Saturday, June 03, 2006

How not to do it.

Interpreting signs.

'So you want to be a rock musician? An evening with Rick Wakeman.'
Tongue in cheek phrasing suggests open hands spread wide and big open smile: the shared joke. Laid back entertainment offered.
No-one's taking himself too seriously.

Grosvenor House Hotel.
Hmm. Very posh, as in English elegance, not faded charm.
No genteel Wodehouse aunties in crocheted lace.
Understated but unmistakably grand, possibly sumptuous.

Jim Davidson
Cheeky chappie. 70s British TV comic.
Old school pub and working men's club circuit humour. Sex. Booze. Mother-in-Law. Mysogyny. Racism. Har har haaaar!

I liked a lot of Rick Wakeman's Six Wives of Henry VIII, loved Catherine Howard, and (I didn't know until last night, but having been told thought, "Of course!") the arrangement of Eleanor Farjeon(showing off now)'s poem Morning Has Broken, made famous by then Cat Stevens, now Yusuf Islam (Aren't you glad to know all this?).

As we also learned last night, Rick didn't get a credit on that recording, nor did he get his £9 session fee (and that was a lot of money in those days!) and has been playing gleeful passive resistance with recording companies ever since.

I was never a great fan of Yes, because there's a limit to how much of Jon Anderson's violin-on-steroids vocals I can take, but oh I loved Wonderous Stories from their Going for the One album.

So, yeah, mixed signals about the gig, but it promised conversation between Rick and Jim, and a few tunes. Go for it. Pay out 300Dhs for old-hippy night out with Habibi.

Grosvenor House Hotel is very elegant, almost brutalist sculptural once inside the blue neon-edged tower block, but softened by velvety browns and creams, and brown and cream velvets, abstract mixed media pieces lit to glow, and lots of charming eager staff. No wonder a glass of wine is 25 Dhs....

Let the evening begin, in widely spaced rows of seats in the Windsor Room, facing a stage containing a magenta sofa, a deep armchair and a grand piano. Up comes Jim Davidson looking well, and beginning what turns out to be some forty ghastly minutes of what is either a warm-up act or an appallingly misjudged ego trip. Does he think we're here to listen to him? To this endless f#&*!ing stream of f#&*!ing s#$t about knobs and canoes (uhuh) and what a middle aged man has to go through to get laid, especially when all that's available is his own age, ugly, and endowed wiv a wooden leg?

By the time he let Rick Wakeman up there for a thoroughly prepared guided tour down Memory Lane (fine - except you could hear how often he'd done it, particularly when Jim prompted anecdotes in the wrong order) I for one was feeling bored, trapped and resentful. So the cosy chat may well have been fascinating, but I was in the handsome Lobby Lounge, reading Hello! magazine.

After the interval, I laughed at Jim's second warm-up. (See! Not a completely miserable cowbag after all, or at least, not after my second glass of wine.) I liked the story about telling the Japanese lady he was a comedian....

And then the big guy was up, with the grand piano and the biggest Roland keyboard that Jim had managed to locate, given the non-availability of the 23 items of kit Rick had specified, his own collection being en route for a gig in the States. This was amusing, until RW began to play (all of the dazzling above) immediately demonstrating the limitations of the Roland, which turned in a pretty good pipe organ for Jane Seymour, but turned Catherine Howard and Merlin the Magician to sugar-dusted marshmallow. RW's work is so lushly layered that it requires threadbare Cat Stevens or androgynous Jon Anderson on vocals to make us listen, rather than float and skip along the surface. And without the other musicians - whether orchestra or band - to balance the pyrotechnic virtuosity of the famous Wakeman digits, we didn't get music so much as, well, pyrotechnic virtuosity. He tried - really tried - but it wasn't what it should have been. And those of us sitting in rows N & O were treated to Jim Davidson strutting back and forth behind us, spitting invective and instructions at the amateur techies he'd got on light and sound.

Highlight? The big piano finish to Merlin the Magician.

On balance: good luck to Jim Davidson for using his career connections to relaunch himself as a promoter, but he'd better recognise his limitations, which were all too apparent all night. Hot role-model tip: take a look at how Phil Duquenoy, the force behind Streetwise Fringe conducts himself. That, my dears, is a professional, ploughing a challenging furrow with humour and quirky grace.

By the way, there was a woman behind us who cackled and squawked (Ok - proved that there is someone out there with a laugh even louder than mine) at JD's every third word, and it's quite possible that all my experience of the evening demonstrates is that I'm a snob. Oops! :P


pater said...

allo snob i must ave drug u up rong

nzm said...

What is it that attracts all these has-beens artists to Dubai? Is it because they're past their use-by dates in their own countries?

In my youf, I remember watching Jim on What's on Next? and even then, he wasn't that funny. Pam Ayres was a better laugh and probably still is!

Good on you for trying - but shelling out all that money for a tepid night is like smoking a cheap cigar and waking up the next morning with a foul taste in your mouth.

Rick - and you - deserve better!

MamaDuck said...

Hello chaps. Thanks for visiting. I want to hear about the night with the cheap cigar - er, then again...

I had to learn to smoke for a play I was in. My character was a neurotic, chain-smoking serial killer, and apparently I was perfect for the part, apart from never having tried a cigarette in my life.

I nearly did, actually, at a local park when I about 13, and out with my brothers and sisters, until I looked round and realised that 1) they were watching with bated breath, 2) they would tell, and c) I'd be sorry - and I went right off the idea!

Anyway,it turns out that it's almost ok if you don't inhale, but on opening night when I lit up, I could hear excited ladies in the first couple of rows telling each other, "She doesn't smoke you know. She had to learn for the play!" Ooh, the excitement of live theatre! I flirted with cigars a couple of times afterwards (If you can't beat 'em) but just HATED the aftertaste. Yick. So I'll save that for my next Bad Girl!

Deepak Morris said...

Wuz dat Nightwatch?

'member me?



MamaDuck said...

Deepak! Yay! I just went over to your site - one of five? - how do you find the time? Thanks for visiting, will come and check out the golden voice and nobbels.Do you ever get back here? We're going next July.