The ‘007 – The Music Of James Bond Galakonzert‘ guest starring Conchita was disappointing — some of was lovely, some of it not so much
I’m not a fan of James Bond music and, as much as I love Conchita, I didn’t want to sit through a concert of music I generally don’t like just to hear her sing a couple of songs.
I also didn’t wish to experience another concert featuring Conchita and have her incredible voice swamped by yet another too-loud orchestra, as she was by the Bruckner Orchestra in Linz earlier in the year. (She was wonderful, as was the Bruckner Orchestra, but the orchestra level was too loud and, thus, overshadowed much of her performance).
But a friend, whose judgment I usually trust, told me I should grab a ticket as the concert would be good. So, dutifully, I did.
Which was how I found myself at the ‘OO7 — The Music of James Bond Galakonzert‘ at the Wiener Konzerthaus on Sunday night cursing that, on Conchita’s last song and during her finale with three female soloists, I couldn’t hear her, or them, at all.
During her first three solos I had to strain my ears in places as well.
The concert performers
The ‘007 – The Music of James Bond Galakonzert‘ featured Conchita as the star guest, along with three soloists — Maya Hakvoort, Nazide Aylin, and Sandra Pires.
I was not familiar with the women, but that’s only because the music they sing is not normally to my taste. As performers, all three were good. Again, when I could hear them.
As for the orchestra, someone is going to have to educate me as to who they were, as their name did not appear anywhere on the ticket, on any of the promotional material or on the poster for the concert. A shocking oversight on the part of the concert organizers.
As an orchestra, however, they were excellent. Particularly during the instrumental parts of the concert when they played various pieces of James Bond soundtrack music while scenes from Bond films showed on the movie screen above them.
As a non-fan of Bond films or music, I did enjoy that.
Conchita’s James Bond songs
Now, before we get to why ‘007 – The Music of James Bond Galakonzert‘ was disappointing, let’s look at the James Bond songs Conchita sang. Because it wasn’t her performance of any of the songs that was disappointing in the least.
In fact, the reverse was true as Conchita loves the drama of Bond songs and, man, can she sing them.
Conchita’s first solo ‘Diamonds Are Forever‘ was lovely, as it was not only a nice repeat of her performance with Shirley Bassey a couple of years ago, it was a song Conchita sings beautifully anyway.
It was also a song during which the orchestra levels were somewhat under control so, even at the back row of the concert hall way up in the Gods in the very last seat, I could hear every word she sang and so was able to appreciate Conchita’s stunning voice.
Her second solo came a few minutes before the intermission and, this time, was a rendition of ‘Moonraker‘. A song I must admit I love, and one Conchita more than did justice.
As ‘Moonraker‘ is a more subdued song when it comes to orchestral accompaniment, again it was relatively easy to hear Conchita’s voice, and she knocked that song out of the park.
‘Moonraker‘ was also my favorite part of the concert. The song is pretty, and Conchita’s ability to hit those high notes with such clarity was gorgeous. (See video below)
‘For Your Eyes‘ only, however, was where the concert started to get into trouble.
Sitting where I was, although I could hear Conchita and could tell she was killing it with this song as well in parts, her voice blended so much into the now much more forceful orchestra, I had to strain my ears throughout the whole thing to be able to hear most of it.
But it was Conchita’s last song ‘Goldeneye‘ where, once the orchestra got their hands properly wrapped around the end of the first verse, the volume skyrocketed and the sound quality was downhill from there. A muddy mess was the only phrase that came to mind.
Right after this, Conchita was joined on stage for the grand finale by Maya Hakvoort, Nazide Aylin, and Sandra Pires, who had also performed exceptional solos themselves with some of the same sound issues Conchita’s performance suffered through.
In fact the three women’s last song together, Sam Smith’s “Writing’s On The Wall“, was so dreadful when it came to the volume of the orchestra, they might as well not have been on stage at all as much of the audience certainly couldn’t hear them.
The finale, however, was where it all went to hell in a hand basket, because the orchestra was determined to “give it their all”, and the Wiener Konzerthaus’s sound engineers were apparently willing to help them.
As the last notes were being played, I was already out of my seat and heading down the stairs desperate to confer with a friend who was sitting in the balcony below me. Was his experience as bad as mine?
With the speed both of us left the Wiener Konzerthaus, I didn’t have to ask him if it was. But I did.
“Terrible”, he replied, as he had experienced the exact same sound issues in the balcony below mine as I had seated far up in the Gods.
Do some of Austria’s concert halls not have qualified sound engineers?
Now, I’m deliberately phrasing that heading as rudely as I possibly can because, no, I’m not anti-Austrian concert hall (the Wiener Konzerthaus is gorgeous and has nice acoustics). Nor do I think Austrian sound engineers are sub-standard, as I have definitely been to many concerts in Vienna where the sound has been superb.
I am simply phrasing it that way to draw attention to the fact that, when an orchestra takes the stage with a guest artist and the audience is treated to what can only be described as “a cacophony of muddy sound”, it doesn’t make the concert hall, the orchestra or the sound engineers look good.
It doesn’t do much for the featured guest artists either.
I’m also curious why, if the audio guys at Wiener Festwochen in May were able to get almost perfect sound levels as the Vienna Symphony Orchestra accompanied Conchita and various other artists at that concert, and that concert was outdoors so in some ways more difficult, why was it such a hard task for the engineers at Wiener Konzerthaus?
Wouldn’t you think their engineers would be familiar with an orchestra playing in that concert hall?
If not, shouldn’t they have sat in different places in the hall while ‘007 – The Music of James Bond Galakonzert’ was being rehearsed by the orchestra and performers, so they could see where problem sound issues were occurring?
Conchita and orchestras
And so, while I love, love, love that Conchita sings with full orchestras, I have to admit my tolerance of these types of concerts is rapidly going downhill.
Because, as I have said before and I will say again and again, someone on Conchita’s team should be making sure their artist can be heard. Whether it is with an orchestra or without. (She apparently had similar issues in Berlin in November with the Berlin Philharmonic as well).
After all, when she performs in a venue where her voice is so overshadowed by an orchestra it is difficult to hear her sing, and when fans have paid good money to be able to see her live, after a while all but the die-hard will stop attending. And that would be a goddamn tragedy.
As for me, I’ll give it one or two more goes, as I adore hearing Conchita perform live, love seeing how utterly happy she is at being up on a stage, and would hate to miss that.
A couple more concerts like the one at the Wiener Konzerthaus on Sunday night, though, and, sorry love, but I’m out. (And no, you know I’m not really, but Good Christ, would someone at some of these concert halls fix the bloody sound, and would someone on Conchita’s team please get used to saying “She won’t be singing until the sound levels are better balanced”).
Note: Remember, most of the videos accompanying this article were filmed from the front row or close to it where it was much easier to hear the singers, and the sound is already muddy. So only imagine what it was like further back in the house. Almost impossible to hear them.