For my birthday last year C got us tickets to a concert series at the Mondavi Center in Davis. We've seen Mariza, Elvis Costello and tonight, Baaba Maal. Well i went alone tonight as C was not feeling well. I think she would have enjoyed it. I liked the music, but had some quibbles about the concert.
I've enjoyed all of these concerts but seeing them has got me thinking about performance, and what performers seem to expect as part of the experience. Tonight Baaba Maal began with two lovely slow performances, he being seated on stage with a guitar and backed by five other performers. By the third song, he stood and had the guitar removed never to return, and brought three more musicians onstage. From then on it was one high energy, high volume tune after another. Very rhythmic as you might expect from a band from Senegal. The music couldn't help but get you moving to some extent.
The audience was appreciative. I think every one enjoyed the music. But the Davis crowd tends to be older, well heeled, and sedate. The center itself encourages that. Its beautiful, but hardly a nightclub, and while wine is sold beforehand, its hardly a drunk crowd. So when the band wants you to clap along, they've got their work cut out for them to get the crowd into it.
And Baaba Maal wanted people clapping along by about the fourth song, for every song, and it got tiresome. Just because I'm not clapping doesn't mean I'm not enjoying the performance. Often it means I want to hear the performance, not obliterate it. And much as I enjoyed the music, by about the midpoint of the concert, I was getting a little bored. I think they needed to change things up a little more as Mariza and Elvis did. The ecstatic high points of a concert need to come in doses. If they are nonstop, they lose impact.
To their credit, they did finally get people up on their feet, even up on stage, dancing and loud. So the concert ended on a fine high note. They did make the audience work a little too hard for an encore I thought. But oh well.
Elvis also made a few gestures to get people to stand in ovation and Mariza made a few comments about how hard her band worked and she was always curious about how they would be received. She seemed a little disappointed in the sedate Davis crowd. I'm a little embarrassed for them myself, but just as much for the performers who seem to need this validation.
Next up is Sonny Rollins. I am looking forward to that, being an old jazz fan.