Firstly, my excuses. They are two-fold.
Free beer and food. Both nights.
A corporate box goes a long way to encouraging my interest in going to dodgy gigs. In fact, neither gig was terrible – and I hope to maintain some semblance of the street cred I am under the impression that I possess - mistakenly perhaps - once you have read this article. You will, I am quite sure, understand my motivation, perhaps become convinced the endeavour was worthwhile, even admirable.
I promised myself when I came here, that I’d try not to lose any opportunity to gain new experiences. This of course has its limits – I understand there’s a lot of opportunity for massive corporate fraud, and/or gang membership, and/or weapons trading around this part of the world. These are not opportunities I wish to investigate in any meaningful way, other than perhaps reading about them, and tut-tutting while I do so.
I had also never been to the 02 before, the venue for these two extravaganzas (plural of extravaganza = extravaganzi??). Once known as the Millennium Dome, it had been considered a white elephant almost as soon as construction finished, and apparently lay unused for some time, until something could be found for it to do. It can be seen from many a vantage point around London, having the appearance of a … well… a dome, but a dome tent, with spikes sticking out of it into the sky, giant tent pegs anchoring it to the ground. Now that I think of it, it is a very ugly construct indeed, a folly even – but one that has become iconic of Greenwich if not London, almost beautiful in its ugliness.
First up, Peter Andre – tabloid favourite, adopted by the nation as the wronged party in a messy divorce from Katie Price/Jordan. I don’t really know who this Katie Price/Jordan person is, but she must be important to have two names. Andre is famous for his abs (abdominal muscles), and a song. I know the song – it’s called Mysterious Girl, and was a Top Ten hit some years ago. He seemed quite surprised to be playing the 02 - as he said, it was the culmination of a dream he’d had since he was a lad. I don’t think he’s really had a hit since then, so he was probably right to be surprised.
I noted that he had not grasped, in the first half of the show, the resemblance of his sound, look & dance moves to Michael Jackson, because the first song in the second half of the show he dedicated to Michael Jackson, as if he had especially written and adapted an otherwise different and original style to that of Michael Jackson, unaware that the entire show up until that point had been an exercise in channelling Michael Jackson - from popping up out of the stage in a cloud of dry ice at the beginning, to the nature and quality of his music. Note: I think Michael Jackson is rubbish. King of Pop they may say, but I could just never quite connect with the guy. Maybe in the Jackson 5 days, but not the groin-grabbing, castrati-voiced later years. I don’t like The Beatles either.
I did find myself quite liking Andre after a while. He bares his emotions, a little obviously at times, but somehow endearingly. He played to a tabloid template, offering us a window into his private life as much engaging as it was discomforting. He loves his family, that was plain to see, and wasn’t shy about sharing that with us. We perhaps had no right to accept the invitation.
I was discussing the Andre Experience with a colleague & friend sometime later. I was in the middle of describing the Peter Andre experience to him, and said – in my defence I thought – that much of my interest was anthropological. I used that very word, “anthropological”. The woman sharing the lift with us – rightly so, but to my chagrin – audibly spluttered with laughter at my statement. This has to be the way I rationalise it to myself.
The second show - Enrique Iglesias.
By way of mitigation, access to the corporate box is limited, in that the “quality” shows tend to be snapped up by executive members of the organisation, so the pool of talent left to us lesser mortals is somewhat limited. It had lain empty during a live performance of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds – a little upsetting.
Iglesias was at a level noticeably above the Andre Experience. He proved a much more rounded performer, with an apparent belief that he was very much entitled to, and had earned, his place on the stage. He is a world renowned performer, whereas Andre is a British one. Once he took to the stage, he had the audience enthralled. He played to them, he played with them, but always with respect and a seeming joy of performing and sharing his performance with the audience. He bears none of the sleaze factor that seems to have attached itself to his father.
A friend described a conversation she had with a gay male friend. Said He: “Friends with Enrique, but fuck Ricky (Martin).”Said She: “Friends with Enrique, but fuck Julio.”
The old man apparently retains his appeal...
I remember only some of the Iglesias show, and then through a haze - an alcohol induced one, as the fine fellow servicing the bar stood ready with another beer of my favoured brand, while I drained the last of each bottle. His enthusiasm, courteousness - and I have to assume public concern - meant that he repeated this numerous times, leading me to drink far too bloody much.
So I can offer no in depth deconstruction of the Iglesias musical oeuvre. I can remember snippets – his backup singer with a look reminiscent of Scary Spice; the volume of the music (am I getting old, or am I just an auditory-preservationist when I wonder why music is so loud at concerts), but also the clarity of sound; the three or four songs that I knew; the impression he gave of being the total professional, completely at ease with and, in control of, the talent that he possesses; the smiles on faces after the show, even on those whose owners had professed a dislike of his type of music, indeed of the man himself.
Charisma, I think it’s called. The man had charisma.
I’ll not be rushing out to buy the respective albums of either one. But they both, in their own particular ways, put on a show. One maintained what seemed a genuine level of wonder that he was even there, which while endearing indicated the extent of his musical “chops”; the other a born performer living perhaps, his destiny.
My interest in them remains, of course, purely anthropological.