THE FANZINE THAT FEATURES SMALL AND UNSIGNED BANDS
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
CONCERTREVIEW : DANIEL JOHNSTON (BRUSSELS, AB 13/04/2010)
So tonight was the night we could meet the legend aka Daniel Johnston. Dunno, if it's still necessary to introduce the man as such but as it's our job to do, there's no other choice left. But first some things about the Belgian band Tommigun who were supporting act during the whole tour. It wasn't bad, just perhaps a bit faceless (it went from cabaret-pop, think an Pierlé, till Americana indiepop like Mazzy Starr), everyone could hear they were talented but their music was just a bit too flat to convince an audience especially if they were waiting for one of the most legendary men in pophistory. And that is of course Daniel Johnston.... My God what has not been said about him? He's the godfather of the tapelabels, not because he thought it was cool to release tapes but just because it was the only way to get heard cos how genius his stuff might be considered now, back then in the mid 80's no one was willing to listen to his stuff. It was only since Wayne Kramer from Shimmy Discs was interested that the snowball came slowly rolling.... As soon as Kurt Cobain started to wear the legendary "Hi, how are you?"-T-shirt, it was that out of a sudden everybody was aware of the genius of Johnston. Not that this got translated in album sales as till today Daniel Johnston is still obscure and it’s so that the madness of the man is become more legendary than the music itself, just remember the huge success of the rockumentary "The devil and Daniel Johnston" Before Daniel got on stage we were confronted with the Beam Orchestra, an 11-piece band who bit by bit would kill the genius behind the man’s music. It started with a long intro that was balancing between free jazz and bad prog rock but even if it was amateurish and boring we kept our promises high. As soon as Daniel entered the stage it was all clear that this man is in extremely bad shape. Unshaven, toothless, dirty clothes and shaking from the first to the last second. The reasons are known by now as he suffers from bipolar disorder and the amount of medicals the man must have swallowed must be immense, and you can see that... Already from the first song you could see that this man was not in shape. Terrible voice (but that's indeed the charming thing) but besides the terrible shaking (it makes you feel pity for him) he had to read the lyrics. After the first song he forgot what the next one would be, while he responded : "There are voices in my head saying which songs I'm going to do next". And then he picked up a guitar and that'd be the sole moment you could see him playing an instrument as the rest of the gig would be in the hands of the terrible Beam Orchestra. And terrible they were..... From Daniel Johnston you expect lo-fi or something that's not perfect as it was that DIY-thing which got him famous and respected in the first place. Now we had a band who are so called serious musicians but they're so boring and it's all so perfectly done that you hate that polished sound. It got worse and worse and some songs were even treated with a sort of Glenn Miller big band-thing. In all honesty, I fear that Daniel is only used now as I can't imagine him being pleased with such a crap band. Sometimes it felt that the public got the side of Daniel the freak instead of the musician. And even if I was at the first row all I heard was people talking around me. Disrespect, a big f**** to them but it also says something about the interest that got lost.
A freakshow it certainly was. Already from the second song he started coughing and it was terrible to see him drinking water with the shaking hands. It felt so creepy at times that sometimes there were thoughts coming up that you were asking yourself if it isn't immoral to watch (and to laugh) a man in such a condition. This man is sick and deserves a treatment, even if the question remains if the treatment will make him a luckier man but that's a total different question as we're here for the music.
After a small set from 30 minutes he left the stage while that same terrible orchestra (I call it an orchestra too, this is not a band!) started to play awful easy jazz that's not that far away from a greatest hitsalbum by Bert Kampfert.
During this intermezzo we heard Daniel sneezing, a member from the band laughed...are they using him or is he using them? How crap The Beam Orchestra might be, it's clear that this man can't be on stage himself (that was proven during the encores). Everything Daniel quoted was damn painful to hear with liners like "Last night dreamt I died in my sleep" or "At high school I could choose between 3 girls. look where I am now, totally alone". Such things are dead creepy especially coming from a man in such a condition. A second set followed with some genius songs ("Deviltown" or "True love will find you in the end") , but again there was that terrible band. A Facebookmate told me that it seems to be the case in every country and recently the crowd even started shouting "Solo!Solo!" which says enough. Imagine Daniel singing "Fake records of rock 'n roll" while two female singers are dressed like secretaries with tons of make-up....how true to the bone is that????? This man is a genius, he wrote the most painful lovesongs like no one else, but he has chosen the wrong entourage and the hardest thing is that you realize that this will be one of the last times you actually can see him as he's already like the Serge Gainsbourg from the alternative scene, this is pure self destruction and he's already passed the borders. I mean I hope it not for him as you feel sorry for this teddy bear-man, but him dying won't be a surprise and the hardest thing is that he realizes that himself and makes jokes about it. When he leaves the stage, the crew has to help him as he can't find the way out. Somewhere I hope for him it's all part of a freaktheatre, problem only is that you can see that this is not the case... And look I am talking the whole time about the freakpart of the show and that's the tragedy, yesterday there was only a freak show to watch. Genius songs were performed by a genius who is in terrible shape surrounded by bloodsuckers.
At the end the whole band came bowing to the audience, Daniel wasn't there, I didn't applaud.... the true genius was already gone (doing God knows what) and raising my hands in the airs for 11 wanna be musicians who destroyed such true beauty...why would I do that?