Serj Tankian - Saku Arena, Tallinn, Estonia, 16.10.2013
|Event:||Serj Tankian: European Tour 2013|
Serj Tankian - Saku Arena, Tallinn, Estonia, 16.10.2013 by Ivor (17)
Everybody knows Serj. Everybody loves Serj. Now with orchestra!
A relationship with Serj as a vocalist seems to be a binary one. You either love his voice, or you hate it. Rarely is there an in-between as it's a bit of an acquired taste. Love it, or hate it, there's no denying his talent. However, in his solo career, Serj as a composer is a weird sort of character. His music swings in various directions, it is neither here nor there and yet it is both. And as the time passes by his swings seem to be of the more radical kind. While Harakiri last year was a fun, normal kind of record, this year already has seen a jazz album Jazz-Iz-Christ and a classical album Orca. And it is the latter one that is the basis of the Serj's current European tour which happened to end with a date here in Tallinn.
Without a background check I was pretty much at a loss trying to figure out what to expect from the gig. Given Serj's latest compositional swings, it could have been pretty much anything. Opting for ignorance and a possible surprise, the gig turned out to be Serj plus the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra performing Orca and symphonic version of Elect the Dead. No electric instruments. So, it was to be that sort of gig. Now, rock band with an orchestra is a been-done-before kind of thing with a beard. At times it can be super cool, other times it's just nothing. I don't think I've ever seen any band perform with an orchestra, though, at least nothing worth mentioning. So, for me it was to be a novel experience and, hopefully, a good one.
However, sometimes I hate the critical, self-centred, perfectionist son of a mother that I am at a gig, especially when I have an intention to write about it. These traits amplify all the little things that are not right and make them into things that are just wrong. This mode spoils the performance and it doesn't let the show be enjoyed just as it is. No, after noticing things that are wrong, it never boils down to just enjoying the gig... Oh, no... And with this particular show, I don't even know how to begin describing all the things that appeared to be wrong. So, maybe I'll start from afar...
A good orchestra is pure, a carrier of powerful emotions. It can dig deep and strike hard. One of the most depressing shows I've ever attended, was a performance by a classical string orchestra (and that was just a local ordinary one). The experience was so powerful that I've even tried to avoid string orchestras from then on. Brass or symphony orchestras strike different emotional chords but can be no less powerful. However, there's an important pre-requisite for orchestrated music to come across as an experience - the environment and the atmosphere have to be right. So, let's see now why it all was just exactly not right at this particular gig.
Let's be honest, there's a very good reason why proper concert halls are built. Good acoustics are essential for orchestras. A large tin-can sports hall that is Saku Arena is not a place with good acoustics. Never was, never will be. Period. I was appalled at the notion that Serj with an orchestra was to perform in a sports hall while Alice Cooper was at Nokia Concert Hall just a week ago. If anything, it should've been vice versa. Size does matter, though. I didn't think there'd be that much interest but 3-4,000 people would have been too much for the other hall in Serj's case. Why they opted not to do a smaller sold-out gig in a better place instead is beyond me.
So, the tin-can. It's huge (by our local standards) and empty. Huge of course means amplification. You can't fill a hall that big without it. Not even with an orchestra. But amplification fills the room differently, if it fills it at all. And what do you think of an orchestra through an amplifier? To me, it's just plain wrong, especially if there are no accompanying electric instruments (I mean electric guitars and bass). As I said, orchestra is pure but it is really pure when you can actually hear it in a natural way. So, we come back to good acoustics again.
Next, orchestrated music needs attention and no distractions. It's like with theatre. There's no movement when the show starts, it's a sign of respect towards the artist(s) and your fellow visitors. You just don't go to the toilet during a song you like less, through a whole row of people and then the stairs. You put a fucking cork in it, or tie a knot, depending on your anatomy. And you don't go to fetch a fucking beer or fries. Every little noise distracts from the music on stage if it's an orchestra playing. And with this gig there was no end to the flow of people. One goes up, another goes down... On and on and on...
1. Act I - Victorious Orcinus (Orca)
2. Feed Us (Elect the Dead)
3. Blue (Elect the Dead)
4. Sky Is Over (Elect the Dead)
5. Act II - Oceanic Subterfuge (Orca)
6. Lie Lie Lie (Elect the Dead)
7. Money (Elect the Dead)
8. Baby (Elect the Dead)
9. Elect The Dead (Elect the Dead)
10. Act III - Delphinus Capensis (Orca)
11. Honking Antelope (Elect the Dead)
12. Falling Stars (Elect the Dead)
13. Beethoven's Cunt (Elect the Dead)
14. Act IV - Lamentation of the Beached (Orca)
15. Empty Walls (Elect the Dead)
Encore without the orchestra:
16. Gate 21 (Imperfect Harmonies)
Serj loves what he has achieved with Orca or the symphonic version of Elect the Dead. It's evident from the way he is on stage. But seeing him in a state of joy, makes me so incredibly sad I could cry to the accompanying orchestra. I can see the joy and his passionate performance but I cannot relate to it. It just feels impure among all these small and fundamental things that are wrong. You know how Indiana Jones used to say it belongs in a museum? Well, this here belongs in a theatre or a proper concert hall, if you still haven't understood it. Serj loved the show. And the crowd loved Serj, so maybe it's just me... It's got to be me...
Serj. I'm sorry. It's me... Not you...
Written on 17.10.2013 by
I shoot people.
Sometimes, I also write about it.
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