Vixen Of The Violin: The Anna Phoebe Column (No. 3)
Life’s tough for Anna Phoebe, our provocative new columnist who’s played violin with the likes of Steven Tyler, Jethro Tull and Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Here Anna talks about hanging out with royalty, swimming in the Dead Sea and finds time in her mercilessly busy schedule to set a post-Easter quiz. Click here to read all of Anna’s columns.
Hope you had a fantastic Easter Weekend! Nothing like a good ol’ chocolate egg and some hot-cross buns washed down with a nice cup of tea.
I spent Easter Sunday travelling back from Jordan, where I played at the closing ceremony of the WRC Car Rally championships at the Dead Sea. The race-course terrain is formidable, taking you from the forests north of Amman at altitudes of more than 1,000 metres, along dusty tracks, right down to 408 metres below sea level to the Dead Sea.
My working day, however, was not the most challenging day of work ever experienced. I spent most of Saturday floating in the water so thick with salt it is almost oily, basking in the 30c sunshine and slapping on the amazing mud that you collect from the bottom of the water. Really hard work!
On Saturday night I performed to 600 racing drivers and their teams from all around the world, as well as to the prince of Jordan (brother of King Abdullah). I played solo and also with the amazing singer Bridgette Amofah, who performed legendary disco classics with her Shirley Bassey-esque diva vocals. Although Amofah writes her own songs, this audience wanted songs they could sing along to. For them, when it comes to enjoying a performance, the familiarity of the songs is just as important as the delivery.
In the last six years, since I have been travelling to that side of the world, I have tried hard to find local rock bands who write and perform original music. Apart from meeting a heavy metal band from Dubai called Nervecell, who have played at the Desert Rock Festival and European festivals, most of the musicians I meet play in cover bands. Apart from the general love of more traditional Arab (Oriental) music, there is an obsession with hip-hop, r’n'b and house music, and the DJs who are the most successful take traditional Oriental songs that are up to 100 years old and remix them with beats. Other than that, the bands you find in most bars are either cover bands or tribute acts.
Anyone who has read the same story to a child more than once, knows how infuriated they get when you try to change around words or skip a page. Are we that different when we go see our favourite bands live? I know that for some people they love to hear their bands recreate exactly the same music as on record, but there are some bands who have always strived to be creative with their sound or line up, and to take a different angle when it comes to the live experience.
As an audience member, and definitely as a performer, this keeps the creative juices flowing – and adds so much more to the live experience! I’m sure that part of the reason artists want to change their material is just to circumvent the boredom of playing the same songs over and over again!
A couple of years ago, I saw The Allman Brothers play at the Beacon Theatre (New York) on consecutive nights – and each one was completely different – the solos were still all way past the 15-minute mark (well, almost), but their interpretation and the feel changed each night, something unique, captured in the moment of that one performance. I can’t imagine them being confined to exactly the same notes every night. In perhaps a more constructed way, but creatively challenging nonetheless, bands like Jethro Tull have sustained 40-year careers continually changing their sound and style not only on record, but also the interpretation of the songs live on stage.
Actually, I had a pretty funny experience a couple of years ago, where in the space of a couple of weeks I played on stage with not only Jethro Tull, but also at a festival in Surrey with a lovely bunch of musicians in a Tull tribute band called Cold Flame. The hilarious thing was that the tribute band were more ‘genuinely Tull’ than Tull itself – the singer had long, unruly Ian Anderson hair circa 1975 and a velvet outfit with matching codpiece from the same era. He even had the gold-plated flute!
The songs I played with them were stricter arrangements of the original tunes and the flute solos were down to a tee! It was so odd to be suddenly teleported back to a world before I was born, and then 10 days later to be shuttled back to the present day with the real Tull. Please note: the real Ian Anderson nowadays dresses far more conservatively, and he assures me that the velvet/suede outfits, the boots and the codpieces have long since been thrown out. Which quite frankly is a shame because there were a couple of pairs of velvet spandex I had seen in magazines and was thinking I could perhaps borrow!
Easter Challenge – Try to guess which famous bands these acts are trying to emulate (all acts are real and can be found on YouTube) :
1. Lez Zeppelin (the all-girl group)
2. Pink Fraud
4. Prudas Jeist
5. Metal Licker
6. Mini Kiss
7. Rolling Clones
8. Slack Sabbath
9. Chicks With Dixies
10. T. Rexstasy
Please send your answers on the back of a postcard to www.annafreebie.com
Inspiration Track For the Week:
Tenacious D – Tribute
* For more about Anna go to www.annaphoebe.com
Tags: Allman Brothers, Anna Phoebe, Anna Phoebe Column, BC/DC, Bridgette Amofah, Chciks With Dixies, Cold Flame, Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull, Lez Zeppelin, Metal Licker, Mini KISS, Nervecell, Pink Fraud, Prudas Jeist, Rolling Clones, Shirley Bassey, Slack Sabbath, T. Rexstacy, Tenacious D