The music was great. The singers were brilliant. The songs were varied and aimed for different tastes.
But it was an emotionless crowd that attended the Joseph Calleja concert on Thursday.
I’ve been to various concerts abroad, and I know what kind of atmosphere there is. It is the audience participation that makes a concert memorable and which gives you the urge to go to the next one. People chant, dance to the rhythm, fill in the gaps in the lyrics, flick on their lighters, wave their hands up in the air and do a million other things to add to the vibe.
But the crowd in Floriana simply applauded at the end of each interpretation. Very timid applauses, I want to add. No shouts, no screams, no standing ovations, no enthusiasm at all. Just an applause that subsided after a few seconds.
Were it not for the uncomfortable chairs and the gaps in between each number which were way too long, it was like listening to a CD at home with some clapping in the background.
Antonello Venditti couldn’t help but comment about the strange silence. “Che silenzio c’e’ stasera,” he murmured loud enough to be heard at the end of his first stint. He had just pointed the microphone towards the audience, believing that they would have joined in by singing the next line, but there was no collective voice, and the music just played on without the words. He did not try it again.
Yesterday’s must have been the concert – and he’s done many – which he will remember the most because of the crowd’s passiveness.
Maybe it’s the way the people are placed, with the big guns right at the front, seated in tight rows with so little space in which to move, and who are too well-known to lose their composure in front of their political adversaries or the boss at the office.
The real music lovers – those who cannot pay much, or nothing at all – stand at the back, too far away from the stage to feel part of it. And lack of passion prevailed from the back too.
Even Joseph Calleja, spectacular in his singing, seemed unable to whip up the crowd this time. He was less talkative than usual, and his jokes were rather stale.
Maybe we’re getting used to it and need something new. Or maybe it’s just us, the Maltese, so cold when it comes to these mega-events.
There were a few ironic moments I would like to mention. Suzanne Vega sang of a Liverpool with “no traffic” while the first line of a song Venditti interpreted - “Alta Marea” - is “autostrada deserta” (empty highway). Probably they do not know the ordeal we have to go through every day, or just wanted to pull our leg.
But what took the cake in terms of irony was Venditti’s “In questo mondo di ladri” (In this world of thieves). It is a song of protest against the establishment, authorities and politicians, and those who “steal” from others.
It was funny to see people who are the main targets of the lyrics because of their reprehensible behaviour putting their hands together for this song. Maybe they lost their conscience, maybe they believe the words are not directed at them; or maybe they do not understand Italian.