Friday, 8 March 2013

Gig review: Emir Kusturica & The No Smoking Orchestra

In an effort to have an adventure and stop feeling like the only one not having any fun (you can have the Reel Big Fish quote for free), I decided to splash out 1500 rubles/ £32 on a ticket to see Emir Kusturica & The No Smoking Orchestra at A2 last night.

I also went because Emir Kusturica is a very famous and cool director from Serbia. He is probably best known for Life is a Miracle and Black Cat, White Cat, but I got to know of him through a module I took at uni on how the Balkan wars were portrayed though film, in which we watched Underground. I expected the live show to be as crazy as his films (read: very).

Unza Unza Time by Emir Kusturica & The No Smoking Orchestra

A little bit about the Russian gig experience: it's weird. Club A2 isn't too much of a pain to get to, but now the nearest tube is shut the simplest way to get there seemed to be to walk 25 minutes from the next-nearest tube, so I guess that's like walking from Mornington Crescent to Chalk Farm to get to the Camden Barfly. That's after I've walked the 20 minutes to Sennaya Square tube on my end and stayed on that for a quick 10 minutes. A2's Mir is a medium-sized venue, maybe the size of Koko/ Islington Academy in London, a bit smaller than Nottingham's Rock City. It's clearly used for clubs because the upstairs VIP section has a separate entrance and is furnished with sofas. Read that as the upstairs has zero atmosphere. Downstairs wasn't that great either, maybe due to this band being not super-famous or super-cool: there was the odd girl or couple jumping and dancing but 95% of people were stood stock still, unless there was clapping required, which happened a lot. In that case it seems the majority can seem to muster the energy to put their palms together. Russians really dress up for gigs, I knew once I'd got there that nobody had come to do anything energetic as the girls were wearing high-heels and a lot of slap.

The reason Emir Kusturica & The No Smoking Orchestra aren't very danceable is because they lose momentum constantly. The gig started out slow, and between numbers they always went back to riffing on the Pink Panther theme, slowing everything down, sort of destroying any dancing momentum they'd built up. It was more like a sort of cabaret or circus in parts; they got about 15 girls up on stage to dance and then Kusturica asked them to copy him. Queue conga-line around the stage and making them all do press-ups. It was pretty funny actually. The violinist was dressed in a sort of graduate's robe which is later removed to reveal layer upon layer of dresses. Bizarre. At one point he put his bow in Kusturica's shoe and played his violin like that, but holding it against the bow. Things just got weirder and weirder really. There were light-up spinning guitars, kazoo battles, a member of the audience picked out and then serenaded and waltzed about on stage. It was just... so very Emir Kusturica.

Sure the music they play is called a mix of Balkan folk/gypsy/rock/jazz. The Guardian described them as playing "some of the world’s wildest, most joyous and most unrestrained music", and apparently when they played that Glasgow Concert Hall the security were starting to panic. Not a chance of that in A2, more a risk that everyone was going to fall asleep. I can't even point my finger at exactly what it was: the unenthusiastic crowd, the soulless venue, the music wild but failing to keep up the tempo, this gig was not great. It was just OK.

3 stars, actually 2.5 because of the poor value-for-money. I wouldn't pay £32 for a gig of that size even in central London.

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