Pampered, ignorant punters should relax and take it easy
Would a middle-class Irish person go to a dinner party, bang their fists on the table, swear at the host, and stomp out because they had been served seared foie gras with apple galette instead of the usual grilled squid, chorizo and parsley salad?
The most shocking aspect of the churlish, insulting and aggressive behaviour of the audience at Yusuf Islam’s 02 show last Sunday was the nature of the people shouting the abuse at the singer.
This was, in the main, a well-heeled 50-something demographic who had cleared “windows” in their diaries to reconnect with the sounds of their salad days. But when Yusuf declined to behave like a human jukebox, they unleashed their bespoke fury.
“Sing the f****n’ hits” and “We want Cat Stevens you b******s” were two of the considered observations I heard from the seats around me.
This sort of thing sometimes occurs – though rarely with the same level of hostility – when a demanding two-gigs-a-year type goes to a concert. On this occasion they collided with a creative artist doing his first real tour in 33 years, one who has undergone a personal, spiritual and musical metamorphosis.
Yusuf, being a pretty groovy and serene presence, didn’t address this obnoxious behaviour. But in his defence it needs to be mentioned that in all the print ads for the show and in all the pre-show interviews he did in the Irish media he emphasised that the concert would include a segment from Moondance, an upcoming West End musical – the part of the show that provoked all the ire.
Furthermore, as far I can see, nowhere is the term “greatest hits” used in any of the promos for the show or on the tickets. Still, he performed Lilywhite, Where Do the Children Play?, Just Another Night, Moonshadow, Peace Train and Father and Son. (Sadly, he didn’t play his best song, The First Cut Is the Deepest, but dem’s the breaks.)
In total, Yusuf played 23 songs and presented a 40-minute full dress-rehearsal preview of Moonshadow. That’s not bad value for money. When Leonard Cohen was at the 02 last year, he played in the region of 25 songs.
One of the problems here is a generational one. This first surfaced in this country with the extraordinary response by concertgoers to a Barbra Streisand show back in July of 2007. On that occasion, concert-goers experienced tailbacks, rain and mud and a problem with seat allocations – all part of the rough and tumble of the outdoor concert experience. The complaints about that show were manifested in many “strongly worded” letters to newspaper editors after the event.
Tony Clayton-Lea, who reviewed Yusuf’s show for this paper, says that the behaviour he witnessed on the night was the worst he had experienced in 20 years of reviewing.
So why did it happen? Should we blame the drink, as Yusuf seemed to do in a blog post written after the gig? Having been at the show, it didn’t seem to me that this was an audience that had arrived en masse from the Croke Park rugby match earlier that afternoon.
Was it yet another manifestation of our collective anger about the recession, as some suggested? That’s just preposterous. People had paid handsomely to be in the 02.
If there was a problem it was that Yusuf wasn’t – given his three-decade lay-off – exactly match fit in terms of touring. Had he spelt out explicitly that there would be three parts to the show – with part two being the Moondance segment – that may have soothed the savage beast somewhat.
For people to go to a show waving their own personal set lists of songs they want played and banging their fists when the artist deviates somewhat, is rude and petulant.
To those people who shouted such vulgar abuse at Yusuf last Sunday, here’s a handy tip: next time stay at home and just put a Blu-ray disc of the artist in question doing his greatest hits into your Bang and Olufsen home cinema system – and spare the rest of us your bile.