It’s such a cliche to say artists play by their own rules. “Come on!” I wanna say, picking up the hapless writer parroting such phrases by their coat collar (because, in this hypothetical world, I’m super swole) and shaking them. “Artists are by their nature not good at following rules! Originality, whether true or merely an extension of all the art they have ever consumed before, is what we prize most in creative endeavours. To play by anyone’s rules but your own is a subsumption of personal expression in favour of the corporate machine. Tell me something I don’t know!”
And yet…with a long, deep sigh, I’m here to inform you that Italian rock’n’roll upstarts Måneskin don’t care about the rules. That includes some of the fundamental rules of live shows, such as having a support band warm up the crowd.
I can count on one hand the number of one-artist shows I’ve been to. It’s a risky proposition. And yet, the young quartet from Rome seems to be embarking on a whole world tour as just the four of them (plus crew) with three albums under their belts, playing illustrious venues like London’s O2 Arena, New York’s Madison Square Garden, and Vancouver’s…Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Arena, in a downpour, on a Sunday night.
Somehow, despite the doors being at 8:30pm, the show started at 8:45pm—when revellers were still filing in, complaining about the rain, buying merch, or grabbing snacks (the one perk of the otherwise cursed tradition of using hockey rinks as concert venues). That meant the show kicked off with the floor half-full, with patrons still trickling into their seats, as a gauzy red curtain around the stage magnified the band’s peacocking silhouettes. The curtain fell as the band launched into “Don’t Wanna Sleep”, a non-single track off this year’s Rush!, with frontman Damiano David singing into a microphone suspended from the ceiling like a wrestling match.
It was an electric visual, but somewhat dampened by the fact there was no time for the crowd to really appreciate the tension. You’d think a band known for being Gen Z sex symbols would know more about foreplay.
David was wearing low-slung khaki bell-bottoms, platform heels, and a too-small red tee reading “DSQUARED 2 | VIP | VERY IMPORTANT PENIS”—a far cry from the leather, lace, or suits that mark most of the band’s aesthetic, or even the other member’s more classically glam rock outfits of sequined pants and transluscent shirts. But, sure, why not! It’s not like he kept the shirt on for long anyway.
Onstage, Måneskin were dynamic—eager to interact with each other, the audience, and a whole variety of props. “Gasoline” saw a microphone stand that shot up a plume of flame brought to the front of stage; another track saw David hoist an overhead stage light over his head to flip between bassist Victoria De Angelis and guitarist Thomas Raggi as they shredded during one of the show’s many extended instrumental breaks; yet another bit had the frontman take a camera into the crowd, transmitting blurry images of eager fans to the big screens.
Måneskin’s live show is heavier than their recorded output, with the vocals more impressive and the drums and bass more pronounced. “Zitti e Buoni”, the winning song of the 2021 Eurovision appearance that catapulted the band to world-wide fame, squeezed two different solos into the same track.
Despite breaking out in Italy thanks to coming second on the country’s The X Factor, and being best-known worldwide for their cover of the Four Seasons’ “Beggin’”, and now being on a huge worldwide tour with $60 crop tops, Måneskin managed to avoid feeling manufactured. They started out as friends busking in Rome, and that energy remained at their show: as David fooled around doing martial arts on stage, air-guitaring, and flirtatiously teasing Raggi in that way only a specific subset of straight dudes interact with their friends.
A small platoon of photographers, cinametographers, and security staked along the front of the stage, following the three standing musicians while drummer Ethan Torchio was left largely forgotten at the back. Every one of De Angelis, Raggi, and David’s antics was broadcast onto the two large screens either side of the stage. Here was De Angelis, standing on the barrier. Here was Raggi, crowdsurfing as he shreds. There was David: donning a fan’s cowboy hat; motioning for the crowd to part; climbing up the stairs to hang out in the stands for half of “Bla Bla Bla”.
Halfway through the set, when the band left, there was some confusion—until the conspicuously large sound booth became the centre of attention, and David and Raggi ascended to the second stage for acoustic versions of “Timezone” and Erma Franklin’s soul masterpiece “Piece of My Heart”. The crowd split was hilarious to watch, as stragglers flocked to the back of the arena to get a closer look at the duo. A huge gulf opened between the front-liners and the back group, with only a few smart souls making the most of the space in between to dance and twirl.
Closer “Kool Kids” saw a handful of lucky fans brought onto the stage to cause chaos, who were then duly shepherded off before the encore came around. And then, we got to a rule that I didn’t even realize was a rule: play a new song in your encore.
The S&M-tinged “I Wanna Be Your Slave” elicited a huge response when the band busted it out earlier in the show. So, after ripping through “The Loneliest”, they played it again. Kind of baffling, but kind of brilliant.
After all, the only real rule in music is do what you do best—and Måneskin do whatever they want.