Last night we went to the Diana Krall concert at the Palais des Congres de Paris. I am not a complete jazz aficionado, but the only music that plays in our house on Sundays when we have family and friends over is jazz. Why jazz? No idea, I have just always associated it with relaxed Sunday afternoons, winding down the weekend. Diana Krall is one of my favourite jazz singers so I jumped at the chance to see her. Even if it was to be held at the Palais des Congres. This is a conference centre with behemoth-sized auditoriums – not exactly the perfect venue for an intimate jazz evening. I had also not expected the masses of people that turned up last night. The French love Diana Krall! That was the first surprise.
The second was the realisation that you can create intimacy in an auditorium that holds close to a thousand people. Really you can. It would have been so much better at a smaller venue though, but she did establish a good rapport with her massive audience.
The third surprise was that, she may well be a jazz singer, but she’s really a rocker chick. I suppose it would have been hard to keep the audience entertained enough if she’d kept to her more mellow sounds. She had the crowds going wild as she pummelled the piano with sounds of Dylan filling the auditorium.
The final surprise, or rather, confirmation was that: language is a very effective tool. She struck up the usual banter with the audience early – although it was more talking from her, and yelling from the crowd. This I find works well in smaller spaces. Besides a good jazz musician always intersperses his music with some anecdotes, as a preamble to the music. It’s an effective way to connect with an audience. She did this well enough – but it was an uphill battle in the beginning. I sat there wondering, She’s hilarious! But why are we the only ones laughing – us and a few. Is the audience not really getting her?
It dawned on me halfway through the first set. It’s a language thing! She had come on stage, had introduced herself in English, said two words in French, and had continued in English. There were a lot of English speakers in the crowd, but there weren’t enough of us to guarantee that instant rapport that sets the mood for the rest of the evening.
After her introduction she asked the audience: Are you doing alright?
Hello Paris, Are you alright?
Nothing. Save the English speakers sprinkled around the auditorium.
Uh oh, I thought, this could get awkward. Just sing already!
Despite the slightly awkward start, she did go on to engage the audience with her music; coming back onto the stage after the first ninety minutes to a resounding applause; and playing for a further twenty minutes.
The evening had me thinking though, was it the audience? Jazz music lovers? A slightly older, mellower crowd? …I finally concluded that it was the language. A lot of what she said seemed to be lost on the predominantly French audience. She did not elicit the reactions I was expecting as she told her anecdotes in between her songs. Or maybe her Canadian humour was too offbeat for the French. Pity. She’s a great musician, with a sense of humour.