Rolling Stones Lucca

Finding the Rolling Stones in an Unexpected Place

What Can A Poor Boy Do?

Today, we’re going to start a new feature here on Rara’sFarm. Occasionally on Throwback Thursdays. we’ll have one of our friends share cool concert experiences from their past. If you have a special memory to share, drop us an email at

Rolling Stones, Lucca, Italy

The small, charming medieval town of Lucca, Italy, was to be our quiet break in the middle of a whirlwind Italian vacation. Normally overshadowed by nearby Florence’s museums, Pisa’s leaning tower and the Cinque Terra’s coastal cliff-hanging hamlets, most tourists don’t go to Lucca – perfect! It is a 500+ year old town of only 5,000 people featuring nothing more than charm, Puccini’s birthplace, and an ancient defensive wall that encircles the oldest part of town. Just like we saw on YouTube, we’d imagined a quiet day of riding bikes past a few old men playing chess, a handful of joggers and dog-walkers and maybe other fellow aspiring middle aged romantics. Nope.

It turns out that tiny Lucca hosts a big summer music festival. How big? It’s been played by David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Green Day, Stevie Wonder … you get the idea. And to celebrate the festival’s 20th anniversary in 2017, on the day we’d coincidentally made plans for our quiet visit, Lucca – remember, population 5,000 – welcomed 60,000 guests, plus four: Mick, Keith, Ron and Charlie. Yep, the Rolling Stones’ only stop in Italy on their 2017 No Filter tour was to be in Lucca on the night of our visit. They’d be a 15 minute walk from my toothbrush and pillow – how do you not buy tickets to that?

So shortly after dusk on a beautiful cool evening, a sliver of moon sets over our right shoulders, floodlights light up the medieval wall running the length of the large crowd down the left (with private skybox seats with waiter service atop it) and the stage lighting goes red. The infectious percussion vamp of “Sympathy for the Devil” kicks in and keeps going, teasing the crowd into spontaneously singing the syncopated “hoo, hoooo” before an empty stage. Mick appears, dances with moves like Jagger and sings that he’d like us to please allow him to introduce himself. The show begins, and what a show it was.

They played two hours of hits with a couple of tracks off their latest release of blues covers. The sound quality was superior and you could make out each riff, vocal and occasional imperfection (my wife and I are certain the band got crossed up coming out of a long instrumental jam when Mick went to bring them back in to another verse … wish I could remember the tune, but like veterans they recovered quickly).

What the years have taken away in energy the band more than made up for in tight playing, charisma (Mick speaks some Italian and had the crowd cracking up several times), knowing smiles and glances to each other, and occasionally featuring talent from the extended band (2 vocalists, 2 horns, 2 keyboards, and Darrel Jones on bass, who shredded a solo on “Miss You”). And try as I might to pile up gravel with my feet to add a few more inches of visibility to my 5’7″ (apparently short by Italian standards), I was grateful for the 4 large, very well utilized HD video screens.

We were told by locals that this was the biggest event in Lucca’s history. We saw countdown calendars to Rolling Stone Day, writing on shop windows, and countless signs and temporary fencing in anticipation of the crowd. Nice try on directing crowds, Lucca, but frankly after the concert the tiny streets were overwhelmed. For 30 minutes or so I was genuinely afraid that we’d be on CNN, victims of a stampede. For blocks, barely inching our way along and holding on to each other for dear life it seemed, we were elbowed, squeezed, pushed, shoved, and flesh to flesh, nose to armpit with thousands of other concertgoers aggressively trying to exit in 3 different directions – and that was before an ambulance forced its way through the middle of the crowd, banged on and yelled at by the feisty throng.

So Lucca turned out to be neither quiet nor uncrowded, but it was more memorable and magical than we’d imagined.

– Tim Foldy, New Smyrna Beach, FL –

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