Off we went, then, to Ronnie Scott’s on Monday night, to see Ruby Turner perform. I’ve liked her for years but I’ve only seen her perform with Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, whom I adore. (In fact I often play my Jools playlist on the gym treadmill.)
Ruby Turner is astounding in the amount of effort she puts into her performance. Soul music is not really my thing but she blew everyone away with the complete dedication of all her mental and physical faculties to her performance.
I felt, though, that she was let down a little by the sound desk technicians: maybe I’m getting old but there was really no need for such over-amplification is such an intimate venue. Goodness, I bet Ruby could have blown our heads off without any artificial amplification at all. I also thought that the use of the echo effect was extraneous. Yes, it can sound quite nice, and it’s often used to cover up lack of technical prowess and dodgy tuning in less able singers. For me, though, the echo gilded the lily: there was just no need. In fact, in my opinion, Ms Turner’s outstanding abilities came over better in the quieter, calmer parts of her songs.
All of the above would, however, have been lost to the annoying couple sitting next to me, who were obviously not there to listen to the music. Well, maybe that was a little harsh on the young man, late twenties, early thirties or so, who was trying to pay attention. Every time he focused his gaze on the stage, though, his undoubtedly attractive female companion would distract him with her chatter or her long legs or a mixture of the two.
When you buy tickets at Ronnie Scott’s they specifically request that patrons keep conversation to a minimum during the acts. They reiterate this with signs all over the club. In fact it’s a grim indictment on the state of modern manners that this reminder is needed at all: if you’re too crass to shut up and listen to some of the greatest musicians in the world, then why bother coming to see them? Live performances of anything are increasingly plagued by boorish idiots who seem to think that the rules of common decency and civility don’t apply to them. Ugh.
This little performance of the progressively-inebriated amorous couple irritated me and all the people around them. People were giving them looks and loud Shhhh! and I at one stage very politely asked them to keep the noise down. They both apologised – loud and long, which made things worse. In my mind I was saying “Look, we’ve come to hear a music performance. If this is a sort of drunken foreplay for you, perhaps go and finish the job elsewhere.” But I am too polite to say that.
At one point the woman staggered off to the loos, I assume, and her beau left shortly afterwards clutching a packet of cigarettes. She left her handbag on the velvet banquette and I later found his keys right next to my handbag, where he’d been fumbling. It’s possibly an over-reaction, but dark thoughts of possible terrorist or other criminal activity fleetingly crossed my mind.
Anyway, they both returned after a while, those lovely-doves, and resumed their consumption of two whole bottles of claret. Or more. And no food. On a Monday night. They were still there when we left. I hope they had huge hangovers the following morning.