Where to start?
At the end perhaps.
Maybe it’s a good place to start.
The AR concert in AR’s hometown of Maastricht, Holland, got even more spectacular as it approached the dénouement. AR had just announced that the curtain would soon close.
Then he introduced his special guests from New York City.
Enter stage left, a Village People tribute band who belted out YMCA, In The Navy and Go West with great guts and gusto, as some ten to fifteen thousand middle-aged to elderly white European AR fans swayed and rocked to the famous hits of the first-ever openly gay band, or band that targeted a gay audience at least, from way back in the 1970s (MB is unsure if any of the original Village People band were actually gay).
But regardless, AR, with his Stradivarius violin, and his backing Johann Strauss Orchestra, blitzed the gay anthems in an unreal-meets-the-surreal six or so minutes of unforgettable fun and musical energy. MB had watched many AR clips on YouTube in recent years and could easily predict much of the night’s musical menu. But the VP act caught MB unawares and will live long in the memory. Great great fun!
The concerts (there are twelve in total Maastricht concerts during the month of July, rest of year being world tour) take place in Vrijthof Square in historic Maastricht, under the shadow of the magnificantly imposing 11th-century Basilica of St Servatius, where AR sang in the choir in his childhood days.
The square is laid out with thousands of seats for the concerts while the restaurants that almost entirely circle the square (love that phrase MB – thanks lads) host thousands of pre-booked guests for concert dinner and wine sipping. The restaurant punters view of the main stage and video side-screens is mostly obscured by trees, concert technology and equipment, but they are as close to the stage and the music as many of the seated concert-goers and get, more or less, the full experience.
The concert event is as much ‘visual spectacle’ as it is ‘musical event’. AR’s stage presence is legendary and he did not disappoint. The stage set is a wonder and the background scene changed for each musical piece, generally to some theme in keeping with the country of origin of the piece itself.
Particularly memorable moments, in addition to ‘Village People’ (but MB can say that each and every piece was memorable) included a musical memorial tribute to Notre Dame Cathedral, Halleluiah, The Blue Danube and a great waltz performance from 300 dancers from the Maastricht Dance Company right there in the square, in the concert aisles amongst the fans.
The concert is divided in two by a 20-minute interval, but it’s the performance of The Blue Danube (TBD) that really splits the concert into two distinct halves. Prior to TBD, everybody is seated and enjoying the musical feast. On introducing TBD, AR stated that something magical happens to concertgoers when TBD is played. And he wasn’t joking. On approx. two minutes in, once the slow intro finishes, hundreds of people jump from their seats and the entire square becomes a swirl of waltz and waltzers thereafter until the show ends. People even waltzed during YMCA!!! Whoever said elderly white Europeans are boring?! Maybe Young Sudani Lad did in the past, but he doesn’t count!
And what on earth possessed you to up sticks from your Middle East abode for a few days MB, and head to such an event?
Well, lads, apart for the fact that MB has no bounds, MB decided to take his mom, a whisker short of 90 years and fan of AR, to one of his signature shows in his hometown. Mom of MB (MOMB) was accompanied by 15-year-old nephew of MB (NOMB) on the trip from Ireland (via Brussels). Both MOMB and MB himself were unsure how NOMB would have reacted if he became aware, prior to travelling, that the AR concert was on the trip agenda, and was in actual fact, the primary reason for the trip. So NOMB, a rap music fan, travelled in blissful ignorance of the classical musical fate that awaited him. Upon being informed on the day before the event that he would attend an AR concert on the following evening, and given the briefest of information but now hopelessly anchored in the concert town, NOMB had little choice other than to go with the flow. NOMB immediately sent SMS to his family back home that he would be attending a concert involving ‘some guy with a violin’!
As things turned out, the 15-year-old Irish rap fan thoroughly enjoyed the event and described it on returning home as the highlight of his trip! The moral of MBs ‘NOMB’ story MB guesses, is that when one is taking a 15-year-old Irish rap fan to a classical open-air music concert more suitable for old fogies, one needs to be crafty as hell!
Thanks to MOMB and NOMB for being great company on the trip. And thanks to AR for the musical and visual extravaganza. What a blast. Long may he reign!
Expect some videos in the upcoming posts!
Regards to all.