Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Was Amy Winehouse's Belgrade gig really that bad?

Was Amy Winehouse's Belgrade gig really that bad?

Amy Winehouse's gig in Belgrade has been called the worst concert ever to take place in the city. Even Serbian defence minister Dragan Sutanovac put the boot in, calling it "a huge shame and a disappointment".

Audience members have inundated YouTube with clips from the concert showing a sozzled Winehouse leading a startled backing dancer to sing Valerie, taking her shoe off for no apparent reason, and giving up halfway through Just Friends in order to introduce the band – whose names she struggles to remember.

Much has been made of the fact that audience members paid £35 a ticket in a country where the average wage is £274 a month – though that is hardly her fault.

Yet was the gig really that bad? While addiction is clearly no laughing matter, the elements of the gig Winehouse is being pilloried for are praised in other musicians. As music critic Simon Price pointed out on Twitter, when Bob Dylan renders his back catalogue unrecognisable, as he did in London's Finsbury Park at the weekend, people think he's a maverick genius. When Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner stops singing Mardy Bum and lets the crowd take over, people applaud it as a communal moment. When Robbie Williams has a wardrobe malfunction – according to the Sun, his penis fell out onstage in Dublin – it's a laugh rather than a cause for concern.

Winehouse is now typecast as a troubled diva. Yet watching her rendition of Back to Black on YouTube, to my ears it's not even that bad. Sure she sings around the tune, but she's always done that – she's a jazz singer. Her rendition of Just Friends is listless (to put it mildly), but it never had much of a tune in the first place. Though admittedly hindered by booze, the musician in Winehouse is still trying to put a new spin on songs she must be heartily sick of by now. If the people of Belgrade wanted note-perfect versions, perhaps they should have stayed at home and listened to the records.


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