This is the story of two vastly different musical experiences.
Last Friday night, a group of 10 or so (extremely beautiful) friends kicked off an extended celebration of the Joyce's birthday by over-dosing on three favourite, though indulgent, luxuries: fine food, fine wine and karaoke. Lucky Voice was our venue of choice and, to set the scene, you need to imagine a dimly lit, leather padded sauna with a large flat screen, a couple of mics and a hoarde of inflatable saxophones and bright pink afro-wigs. I admit that I was slightly sceptical about the whole thing. I've only done karaoke a couple of times before and last time I chose to do "Hey Jude", which is a great song and easy to sing for the most part, except it has about 4 minutes of "na na-na na-na-na-naaaaaaas" at the end, which gets a bit tedious for both the singer and the audience. But all it took was an explosive r-r-rendition of "Boom Shake the Room" by Brendan to turn me into a believer. Who would believe that anyone could mimic the s-s-s-stutter of the Fresh Prince so perfectly? After that followed a cavalcade of hits all sung in fine style. The highlights were simply too numerous to mention them all here, though special mention should be made of Yalin (the only one of us who might actually sound good to an independent third party - the man can sing and he's got soul), Huy's (perhaps overly?) sensual dancing to "Genie in a Bottle" and Jenny's dramatic and heart-rending intepretation of "Total Eclipse of the Heart". I was blown away by our collective talent, flair and sense of drama. It was fun.
On Sunday night, I went to see Lauryn Hill, acclaimed R&B superstar, play her comeback gig in London. I was excited at the prospect of seeing L-Boogie in the flesh. And, for the 20 seconds or so between Ms Hill being announced on-stage and the time when her microphone started working (I mean who lets the lead singer get on stage without checking that her microphone works?!), those hopes were sustained. It was at that point, that Lauryn started shouting (not singing, oh no, she didn't do much of that) the lyrics to Bob Marley's "The Heathen" backed by a 14 piece band that was loud, but unfortunately not quite loud enough to drown out her squawling. She then proceeded to shout and rasp her way through what I had thought was an impressive back catalogue of tracks (including a number of Fugees tunes that she massacred by forgetting half the lyrics), before caterwauling through a number of Bob Marley covers (it took me about 3 minutes of listening to "Zimbabwe" before realising what she was singing) and then finally showing no mercy for her tortured audience by forcing them to listen to new material that sounded a whole lot like two cats fighting in a metal rubbish bin. She was bad, folks, she was BAD. Have you ever seen a crowd of several thousand people stand dead still and with their arms crossed throughout an entire 90 minute musical performance? I have. Half-way through the show, Lauryn asked why everyone in the balcony was so quiet. It was because they were LEAVING Lauryn. It's a shame. She used to be so good.
Next time I want to hear good music, I'm going back to Lucky Voice ...