First gigs of the year tend to be a bit unusual, or at least in some way rum. One year my first gig of the year was the inspired soukous of Kanda Bongo Man, quite unlike anything else I’d been to before, or have seen since. This year and last year the first gig of the year was one of my favourites, but marred by a trendy West End audience who had no particular interest in watching the people on-stage. In 2007 it was The Crimea; this year it was Sylvie Lewis, who turned in a delightful and at times brave set.
Full marks to her for telling the audience to shut up: I have some sympathy, in principle, with the view that if you’ve paid to get in, it’s up to you whether you pay attention to the band or not, and down to them to insure they capture your attention, and it is unreasonable of them to ask the audience to shut up if they have filed to do so. But in practice there are problems with this: firstly, talking during someone’s set, particularly if it’s quiet, will spoil it for people who are actually trying to pay attention – and irrespective of how much you have paid to gain entry to a venue, you have not purchased the right to spoil things for other people. And secondly, if, as in The Fly where we saw Sylvie, there are separate venue and bar parts to the place, between which people can move freely, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect people not watching the band to conduct their conversations in the bar. As it was, Sylvie managed to get the bastards to shut up for about 30 seconds, which wasn’t bad going.