The night the music died 


I did something I’ve never done before on Friday night and it made me feel guilty and liberated all at the same time.

For the first time in my life, I walked out of a show halfway through. As a strong supporter of the arts, I felt bad for doing so but then again I didn’t think my eardrums could handle any more of the noise.

It’s difficult to encapsulate how disappointed I was. It was meant to be a tribute to Tim and Jeff Buckley – the latter of which has been a favourite of mine for years – and I’d ventured out with my single lady ticket for the first night out on my lonesome.  A feat in itself methinks. I was so excited about it, I’d even posted on Facebook about it and popped on a sexy frock.

The format was a variety of singers, including Martha Wainwright who attempted to do the songs justice, the most of whom were just, well, bloody terrible. While it was admirable to include Steve Kilbey (frontman of the Church), perhaps as an Aussie token act, his vocal ability was sorely lacking in what you have to admit are pretty tough songs to sing. Unfortunately he was also the second performer of the night and sounded very off-key, which made me immediately start to worry what I was in for. When Martha joined him on stage, I thought things would improve, but it just sounded like they were shouting at each other.

The backing band also seemed out of time, or just doing their own thing in that annoying jazzy experimental type of way, and were far too loud. And so even though I didn’t necessarily want to hear some of the singers screeching in their vain attempts to hit the high notes, their over-playing meant the whole arrangement mostly just sounded really very bloody bad.

As the first hour dragged on amidst polite declining applause, a few people started to leave, and the director (who had worked with Jeff on his Grace album) would grab the microphone for long-winded monologues that just weren’t that interesting.

The saving grace was an Irish singer by the name of Camille O’Sullivan who could wail like Jeff and thankfully seemed to put her heart and soul into it. An a capella rendition of Hallelujah by another female singer, Cold Specks, was an interesting take on Jeff’s most famous song, and then all of a sudden the lights came on and it was intermission.

I sat there and realised that many people looked as perplexed as me. Who knows whether it was because of the aural train-wreck we’d just endured for the best part of an hour, or the fact that we’d all just been given a polite way to exit stage left.

I sat there and pondered what to do. Would it be bad form to split? I’d noticed people leaving during the actual performance, so at least now, if I so wished, I could make a break “for the loo” and then just never come back.

Then I had an epiphany, I realised that if I left at that very moment, I could be home in time to see the dying minutes of the Broncos semi-final match against the Roosters. I don’t even follow the NRL, but it seemed like a very good excuse at the time.

So I picked up my handbag, making a comment about popping to the toilet to the ladies sitting next to me, and walked out. As I headed for the exit with a liberated smile, I noted numerous other people doing the same. I even overhead someone say: “I can’t even describe how disappointed I am”. Touche indeed.

The next morning I searched for reviews of the show and could only find one from the Sydney Morning Herald, which seemed to concur with the honest assessment I’ve written above. I also learned that the performance was scheduled to go for 160 minutes,  of which I stayed for 60. My timely exit does now seem like a Hallelujah moment to be rejoiced.

That night I learned two very important lessons –  there will never be another Jeff Buckley and life’s too damn short to listen to bad music.