The old Roman Amphitheatre on Fourvière hill is a monument to the performers who entertained the cream of Roman society two thousand years ago before being thrown back down the hill after an evenings work to scrape whatever meagre living they could. So what better way to celebrate these actors, singers and poets of Antiquity than by rehashing the idea two millennia later. Albeit with more modern offerings like rock, the avant garde and Madness.
An annual two month-long extravaganza to say thank you to the Romans for building such an impressive arena purely for artistic purposes rather than the mindless slaughter of slaves. With of course a few 21st century adaptations. Like a full sized stage for the performers to prance about on. Totally obliterating the bare rock where once Romans acted out the plays of Andronicus and Seneca under open skies with no more illumination than a bag of candles.
These days there’s a 500 Megawatt lighting system boring through the back of everybody’s head, so powerful you can see it from the top of Mont Blanc. A village of hospitality tents, bars and food stalls to rival that of Glastonbury. Plus a fence to match. Defending the site against the unwashed with admittance for the middle class only. All marshalled by tough looking African and Arabic security guards who think Crosby, Stills and Nash is a breakfast cereal.
Because this is Lyon and the Nuits de Fourvière is the epitome of middle class life here: jazz, light rock, classical theatre, Gallic folk. Red wine at intervals. And it’s not cheap. Mass entertainment isn’t. Unless the ‘football match’ I see every evening on the five-a-side pitch near my flat in which Arabic and African kids kick the shit out of each, can be classed as mass entertainment. Better still when the soft faced white kids turn up in their freshly laundered Bayern Munich and Barcelona replica kits just waiting for a damn good kicking. Talk about being thrown to the lions.
So a night with Nick Cave in Lyon will set you back at least 50 Euros. But that’s the price you pay for serious rock. Or not. Because on 27th July, N. Cave will play Fourvière. And I will be there. For free. Because what he doesn’t know is that there’s a secret way into the arena without being seen, shot, arrested or sliced in half Gladiator style by angry Senegalese security guards. I know this because one of my students told me. And it’s top secret. So top secret in fact that I can’t talk about it any longer otherwise my computer will explode. Except to say that I’ll see you then Monsieur Cave in Fourviere. I’ll be the one at the front wearing the hat reading ‘I got in for free. How about you?’