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Things I learned from a Paloma Faith gig…

July 8th, 2010

…or to give it its full title – “Things I learned from a Paloma Faith gig that I believe should be implemented in classical music concerts (I’m looking at you Katherine Jenkins)

Last night, your fearless classical and jazz music podcast guys headed to North London and to the Camden Roundhouse to see Paloma Faith rocking out at the iTunes festival.  We’re not so good at gigs in Camden, having been thoroughly confused by Charlie Hazlewood’s Beggar’s Opera earlier this year, and realising five minutes after entering a Big Pink gig at the Electric Ballroom that we were out of our depth, were not appropriately dressed, and that the Big Pink weren’t actually coming on stage until well past our respective bedtimes. Incidentally, it was also at that same moment that Alasdair realised he was old, and Olly realised he was older.

However, not ones to pass up on a free gig, or for that matter a 50% discount on a Nando’s bill (thank you clerical error) we returned to that part of the city we so desperately want approval from, and were treated to a sing-a-long of Faith’s best album tracks along with some covers, including a way over the top cover of Etta James’ At Last as an attempted throw back to her jazz and burlesque days. Neither of us, I think it’s fair to say, were in the moment. Apart from the fact that the speakers couldn’t seem to handle the volume, and caused a distortion that sounded like tiny vuvuzelas, Alasdair had forgotten his little soap box that he takes to most “standing up gigs” so that he can see over the adults and onto the stage, and Olly had just realised via wikipedia that the singer we were (well Olly was) now watching used to do adverts for Agent Provocateur, and so was in an entirely different place and an entirely different moment.

This not ideal situation gave us time to consider a question posed by our friends at Wildkat PR about the place for classical music, and the wider question that seems to be buzzing around this year about what needs to happen to classical music concerts to make them more appealing. We’ve stuck our GetJazzical thinking hats on as tight as they go, and can now unveil our list of solutions and suggestions to making a classical concert more successful and more appealing to the  great British public:

1. Props

Paloma had two massive helium inflated balls that she strapped to herself and then walked around the stage with. It was strange. It was Gaga-lite  and vaguely- pre watershed safe -sexual. There was also an angled mirror that didn’t really play a part in the performance but got everyone very excited before Nash, sorry Faith, arrived on stage.  I want to see this in a classical concert.

Paloma walks around with balls strapped to her...I mean, come on...

I want the conductor to be wheeled in on a throne, and the lead violinist wearing a pair of wings, suggesting he might be lifted above the rest of the orchestra, or will do a stage dive at some point.  After a while at a classical music concert you run out of things to look at. You’ve picked out the pretty girl and looked at her for so long you’re sure she’s onto you, and everyone else in the orchestra’s just getting on with playing. Throw some beach balls in the crowd, for goodness sake – just looking at people playing music is BORING.

2. Introduce beer in plastic cups

There are so many reason we believe that beer in plastic cups would make the experience for the audience more enjoyable. We need memories of the concert that no one listening to an album recording can obtain. Beer soaked shoe memories. Also, if we have captured the Zeitgeist  correctly, everyone at a classical music concert holds an air of disdain toward everyone around them for no apparent reason. Let’s direct that disdain towards the people who deserve it. It’s pretty much entrapment, but let’s have a beer bar, and then start hating on the people who go to get a beer during the second movement and work their way through the (standing) crowd with the beer lifted above their heads shouting ” ‘scuse me, beer coming through, watch your head.” I hated that guy. But last night it brought me closer to the woman next to me who also hated that guy.

3.Let people move around whenever they like

Why do you have to be such a stick in the mud, classical music world? Why do you have to tut and sneer at those who cough, sigh, and move about in their seats during a movement? While watching Duffy, sorry Paloma, last night people weren’t just moving about during the songs – they were actively changing places, stretching their legs, and leaving the room to go to the bathroom, to have a smoke, and to fill up on the afore mentioned beer cups, in order so they can re-enter the floor 10 minutes later with more force, and get closer to the stage. Yes, it may have interrupted the piece for EVERYONE they were PUSHING PAST, but chill out grandpa, whatever, it’s not as if you can’t download the gig within an hour after it finishing. Which brings us nicely onto

4. Make the concert instantly downloadable

We’ve had many a conversation at GetJazzical HQ about the point where we stop enjoying concerts and want to start remembering enjoying the concert.  The iTunes festival have made this so vividly possible by making the the entire concert a recording session with free whooping, so they don’t have to shell out for that expensive stock whooping.  This would be a great coup for the classical music world because firstly the audience can try and get on the recording by shouting out during the performance things like “I love you Camilla Kerslake!” or “play Le Onde!” The artists would love it, as it would promote impromptu adulation, and also people would feel more of a part of the experience. Olly shouted “take your top off, Winehouse!” last night. I’m already downloading to see if his holler made the final cut. We need more hollers in classical concerts.

It’s also like a big giant skyplus pause button. And means you can leave before the end and miss the crowds on the way out. Genius.

5.  Play instantly recognisable covers that inadvertently show that your songs aren’t as good.

This might be difficult, as a lot of classical concerts play dead composers, but why not shake it up in your own way. A night of Beethoven? Slip in some Chopin. Oh no they didn’t. Chopin? Now? So versatile! PHILIP GLASS IS PLAYING SOME MAX RICHTER? I’M RECORDING THIS ON MY NEW HD CAMERA ON MY IPHONE4 AND UPLOADING IT STRAIGHT TO YOUTUBE! Crowds love that stuff. It gives them something to talk about, and tweet about, and brag about. “We saw the LSO wedge in a cover of a Puccini track, during a medley of Stravinsky” etc. It makes the audience feel special.

Or even if you’re not playing the entire piece, do a different intro, alluding to something else. I will pay big moneyto see a Brahms piece with the strings of Viva la Vida as an intro. BIG MONEY.

6. Elevate players to a hero/demi-god like status

Paloma was really into this. Like, REALLY into this. She spent more time inviting touching from the audience than she did on stage. And the crowd were all over her. Can you imagine the guy playing the concerto jumping into the press pit area (oh, we have to have this as well) and leaning into the crowd who fondle and grope him as he keeps playing the piece? He dreams of it nightly. Let’s make it a reality.

Imagine it - Paloma is the conductor, guitarist is the flautist. Hot.

7.Name check the whole band

Who cares how long it goes on for? During the last song/movement get the conductor to name everyone who has played that night, and allow them a little moment to do something kooky, crazy, or impressive with a couple of bars of music. Go on, they deserve it. They’ve played all the difficult notes, and no one has noticed them. When they get to lead violin status in a few years and jump into the crowd they won’t be able to cope with all that groping unless they’ve received some love in the early years.

We hope this has aided and moved along the conversation that is being had all over the internet. We’re sure there are many more aspects to a Paloma Faith concert that can make the classical music world more interesting. I mean, we didn’t even get started on the crotch close ups on the big screens, but then maybe that’s because there are some things we’d be better leave to the former burlesque performers.

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