The Italian Bruce Springsteen, that's how many critics have described Ligabue and his music -- not only for his sound, strongly influenced by U.S. classic rock, nor for his lyrics about love, rock & roll, and dreams of escape (with Italy's Via Emilia in place of Route 66), and not even for his look. No, such a comparison is mainly due to the impact that Ligabue has on his wide audience and to the way in which his fans strongly identify with his songs. Authenticity, sweat, and electric guitars: these are the ingredients of a recipe that, with very small changes during the years, have made him one of the most successful Italian rockers of the last two decades, second only to Vasco Rossi.
Born in Correggio, not far from Reggio Emilia, on the 13th of March, 1960, Luciano Ligabue had diverse work experiences during his pre-rock years, including farmhand, blue-collar worker, salesman, city councilman, and DJ. Accompanied by a band called OraZero, in 1987 Ligabue won a contest for unsigned bands, which during the following year allowed him to record his first 7", including the songs "Bar Mario" and "Anime in Plexiglass." Between 1988 and 1989 singer/songwriter Pierangelo Bertoli recorded two of Ligabue's compositions, "Sogni di Rock & Roll" and "Figlio di un Cane" (on the Tra Me e Me and Sedia Elettrica albums, respectively). With his new backing band, ClanDestino (Max Cottafavi on guitar, Gigi Cavalli Cocchi on drums, and Luciano Ghezzi on bass), and with Elio e le Storie Tese's Paolo "Feiez" Panigada as a sound engineer, Luciano released his debut, Ligabue, in 1990. Including both romantic ballads and crisp rockers, the album sold 500,000 copies, while the first single, "Balliamo Sul Mondo," won that year's edition of Festivalbar Giovani.
Then Ligabue started a tour that would end three years later, during which he also the chance to support U2 on two Italian dates of their Zoo TV tour, and in the meantime released Lambrusco Coltelli Rose & Popcorn (1991) and the less focused Sopravvissuti e Sopravviventi (1993). In 1994 he was also co-founder of the management agency and record label Mescal. In the same year, the EP A Che Ora è la Fine del Mondo?, the title track being the Italian translation of R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)," was his last record with ClanDestino, who would subsequently release two albums on their own (1994's ClanDestino and 1996's Cuore Stomaco e Cervello).
With a new backing band including former members of Rocking Chairs (Carmelo "Mel" Previte on guitar, Antonio "Rigo" Righetti on bass, and Roberto "Robby" Pellati on drums) and Litfiba (lead guitarist Federico Poggipollini), in 1995 Ligabue released Buon Compleanno Elvis. Thanks to the huge success of singles such as "Certe Notti" and "Vivo Morto o X," it sold more than one million copies, remaining on the Italian charts for 70 weeks. In 1997 two dates at Milan's San Siro stadium (with a total of 110,000 people attending) confirmed his status as one of Italy's true rock stars. In the same year Ligabue published his first book, a collection of short stories called Fuori e Dentro il Borgo, and the live record Su e Giù da un Palco, while in 1998 he directed his first movie, Radiofreccia (for which he won the David di Donatello and the Nastro d'Argento awards for Best New Director) and composed its soundtrack. In 1999 he released the benefit single "Il Mio Nome è Mai Più" with Jovanotti and Litfiba's Piero Pelù, and in 2002 Miss Mondo was issued -- its standout tracks included "Questa è la Mia Vita," from the soundtrack of his second movie, Dazeroadieci (2002), and "Eri Bellissima," winner of that year's Festivalbar. The 2003 theatrical tour in which Ligabue was backed by PFM's Mauro Pagani and Almamegretta's sound manipulator Stefano "D.RaD" Facchielli was documented by the live album Giro d'Italia.
In 2004 Ligabue published the novel La Neve Se Ne Frega, and Teramo University awarded him a degree honoris causa in communication sciences. In September 2005, a few days before the release of Nome e Cognome, Ligabue organized a huge live event at Reggio Emilia's Campovolo (near the city's airport), with four stages and a total of 180,000 people (the largest paying audience of all time in Europe for a single artist). In 2006 he published the five-DVD set Nome e Cognome Tour 2006, while the single "Happy Hour" won the Festivalbar. In the same year he also wrote a song for Elisa, "Gli Ostacoli del Cuore," included in her greatest-hits collection Soundtrack '96-'06, and published the poetry collection Lettere d'Amore Nel Frigo. Primo Tempo, released in November 2007, was the first volume of a double anthology spanning from 1990 to 1995; the second half, titled Secondo Tempo and including material from 1997 to 2005, was scheduled for release in May 2008.
In 2009, Ligabue performed the song "Domani 21/04.09" as part of a major fundraising effort for the survivors of an earthquake that struck Central Italy, and also issued his third live album, Sette Notti in Arena, documenting an orchestral tour from 2008. Ligabue was also part of the jury for the 66th annual Venice Film Festival. The year 2010 brought Arrivederci, Mostro!, Ligabue's ninth album of original material, and he launched a sold-out 13-date stadium tour in support. Also in 2010, a documentary about the musician, Niente Paura – Come Siamo, Come Eravamo and le Canzoni di Luciano Ligabue, received its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival. Ligabue staged yet another massive event show in July 2011, a concert in Reggio Emilia that drew a crowd of 120,000 fans; the concert was documented in an album, Campovolo 2.011, as well as a 3-D documentary film that opened in 300 theaters. Ligabue's second collection of short stories, Il Rumore dei Baci a Vuoto, was published in 2012, and he also released LigaLive, a 13-disc DVD box set that preserved many of the milestones of his career as a live performer. In 2013, Ligabue recorded and released a new studio album, Mondovisione, a lean and hard-rocking effort with a political edge, and helped celebrate its release with a sold-out five-night stand at the Verona Arena. In addition, Ligabue became the subject of a book, La Vita Non è in Rima (Per Quello Che Ne So), an extended interview with the singer and songwriter conducted by Giuseppe Antonelli in which they discuss at length the meanings and intentions behind his songs. ~ Aurelio Pasini, Rovi