italiangovernment), while (British Prime Minister Tony) Blair willmeet journalists and the stars, here in Italy (Prime MinisterSilvio) Berlusconi has not said anything about this yet."

Berlusconi is one of the eight leaders the event is aimedat, as Geldof hopes the publicity will persuade the G8 club ofrich nations to take action to help the poor at its meeting inScotland on July 6-8.

Zucchero said he did not think Berlusconi would turn up forthe concert on Saturday. "I don't think he'll be there. Itmight be because the crowd would not be very happy to see him."