Friday, November 16, 2007

The Telegraph comes out for Amy

Helen Brown, who reviewed the Winehouse gig for the Telegraph, is so outraged that people have criticised her show, she's filed a second column about it.

The Braclay brothers will, of course, be delighted that train ticket to the West Midlands is turning up so much copy.

Brown suggests that people who paid to go have no right to complain:

If the "appalled fans" had bought their £20 tickets to see a slick, wholesome pop show, they'd have had cause for complaint. But they can't pretend that was the case.

Whatever else Winehouse might be accused of, the self-proclaimed "ugly drunk" can't be charged with mis-selling herself. She lives a life of high drama. And she has used that troubled experience to create an excellent album's worth of highly dramatic songs about desperate love, alcohol addiction and drug smoking. Her "appalled fans" must have heard them or they wouldn't have paid for tickets.

She has a point - you probably do know that there's a chance Winehouse might not be any good when you buy the tickets, but is it fair to assume that the audience were there merely to watch the sideshow rather than hear the music?

It's probably analogous to Mark E Smith. If you buy Fall tickets, you know there's a chance that Mark E Smith might turn up in no real state to do a show and turn in a bit of a stunker. And when that happens, you don't think "aha - what a night of high drama", you go home grumbling because you could have seen one of the truly sublime bands but instead got a honking drunk. I suspect the same would be true of the people who bought Winehouse tickets - whereas Brown assumes they went in the hope of seeing a stumbling freakshow, I imagine most people hoped they'd get the woman who, from time to time, turns in a decent performance.

It's curious that Brown is angry that the press turned up expecting a dreadful performance - which is bad of them - while she's apparently okay with the audience buying tickets for the same reason.

Brown suggests they should count their blessings:
[The night] even for the "appalled", surely unforgettable.

Well, yes. It's unforgettable if you go on a date and the person you're with is sick all over your shoes. It doesn't mean it's good for the relationship.

Brown also appears to be quite selective in her account of the gig:
So now we come to the "crazed rant". When a group of young men booed, Winehouse pointed out that if they didn't like her music they were "muggy ****s" for buying tickets. While indecorously phrased, she had a point.

Surely the nub of her slagging of the crowd wasn't the calling them cunts, more the threat that people booing would be beaten up when her husband is released from prison? And were the "young men" booing Winehouse's music, or her performance? Because if you've paid to see someone who can't do the show, booing - while indecorously phrased, might be to the point.

Ultimately, Brown is doing Winehouse no favours. By suggesting that a mentally-fragile woman is a thrilling show, (like "Holiday or Simone"), she's validating the backstage team who forced her on despite the mini-breakdown minutes before taking the stage [reported in this morning's Mirror].

There's nothing artistic in seeing someone crumble before your eyes. Ultimately, the audience who effectively called out "get her off the stage" were being kinder to Winehouse than people like Brown insisting "the show must go on". She's clearly vulnerable, and rather than excitedly trilling about how thrilling it is to watch, the humane thing to do is look away.


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