REFLECTIONS OF A CONCERT GOER
By Steve Russ
Well ... André has passed through Sydney like a musical meteor, and like all meteors his passing was far too quick. I was lucky enough to go to all three concerts and would like to share some of my memories and impressions. If my personal recollections, reminiscences and ramblings don't interest you, I suggest you read the rest of this with your eyes shut.
The weather on Thursday looked threatening and I think there were a lot of people wishing they had brought sausages with them. The girls in the souvenir stand near where I was waiting to go in were touting the ponchos more than the programmes, but adding that they hoped we would not need them. Jolly decent of them, I thought, especially considering that the ponchos were a quarter of the price of the programmes. As it turned out, we had absolutely no rain that night (and everyone bought a programme). The Thursday concert was the "quietest" of the three, but that was to be expected on a working day. The audience reaction was still very good however. But then, what else could it be?
Everyone (especially me) loved the goulash sketch with Bela, and at the end when André told Bela that the people of Sydney loved goulash (and then frantically encouraged us to agree) I was ready to climb up onto the stage with a spoon. But then what did we get the next day? The goulash sketch. And what did we get on Saturday? The goulash sketch! What will Brisbane get ...?
An interesting aspect of the goulash sketch is that André used it to let us all know roughly how many of us there were. For those of you who have not seen, or will not see the concert, André convinces Bela that the audience will eat his goulash; whereupon Bela says he will add an extra large paprika. André tells him he had better add 20,000 paprikas; then tells him to go away with his goulash.
It was a bit of a worry at first, when he played The Blue Danube, in spite of his build-up that men go crazy and grab a woman and start dancing ... ANY woman. For a while I could see only one couple dancing. Just one. Then as the music went on, more couples got up, but nothing like the numbers we are used to seeing in some of his overseas concerts. Therefore, I was pleasantly surpised when Mirusia sang Boatany Bay; quite a few people around me joined in the chorus. It turned out that we had quite a few enthusiastic whistlers too.
Needless to say, the audience participation in Mirusia's "Ozzie! Ozzie! Ozzie! Oi! Oi! Oi!" was terrific. That was obviously something they could really relate to, and take part in - and they didn't have to stick their fingers in their mouths.The Mosh Pit was relatively subdued, compared to the horror stories I'd heard about Melbourne; in fact, I felt rather silly wearing the helmet. Thank God I left the flak jacket under my seat! Being there in the Mosh Pit though, with all the activity, energy and enthusiasm was a fantastic feeling, especially for those of us probably nearly all of us - experiencing it for the first time.
The weather for Friday's concert looked just as threatening as for Thursday's. But ... the sausages worked again and Clara kept the rain away. I can't work out why André didn't use the sausages-for-Clara story. It was an ideal opportunity given the overcast conditions. Before the concert I was able to meet up with Margaret, Ineke and Ruud, and some of the other fans at the fountain. The Princess arrived later with her brother, and wow was she dressed to the nines! Maybe even to the tens! Next to her I looked like a no-a-COUNT bum. But I'm used to that. We arranged to dance to the The Blue Danube, which I think was pretty brave of her, considering our wildly disparate dress. There were quite a few people dancing around us (obviously they had not heard of, or acCOUNTED for, my eccentric dancing style), and as I mentioned in the GB I kept bumping into people... and myself. However, I managed not to trip over, or step on, the Princess.
As already reported, André paused whenever a plane went over - once on Thursday and three times on Friday. When it first happened Friday, he pointed his bow upwards and made a sound as if he were shooting it down. I would love to know if he did anything like that at any of the other concerts. Maybe he arranged the flyovers...? During the goulash sketch André told Bela to get 30,000 extra paprikas for the audience. A healthy improvement on Thursday night, but still a long way to go. Will the supply of paprikas hold out? After the concert finished the late leavers were given a special extra treat. André, the whole JSO and EVERYBODY came back out on stage to do a photo shoot. OK... OK... I admit that the coach and horses were NOT on the stage itself; they were in front of it. Some people are so picky! Anyway, André invited anyone who wanted to to stay and watch, and take photos, as long as they sat down or kept back from the stage. Needless to say, a LOT of people wanted to... and did. Eat your hearts out all of you who raced out early to get to your cars!
Saturday's concert, of course, was the big one. It was the big one for me in more ways than one. Well before the concert, I met up with Ineke and Ruud again, and through them I met Franco the bass player, and then Bela Mavrak. What's more they were both generous enough to let me have my photo taken with them!! Now THAT is what I call a concert highlight! Two, in fact. Now, if you just paused and asked yourself, "Who's Bela Mavrak?" get off this website right now, before I turn the bats loose on you! Just after that, the rain started. Needless to say, I hardly noticed. Before the rains came they had made announcements, and put the message up on the screens, that in the event of rain the people could take shelter in the passageways. It was really not much more than heavy drizzle at first, but then it hailed for about ten minutes, although it was so light that many of the people under cover did not realise it had hailed. However it was enough for me to get wet. Many people did seek shelter in the passageways, but quite a few put on their ponchos and stayed in their seats in the arena. Brave souls! I think by this time a lot of people were considering going back to their deli's to try to get refunds on their sausages. André started late, obviously waiting for the rain to ease somewhat before making their entrance; and also to give people in the passageways time to get back to their seats. When they made their entrance it was still drizzling slightly, but they came out through the crowd doing their usual parade, although André did run up the last few steps to the stage. I wonder if he would have carried his priceless Strad through the rain? I doubt it somehow. Can anyone provide enlightenment, edification or elucidation on that? After they finished "76 Trombones", André stood there and made a few jokes about the rain, saying that it had not rained in Sydney in eight years, and now... He also said that in every other city in Australia, Melbourne, Brisbane... blue skies.
Apart from getting some good laughs with his "monologue" he was also giving those people who had taken shelter time to get back to their seats, gently encouraging them along. Then he treated us to an unexpected "bonus" - a lively performance of "Singin' in the Rain". Needless to say that got a big laugh and some appreciative applause. After that, someone threw him a white stuffed animal (what the heck was it, a koala?) and when he held it up to his ear, his mike picked up "Silent Night"; so he turned around and conducted the JSO through a full performance of "Silent Night". Quite a few people around me (including moi) were singing along. TWO bonus performances just for having to put up with a little drizzle. Eat your hearts out Melbourne et al. Later on he made another joke about the rain, commenting that the people up in the stands were dry. Then he made a sweeping gesture to the arena in front of him, saying, "They wanted to sit there..." I think that got a better laugh from the arena than the stands. And so it should have. Who cares about trivial things like rain when you are in the presence of greatness?! Tonight's paprika count for the goulash was 35,000.
But I know now why Sydney could not top Melbourne's record attendance: with Melbourne's 38,605. They did not leave Sydney enough paprikas.
As already reported by Angela Q, when he did his usual "get-up-and-dance" introduction to The Blue Danube, he said at the end of it, "Take your ponchos off... but keep everything else on." Tonight there were LOTS of people dancing, all over the place. In fact, I have to say there were COUNT-less people dancing, for two reasons: first, I didn't count them; and second, I couldn't find the Princess to dance with so I had to be content with taking photos. This time, in anticipation of dancing with the Princess again, I was actually formal. I buttoned my shirt. Unfortunately, because of the rain earlier she hadn't seen how elegant I looked tonight. No matter... there's always next year. The point is that the conditions did not stop the audience from getting up and having a great time - did not even slow them down in fact. Well done, crowd! Just before the intermission should have happened, André announced that at that point there would normally be an intermission, but he had heard that rain was coming and would like to continue playing. Was that OK with everyone? If anyone tried to say "No" they were drowned out (sorry about that) by the thousands who said "Yaaayy!!" or words to that effect.
Then, as I reported in the GB, he tempted fate once too often in his introduction to Ravel's Bolero, where he says at the end, describing the finale, "As if the sky was opened!" whereupon he pauses, then looks up and says, "Not yet." That always got a good laugh, but unfortunately this time it also got rain. A couple of minutes after the Bolero started so did the rain. It was still nothing like a monsoon, or downpour, but a steady, heavy drizzle. We optimists who had taken our ponchos off now had to put them back on again. I think I can safely say there were no deserters. The rain then continued like that right through to the end of the concert. However it certainly did not stop the mad rush to the Mosh Pit. Tonight it was jampacked, A little rain wasn't going to stop anyone here! It is a cliche in situations like this to say that the atmosphere was electric; but if it had been tonight, we would have all been fried to a frazzle. But wild...? Energetic...? Excited...? Delirious with enthusiasm...? YOU BETCHA!!! All that, in spades, but still without any aggressive pushing and shoving - at least not around where I was. Again, the multitudes did not allow the constant rain to spoil their fun.
I did notice an interesting phenomenon tonight, as with the other two nights - very few people know the lyrics to the second and third verses of "Waltzing Matilda". Having been warned in advance I took the trouble to learn them; but I was drowned out by everone around me singing the wrong lyrics - and not even the SAME wrong lyrics. But who cares about trivialities like that? The important thing is that people were singing.
So there it is: for all of us, the memories of a lifetime.
Play on, André!