Tuesday, April 28, 2009


We are not great concert-goers.

We have fond memories of Proms and of Picnic Concerts at Kenwood in the '70s but since we have been in France – nothing.

That could probably be explained by having 4 kids.
When they were little, it was too much trouble to take them or to organize sitters.
When they were a bit bigger, the tastes of the oldest & youngest were so different.
Bigger still, the tastes of parents & kids clashed.
Now, we are just out of the habit.

Then there is the cost.
When I can watch almost anything anytime on TV for free, I instinctively assess the value of an hour's entertainment somewhere else at maybe 5€.
So when concerts ask 25€ (each) I am stretched to even consider it and when they go over 100€, well I can't imagine saying yes under any circumstances.
100€ would buy a colour printer-scanner & a small digital camera.
Or a trip round the world on Ryanair, maybe.

Recently, a new Zenith concert "hall" has been opened between our village & Strasbourg.
It is hard not to notice, as it looks like a giant, part-crushed gasometer & is bright orange.
The orange part is actually some sort of tent-like fabric, so it will be interesting to see how long it lasts & how scruffy it gets.
I will give it credit for being different & not boring, but really I think it is an ugly eyesore.
Like the Centre Pompidou in Paris, for which the British are responsible…
Obviously I don't deserve to be even let in to "artistic" locations.

The pictures here are from their free Open Day.
Even then I wondered why they were going to have 10 thousand paying customers queuing unprotected in the rain to get through not enough entrance gates.
But I admit that the orange half-light in the foyer was pleasant, in a camping sort of way.
As opposed to the undecorated concrete everywhere.
Or the hard plastic seats inside.
After a quick glance at the price lists, I assumed I was unlikely ever to go there again, and forgot all about Zenith.

Then a neighbour won some free tickets to "Lord of the Dance" & very kindly offered 2 to DS, presumably due to the Celtic link.
So we found ourselves seated within a few meters of the stage for this striking spectacle.
You can see & hear bits of it here:

I would have thoroughly enjoyed this show, sitting comfortably chez moi at a reasonable distance from a good TV screen, set to correct brightness & sound level.
Squirming uncomfortably on bottom-numbing hard chairs, looking awkwardly up at the small actors &/or big screens, shaken by way-too-loud sound systems requiring fingers in ears most of the time, was more impressive, but altogether less enjoyable.
Even for free.

At the time, I put the loudness down to the particular show & the fact we were right at the front.
I vaguely though it would be necessary to bring cushions & ear plugs if I ever won another free ticket.

But when the kids offered us tickets for a Circus show at the Zenith as a birthday present, I forgot the cushions & felt the earplugs would hardly be necessary.
How wrong I was.
We were seated half way back in the audience and sound had absolutely no significance to the circus acts, but it was again deafening – literally painful.

When I got home, I wrote to Zenith to point out that the sound level was not only unnecessary & unpleasant but positively unhealthy & that I would not be using their facilities again unless they fixed it.
Actually, I had no intention of going there again, but I wanted to do my bit to protect others, maybe my kids.
Their reply was that they had no control over the sound level, which was fixed by the performing companies.
They don't deserve to succeed.

We are unlikely to be great concert-goers any time soon.

Parting thot: "You can solve any problem, except the one you pretend you don't have." – Robin Skynner (approx. back-translation)

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