In the doghouse: more trouble for Amy Winehouse

Boozy floozy ? Image credit The Daily Mail

It’s no wonder performing musicians get such a bad name.

A video posted on YouTube of part of beehive-hair-wearing Amy Winehouse’s Serbian gig last Saturday (via today’s Guardian) shows the singer giving performers a bad name.

The frustration of the audience is clearly audible in the amateur footage, which seems to show Winehouse struggling to maintain an on-stage presence; at about two-and-a-half minutes into the video, she clearly makes an effort to adopt the hair-massaging, body-stroking movements of a sexy stage-siren, but it doesn’t work at all.

I was reading Alan Bennett’s second collection of autobiographical and critical writings, Untold Stories, over the weekend, and came across a passage where he criticises musicians for always turning up late and not being all that professional. As a performing musician myself, this naturally aroused my ire. Then I saw this footage of Amy Winehouse definitely not giving a public performance her full professionalism, and had to concede that, on this occasion, Bennett does have a point.

I feel sorry for Winehouse. But I feel more sorry for all those professional musicians who do give of their very best when performing, but who end up tarred with the same brush as Winehouse because she, as a high profile performer, behaves in a way which reflects badly on us all.

Update: 22 June: in today’s Guardian, news that Winehouse has since cancelled all her remaining tour dates.¬† She has also allegedly refused to collect her fee for the disastrous Serbian gig performance. Perhaps some moral flame still flickers in her: it shows a commendable moral sense, if it’s true.

I’m singing, but I’m a little bit bored…

As reported in NME recently, the pop-gossip wires are buzzing with news of a recent Amy Winehouse gig, in which the singer appears to be more interested in the cleanliness of her fingernails than delivering a committed performance to her fans.

At times, she appears to be gazing off into the middle-distance, as though trying to remember if she left the back-door open before leaving the house, or perhaps she’s just trying to recall if she put her mobile phone on charge before she left.

I’ve not seen a performer look more preoccupied; the backing band are giving it some punch, the backing-singers are clapping in all the right places – it’s just the star who looks like she’s not quite concentrating.

You’d feel pretty miffed if you’d paid money for a ticket and made the effort to go to the gig, only to watch someone who looked as though they were simply going through the motions and operating on auto-pilot. Live music is all about communication between performer and audience, about conveying the emotion of the text or the spirit of the music, making the audience believe the story you are telling is your own. Eye-contact with the audience is crucial: looking at people¬†whilst performing underlines the singer’s commitment to the text they are delivering. It’s the catechism of singing teachers and opera coaches up and down the country: “Believe in what you are singing!” How many times have you heard vocal coaches ask pupils, “What do the words mean ? What story are you telling ?”

According to The Mirror, a spokesman afterwards claimed the set was marred by ‘an earpiece not working.’ That may have been so, but it looks like it was mainly marred by sheer boredom.

Performing is about communication, commitment and conviction. Those three are remarkably absent in a lacklustre rendition of Rehab. Perhaps someone should reassure her before she goes on-stage that her nails are fine…

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