Antwerp, October 14
The audience on the first concert of the Night of the Proms is well instructed on what they are about to see, or what they have to do when it’s ‘audience participation time’. There is a Master of Ceremonies telling them everything that happens that night. But it is not prepared for Donna’s entrance on stage. She introduces herself, in more than one way.
With an anecdote the Master of Ceremonies has just introduced the Unfinished 8th
Symphony of Schubert, and it’s been a long evening when the orchestra plays that piece of music. I’m beginning to wonder if she’ll ever appear. But while I’m pondering my own cynical attitude (Europeans don’t get to see a lot of Donna) my brain registers a drum beat starting in the middle of Schubert. 4 bars later I recognise the pattern of I Feel Love. It sounds amazing, a whole orchestra going frantic over that famous little loop, combining staccato loops with long creeping notes similar to Harold’s original synthesizer. I’m looking for the sides of the stage, but it is in the middle of the stage that Donna Summer is slowly appearing on an ascending platform. She has her arms outstretched and is all smiles. She wears a long dress that reminds me a bit of the Live And More one. Her hair is long and beautiful.
Now, why am I not surprised that she effortlessly throws out all the high notes? It still comes as easy to her as blinking her eyes. It is a shame that IFL is only played for 2 minutes, and then comes to a full stop.
The audience seems to be unsure at first: is it her? She is not announced, like all the other artists, and let’s be honest: the two promotional pictures in the program book (the ‘Donna is 18 again’-picture that is used mostly this year and the picture from her autobiography) are beautiful, but don’t help the audience to recognise the music veteran that popped up from the middle of the stage. Not that she doesn’t look nice and beautiful, but if she had been 18, she would not have been headlining, and outshining everyone else on the Night of the Proms. Donna introduces herself: “Ik ben Donna Summer”, speaking Dutch with a German accent. She seems a little bit shy or maybe nervous, but also happy, and the orchestra sets in MacArthur Park.
Now this should be interesting: MAP with a full fledged orchestra! The program announces a CD from the event to appear in December, and let’s hope that this song is on it! Oh, the sound of real violins in the intro….And then, as the dance pace starts, the marvelous “ta-ta-ta-ta”, echoed by the trumpets. Heavenly. The structure of the song is the same as on LAME, but the arranger seems to have listened to the studio version of the suite primarily, and fortunately!
MAP gets a good reaction from the crowd, but still Donna seems a bit timid as she asks if there are any Bad Girls in the house tonight.
Listening to Donna live at the Proms makes me realise that it is good for her to occasionally perform with other musicians than her regular band, because they interpret the stuff differently. This is the first guitarist who seems to get the guitar on BG right live! Of course the trumpets are fantastic. The problem with Donna, however, still seems to be that she cannot keep silent. Her “Hey Mister!”’s in the intro distract a bit from the well-thought-out arrangement for Bad Girls. She also sings away the guitar solo, and when the song segues into Hot Stuff in the familiar way, her singing and that from the three young women singing background seems a copy of the LAME-version. You can see that she has found her place on stage when HS starts. And that is good and bad at the same time, she sounds a bit like she is on routine. The orchestral additions to HS make less sense to me as they do on the other songs. This song is meant to be rock, and perhaps not something with strings.
But these are considerations of a long-time fan. The audience doesn’t mind. They love it! So does Donna, who is seen on large screens. She has a daring dress for someone who is not that skinny anymore, but she looks gooood in it!
Next song: Last Dance. Well people, let’s face it: things can’t GET more Donna than Donna singing LD with an orchestra. She seems to think so herself, and the violins have to struggle to keep up with her volume-wise. Are my eyes playing tricks on me, or does the hair of the audience members up front wave in the wind?
The director has some work to do the following nights on taking Donna’s cue about when to start after the slow music in LD stops. The orchestra goes off on its own once, but other than that LD works fine. And no-one can beat the amazing artist out of her, that is for sure!
Disappointed: Donna leaves the stage during a reprise of LD, although the program book also names State of Independence on the set list. Bummer! The traditional Land of Hope And Glory is sung by everyone, and I feel like leaving before the crowd will. But the Safri Duo, drum artists that had a separate (and amazing) act during the evening, are playing something on a xylophone. After a little while I recognise it: State Of Independence! But how can that be!? Donna left stage, and the program is drawing to a close! But there she is, walking on again, singing what is clearly now the sing-a-long closer of the evening.
State of Independence is absolutely, absolutely, I repeat absolutely delightful with an orchestra! The audience is thrilled (SOI was one of her biggest hits in Europe) and all the artists are singing along. The Ace of Base-singer gets to sing the “Siamese…”-verse and is less than convincing, singing “Third world” too soon, but Donna keeps a straight face. Good thing about SOI is that there is so much space in the song, and the orchestra can sneak in subtle and beautiful long notes, making you wish Quincy had used an original orchestra on the studio version. It is clear that SOI is not part of Donna’s routine anymore, she sounds fresh and involved in a non-routine way, as her vocals soar over the sold-out stadium filled with probably more than 15.000 people. The choir bursts out and the crowd stands up, sings and claps along on the last repeating verses. The final verse is sung accapella, with Donna directing the entire audience. I’m totally overwhelmed by it all. This song should return to the permanent set list immediately, if you ask me.
Last encore is a few bars of With A Little Help From My Friends. All artists are on stage now, Donna and Roger Daltrey an unlikely couple standing next to each other, and smiling at each other. At the end she follows someone’s example and throws her flowers into the audience. Or tries to. The flowers land near the front of the podium and she laughs at that. She is bound to have more fun in Belgium. And to impress thousands of more people the next following weeks. If you’re anywhere near Belgium, you owe it to yourself to see her. As far as short sets go, it doesn’t get any better than this!
|Here I am again, but now I've seen her, the first time in my life. Yesterday at the Night of the Proms.
The "show" began with Roger Daltrey, then some classic music, Safri Duo (percussion), John Miles and Ace of Base. Roger Daltrey is a part of The Who, but isn't The Who, so I didn't like it. The classic music was to popular and sounded like my grandmother's old grammophone. Ace of Base had some funny songs, but passé. John Miles played Music again and again and again, so boring. Safri Duo were very good.
Then there after the break, the orchestra plays some music, the was a surprise act. That night it was Nathalia, a Flemish singer, she sings in English, I mean she tries to sing, but she shouts always, she is popular in Belgium but I don't like her and I don't like her music (she thinks that she is a star) and then again some classical music going over in I FEEL LOVE, Donna comes out of the stage. She tells 'IK BEN DONNA SUMMER' (ik ben = I am). She was singing so good and in the background we had the orchestra. You could see that she felt at home on stage, she was so relaxed, a real star. She did I Feel Love, Mac Arthur Park, Hot Stuff, Bad Girls, Last Dance and after a classical break, State Of Independence together with Safri Duo.
The evening was boring till The Queen of Disco arrived and then it became a great party, thank you Donna, You're the greatest !
I hope she would tour in Europe, and Donna, don't forget Antwerp, there's the Koningin Elisabethzaal, a small concert hall with a very good sound.
|Night of the Proms on October 31 st
It was the third time that my wife and myself went to the Proms in Antwerp. And I must say this time was the best. Would this have to do anything with the fact that there was somebody called “Donna Summer” to perform that night? :-)
We had our seats on the first row of the middle section, just in front of the stage. I’m sure we missed some nice things as we couldn’t see for instance the choir at the back of the stage. And that choir is really excellent.
The Danish percussion duo “Safri Duo” was absolutely fantastic. It’s a mix off classic music with dance and techno. There were also Roger Daltrey (former singer of The Who), Ace of Base (the Swedish group with huge hits such as “All That She Wants”, “The Sign”, “Life Is A Flower” and ‘Beautiful Life”), John Miles (“Music”) and classical music in between. And then finally, it was around 11 pm, the orchestra started to play a classical piece of music, but every now and then one could recognize a familiar piece of pop music. It was amazing, but suddenly this classical piece turned into the most progressive and influential dance-song of the seventies: “I Feel Love”. Donna appeared on stage and the crowd went wild. People from all over the concert hall came and stood in front of the stage, clapping their hands and singing along. From the first notes our Diva was singing, it became clear that Donna would become the star of the evening. Donna was wearing a beautiful black dress. She looked absolutely gorgeous! The second song she performed was “Mac Arthur Park”, supported by an excellent orchestra and choir.
My God, what a performance, what a powerful voice! Next came “Bad Girls” (“Are there any bad girls in the house?”) and Hot Stuff. She sang those songs as if she was singing under the shower. I’m sure she must practise in her bathroom every day (LOL). So relaxed and natural, but oh so convincing. It was amazing.
Next she talked to the Belgian audience, saying that she had her first hit here in the Benelux-countries, and therefore she was very happy to be back in Belgium. Donna said she would probably not be standing on stage if she didn’t have had her breakthrough with her first hit (The Hostage”) here. “So thank YOU”, she said.
Donna, you are to modest.
And then came “Last Dance”. The “summum” for every Donna Summer fan, but as it turned out, not only for us fans. The whole audience (about fifteen thousand people!) stood up, people were dancing in the aisles. Donna was shining, she looked so happy. Her moves when she sung “Fill my appetite”….oh my God. The audience screamed for more, but it was over. Donna left the stage. But…..not for long, because one of Donna’s songs is the closer of the evening: “State of Independence”. Safri Duo brings a fantastic intro with their percussion instruments, and then Donna appears again on stage: “State of life may I live may I love…..” All other performers are joining Donna. At the end the music stops, and everybody (performers, choir and audience) sing all together: “Say, yeah yeah yeah yoo…”. Goose-bumps!
We had a terrific evening, but THE star of the evening was without any doubt our Donna. Today I decided I had to see her again. My wife agreed and we immediately bought tickets for the extra show on November 11th. And our children will go with us.
Donna, be prepared. We’ll be back!