Pam­pered, ig­no­rant pun­ters should re­lax and take it easy

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion - bboyd@irish­times.com

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.

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