Thursday, 27 May 2021

City live in Athens May 1981


I have just realized that this year I am celebrating 40 years after my first live gig. It was in fact Saturday the 23rd of May 1981 when an East German band called City played in Athens. Unlike other gigs of that period (like "Rock In Athens 85") I did not manage to find any photos or posts about it on the internet. But there are so many things I remember about that day so my post is 100% original and I've used the album covers as photos.
Now, to understand the situation at that time I must give you the background to this story. From 1967 to 1980 there were no gigs by international rock artists in Greece. The last one, on the 17th of April, 1967, was by The Rolling Stones and it was violently interrupted by the police. Four days later, on the 21st, a military junta was imposed. The next gig by an international artist to take place in Greece was in 1980 by The Police (the band fronted by Sting, not the Greek police which had stopped the Rolling Stones gig 13 years before!). After that, more international artists started coming to Greece for gigs. At that particular Police gig, one of the roadies had a tape with him featuring a strange song with a violin solo. He kept on playing that tape while the crowd was waiting for The Police to come on stage. That strange song was "Am Fenster" by City, an East German band. By word of mouth that song quickly became a huge hit all over Greece.
In 1981, I had already bought City's two albums that were available in Greece ("City I" and "City II"), so when I saw the ad for the gig in "POP+ROCK" magazine, I decided to ask my parents to let me go. I asked one of my classmates to come with me and our parents agreed to let us go on condition that my father would come with us. (I actually remember that my dad was afraid that there might be riots of a political nature because the band was from East Germany). I bought the tickets and the day before the concert I went with my dad to the football stadium where the gig would take place so that he would get to know the area. We actually managed to get inside and had a look around while the pitch was being watered.
It's amazing how many things I remember about that gig 40 years later. Before the gig started there was someone going around the stands shouting "Mandolato!". This was what he was selling which roughly translates as nougat, a sweet that was quite popular in Greece. I'm guessing that he was doing the same job every Sunday when football matches were played at this stadium the home of Apollon F.C.
Vlassis Bonatsos a Greek musician, was the support act. He had just released a new album called "Genika" ("Generally").

He played several songs from that album one of which was called "Vgale To Magio Sou" ("Take Off Your Bathing Suit"). The lyrics actually went "Take off your bathing suit and dive into your subconscious". This did not prove very popular with the audience who started booing and taking the piss. He managed to finish his set and as he was going backstage the crowd were chanting en masse "Take off your bathing suit, take off your bathing suit!"
After a short wait, with many more shouts of "Mantolato!", City came on stage. I remember that they played the opening track from the City I album "Es Ist Unheimlich Heiß", I remember "Bulgarien Rock" from the "City II" album (but I think they sung it in English and another song called "Love You" where the frontman was approaching every other member of the band telling them that, well, he loved them. We were of course waiting for "Am Fenster" but while waiting for that, what caught our attention was a song that went "I sing about rock'n'roll and you understand". This one got the audience singing along. The song was actually called "Something To Tell You" and was featured on the third City album that was released in Greece called "Dreamland" which mainly consisted of some of their older songs now sung in English. "Am Fenster" was, of course, saved for last. There was no encore and that was actually good, because if they had saved "Am Fenster" for the encore, we never would have heard it. Greek audiences, deprived of concerts for 13 years, did not even know what an encore was! So when the band went offstage they started leaving.
Two more things that I remember from back then. The following Monday at school, my friend was telling everyone about the guy selling "mantolato", and that on the actual night of the gig my dad had to use makeshift earplugs because he was not used to the loud volume of rock gigs. It was his first concert as well!
Finally, 30 years later, I saw "City" CD's being sold at the gift shop of the DDR museum in Berlin...