A Rome government official has downplayed media reports of disruption and chaos at a concert by U.S. rapper Travis Scott at the city’s ancient Circus Maximus on Monday, saying many have wildly exaggerated and distorted what happened at the event.
The 32-year-old hip-hop star kicked off his Utopia tour at the Italian capital’s monumental site — once the Roman Empire’s chariot racecourse — to a crowd of around 60,000 eager fans.
According to some media reports, the concert spiraled out of control when a group released pepper spray into the crowd. CNN and others reported some 60 people required medical attention.
Then there was talk of an “earthquake” caused by thousands of fans jumping in unison after Scott introduced a surprise guest — Kayne West — and the audience went wild.
But speaking to THR Roma, Alessandro Onorato, an alderman for the Rome municipal government in charge of major events, sport, tourism and fashion, was keen to deflate the controversies.
First the pepper spray incident.
“The story is not as it was reported,” said Onorato. “It was three boys, I would say three criminals, who attempted to attack the cashier of the bar in the center of the Circus Maximus, using pepper spray as a weapon. The theft was averted by security, but the three fled. And the cloud irritated the people nearby.”
Some people required attention for minor eye and throat irritation but there were no severe injuries reported.
“The police have opened an investigation [into the attempted robbery] but as far as the concert and its management are concerned, there were no other problems or incidents,” he said. “Zero medical incidents.”
A 14-year-old was injured who trespassed in an attempt to view the concert from a hill nearby and fell from a fall 13 feet to the ground. But, the authorities stress, the accident occurred far from the venue.
And the “earthquake”? Well it just takes a quick check on the website of the Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology to see there hasn’t been a single earthquake in Rome over the period in question.
The director of the Colosseum, Alfonsina Russo, has in the past warned that vibrations caused by rambunctious fans could damage the ancient city. “No more rock concerts at the Circus Maximus,” he has demanded, arguing the site should only be used for opera and ballet.
Onorato, calling such objections “snobbish and crazy,” says the Circus Maximus concerts bring in money needed to preserve Rome’s historic sites. He said he thought the objections had more to do with the music, and the average age of the audience, than with any real threats to safety or security.
“The only other major concert to receive strong criticism was that of [Italian rock band] Måneskin,” he notes. “We welcome safety discussions, but there’s the risk that we’re discriminating against an entire generation…personally I’m not a big fan of Travis Scott’s music, [but] it’s not up to us to decide which music is good and which is not. Not even during fascism did we see that.”
In November of 2021, 10 people died and hundreds of others were injured at Scott’s Astroworld concert in Houston. A Texas grand jury declined to indict the rapper along with five other individuals over the concert deaths.
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to representatives for Travis Scott but did not immediately receive a response.
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