By Elisabetta Povoledo
Rome: When Travis Scott asked Rome to make some noise at the Circus Maximus on Monday, Rome cheerfully complied.
The 60,000-odd spectators jumped so vigorously that some locals panicked, thinking that an earthquake was underway.
Archaeologists were alarmed by the vibrations and questioned the wisdom of holding musical events at an ancient site, where chariot races were held more than 2,000 years ago and to which Julius Caesar later added his own decorating touch.
The concert coincided with the release of Scott’s chart-topping new album, Utopia. He was joined by Ye, the rap star formerly known as Kanye West.
The show in Rome marked Ye’s first concert appearance after a series of antisemitic remarks on social media and in interviews last year led to his expulsion from social media for a time and the loss of fashion design partnerships. When he came onstage, the crowd roared and jumped some more.
Romans, including those living some distance from the site, took to social media to lament shaking windows, beds and chandeliers.
In more recent years, the Circus Maximus has played host to major open-air rock concerts, including shows by the Rolling Stones, Lady Gaga and, this summer, Bruce Springsteen, Guns N’ Roses and Imagine Dragons.
The circus has also hosted the summer season of Rome’s opera.
Giovanni Diaferia, a seismologist at the Italian Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, calculated: “60k people, 70 kg each, jumping and reaching 0.15 m from ground radiate an energy of E = 6.2 MJ which is equivalent to a magnitude 1.3 earthquake, at each jump!! Enough to be recorded by a seismic station 9 km away.”
On Tuesday, the institute said in an online note that its national seismic network stations “clearly registered the enthusiasm of Travis Scott fans in concert at Circus Maximus”.
Similar activity was registered in 2021, when Italy won the European Championship soccer final, as well as earlier this year when Naples won the Serie A championship, the institute said.
In July, a Taylor Swift concert in Seattle shook the ground so hard, it registered signals roughly equivalent to a magnitude 2.3 earthquake, seismologists said.
A seismogram identified several points during the Scott concert, which lasted under 90 minutes, “with evident peaks of jubilation” on the part of fans, according to the institute.
In the aftermath, Alfonsina Russo, who oversees the Archaeological Park of the Colosseum, Rome’s most important archaeological area, called on city officials to stop using the Circus Maximus for mass events and to put it to more cultural use.
Russo told the AGI news agency on Tuesday that the circus was a historical monument, not a stadium, and that “mega-concerts put it at risk”.
Archaeological experts had given advice to the city for such events, and Russo said she had expressed concerns about the decibel levels and about spectators jumping in place.
“In my opinion, musical events can be held, but they should be carefully chosen like opera and ballet,” she told AGI. “Rock concerts are best held in stadiums to not endanger public safety.”
There was a moment of panic during the Scott show. Italian news media reported that around 60 people had to be treated for eye and throat irritation, possibly because someone used pepper spray in the crowd.
Nearly five years ago, pepper spray used at a nightclub, where a rapper was to perform, in the central Italian town of Corinaldo led to a stampede that killed six people and left nearly 200 people injured.
Attempts to reach the organisers of Scott’s concert were unsuccessful.
In 2021, 10 people were crushed to death and hundreds more were injured at a concert by Scott at his Astroworld Festival in Houston. Scott was investigated, but a grand jury declined to indict him or others connected to the festival. A number of lawsuits against Scott and festival organisers are pending.
On Wednesday, Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s City Council member responsible for tourism and events, defended the mega-concerts.
Beyond the money spent by concertgoers visiting from around the world, he said, fees to use the Circus Maximus for concerts last year brought 2.1 million euros, or $3.5 million, into city coffers. The funds were earmarked for the city department that maintains city-owned archaeological monuments, he added.
Without these fees, Roman taxpayers would have to pay up, he said in a Facebook live feed. “There were zero incidents, zero people got hurt,” he said of Scott’s concert.