Heineken Jazz & Más: Angélique Kidjo, Great Concert, Awful Audience

Posted: July 16, 2010 in Life, music, Spain, Tenerife, Travel
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This week, for the first time ever, I nearly walked out of a concert. It wasn’t because the performer was bad; quite the opposite. The singer, Angélique Kidjo, was sensational…it was the audience who were appalling, or some of them anyway.

A few weeks ago another Tenerife blogger, Islandmomma, commented on the incessant and disrespectful chatting by some Canarios at the Santa Blues Festival and whilst I’d been vaguely aware of it there, it had only just entered my radar. At the Heineken Jazz & Más concert in Puerto de la Cruz on Wednesday night, the noise of people talking not only entered my radar it blew it to smithereens in a cacophony of noise.

The set up for the Jazz & Más concert is a bit strange to start with. For most of the concerts in the town they set up a stage and that’s it – the audience are free to mingle and dance wherever they like. But for the jazz they put out a whole load of chairs which makes it feel a bit more formal. I don’t know if they think that jazz is enjoyed by a more mature age group and, bless them, they need somewhere to park their bums or they’ll fall over.

Actually, it’s probably not far from the truth because by the time we arrived nearly every chair had been taken by a good majority of what was clearly a mix of mature Canarios and visitors. Not that we would have sat down – that would be an acceptance of growing old and I’m in complete denial about that one whatever my creaky back and bitchin’ legs tell me.

However, the chairs being set out are like Field of Dreams’ ‘build it and they will come’. In this case it’s ‘put out seats in front of a stage and any old bugger will sit on them’. A case proven when modern jazz guitarist, Yul Ballesteros started his set. Once they realised he was actually playing and not still tuning up there was a bit of an exodus by some of the older Canarios in the audience who clearly didn’t realise they were at a jazz concert despite the banners everywhere.

By the time Angélique Kidjo was due to appear a sizeable crowd filled Plaza Europa and the place buzzed with lively chatter. Unfortunately when she started her set the lively chatter didn’t stop. If anything it got louder and louder.

Being an international artist, she spoke to the crowd in English. I don’t know if this made a difference to how the crowd behaved, but when she told stories of her childhood in Africa and then spoke of her father who had died only a couple of years ago, the trendy Canarios standing around us simply spoke louder and louder. When she dedicated a semi-acoustic song to her father it was a toss up to who I could hear the most; the non-stop, inane chatter or her beautiful voice. It was a disgrace and was completely disrespectful. I was embarrassed to be part of such an ignorant crowd.

It couldn’t have just been the language…I mean the visitors in the audience who didn’t speak Spanish, didn’t all start talking loudly when Gran Canaria’s Yul Ballesteros was doing his thing so I’m not having that.  So what is it? I’ve never really noticed it before, but then most concerts involve thumping Latino bands and I wouldn’t hear anyone screaming in my ear at any of them.

The loud talking was so bad and I was getting so pissed off with the disrespectful behaviour that I was on the verge of suggesting to Andy that we should leave. Then Angélique did something which changed everything. She gave a little speech about the importance of respect in life (I don’t know if it was coincidence or she was aware of the noise) and then she made the audience part of the performance. She came down amongst us and into the heart of the chatterers, singing all the way and encouraging everyone to chant African lyrics. Suddenly the talking stopped and everyone started singing and dancing along with Angélique. It was magical and from then on it was party time in Puerto.

It turned out to be one of the best concerts I’ve been to in years…despite the dumb ass behaviour of some of the crowd.

I know the Spanish and Canarios like to talk. Most of the time I love the vibrancy and life that their animated conversations add to plazas and restaurants etc. But sometimes, just sometimes BASTA YA is the order of the day.

You see hombres, if you never occasionally shut your mouths and listen, you never learn…and that in itself can speak volumes.

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