Posted by Andy “Brass Section” Bell
Pyrotechnics, gymnastics, crane shots and other flim flammery are fine and dandy, but can you really beat a great performer … and a great band ?
Having taken a looksy at the 2012 “Festival della canzone italiana di Sanremo” (Sanremo Music festival) I am in total agreement with Barabara Cook’s sentiments. (And how good were the MSO BTW ????!!!!)
For sixty odd years Sanremo has been sticking to a tried & tested format and it still delivers.
It’s moved with the times somewhat, but never forgetting from whence it came.
Back in the mid-1950s, it was the template for the Eurovision Song Contest, but has – by some measure – stayed truer to its roots than the ESC.
As the ESC has developed, in atmospherics if nothing else, as some kind of a “Europe’s Got Talent X-Factor Masterchef” show, the Sanremo has never traded its soul.
It is STILL all about the music.
And while the ESC has long done away with such old hat as an orchestra, the Italians have stayed staunch.
In fact, it could be argued they were able to comfortably walk away from the Eurovision Song Contest on a couple of occasions because they had a home-grown event that better suited their purposes.
Whether it was a sulk or not is beside the point.
Italians had seen the ESC become a not always pleasing melange of schools spectacular, talent quest & 3am show at Mardi Gras.
Nothing wrong in that, but it didn’t quite “fit”.
The music was being marginalised as the “Total Entertainment Perfomance Instance Demand” – TEPID for short – took over.
Much of the noise was far from musical.
Meanwhile, back at Sanremo the basics were still honoured even as the mode of televising the thing changed.
It is, after all, a creation of electronic media – it started as a radio event before moving to TV – but the festival was deliberate in not falling for each passing technological fad or fancy.
All the while, the song was paramount, with the place of the orchestra or live group not far behind.
And the existence of any kind of band does make a huge difference.
It offers succour and challenge.
It adds a dimension.
It focuses the performance.
When it works a band exudes energy, drama, joie de vivre and even malice towards the singer.
And that engenders a reaction which can make the difference between the bland and the memorable.
Singer + orchestra/group = compelling.
And in never playing a song the same way twice, a band can goad the singer to go to places he or she wouldn’t dare to go to alone.
The pre-recording of backing & orchestral tracks allows for a reduction in the margin for error, but it also encourages reduced risk taking in what remains of the live performance.
So if the song is not allowed to fully flourish is it any wonder that it requires the audience to be distracted and/or diverted with various visual tricks and gimics.
Indeed, there are times when overblown visuals suggest a complete lack of confidence from the performers in the song they are (or should be) giving their all to.
The music seems to have been strategised until it has nary a heartbeat of its own.
It’s better with a band because it becomes daring.
That’s why it’s better with a band.
Therefore the campaign for the return of live music to the ESC is one deserving of proper consideration.
You only have immerse yourself in the pomp of the 2012 San Remo Festival to see its time has not passed.
For more on things directly (and indirectly) connected to the Eurovision Song Contest go to JoyEurovision.