OPINION: Too much liquor, too little grace at Noonan gig
SINCE when did we let our theatre manners slide?
One person's rude and disrespectful is clearly another person's perfectly fine. Add alcohol to the mix, and perfectly fine suddenly transforms into the common, selfish refrain: "we're just having a bit of fun - lighten up".
I was in the audience to see the sublime Katie Noonan perform to a sold-out crowd at the Majestic Theatre in Pomona Saturday night.
It was delightful and moving for all the right reasons, but memorable for some unfortunate ones.
A small group in the crowd felt it was perfectly fine to talk loudly through the middle of Katie's songs.
They got louder as the night went on and, presumably, as the wine glasses were topped up. And up.
They had interrupted a song by Katie's support act Jack Carty an hour before.
They were so loud, he was forced to stop a few bars in at one stage and ask if it was OK for him to continue, sheepish smile hiding no-doubt murderous thoughts.
They were so loud that they caused many people to utter a stern "shoosh" or three to quieten them down, especially as Katie was starting a new song.
From the stage, she said more than once that she loved her "shooshers".
They peaked at their most annoying during a song, sadly, Katie told us that she had written for her father who has Parkinson's.
From memory, it was the incredibly beautiful Emperor's Box.
It's a quiet tune, performed here just Katie and a keyboard, and the lyrics are truly powerful.
The emotion in that moment moved 99% of us in that quaint little theatre to absolute stillness.
We should have been able to hear a pin drop. Instead we heard these yahoos chatting and laughing away.
I was sitting up high in the back, and I could see at least 10 heads turn around in the direction of the unwanted noise, eyes locked in death stares.
I tensed up in my seat and searched Katie's face for a glimmer of irritation as she sat there, pouring out her soul.
But I guess as someone who has played gigs where blokes jump on stage and slam you in a headlock to demonstrate how much they love you, she wears a special type of performance armour: Teflon professional to a bullet-proof fault.
But as that song wound up, someone in the audience was so angry about the ruined moment that they spoke up: "could the chick in the back row please keep it down!".
Instantly, a wave of fierce, rapturous applause rang out.
There were follow-up calls of "yes" and "a bit of respect!"
Katie was unflappable, telling us: "It doesn't bother me, but thank you (for attempting to quiet the crowd for me).
"I understand…you've paid $40, you want to hear what's going on rather than people gasbagging away.
"And if you want to gas bag, perhaps you could do it outside (voice trailing away from the mike, not wanting to offend).
"But music is very social, and there is alcohol - so I get that. I get it."
Pause. A diplomatic response. What will she say next?
"Maybe they don't get out much?"
Laughter. It diffused an intense moment. Call off the lynch mob.
The backlash worked, for a while. I noticed the troublemakers were quiet during Katie's spine-tingling cover of Sia's Chandelier, a song about alcoholism.
I wonder if they soaked in the message. "One, two, three; one, two, three: drink".
There are live music shows and there are live music shows.
People in the audience need to pick the mood.
Within minutes, you can work out if you are at a show where noisy dancing is the norm, or a show - like this one - where everyone is seated in rows, sitting quietly and paying attention.
And frankly, if there is no drum kit, I take that as a clear indicator that respectful silence is the way to go. At stadium shows it's about a light-sound-movement experience.
In a tiny theatre in Pomona on a cold August night, it's about spending some quality time up close and personal with one of music's greatest talents, happy for your ears to drown in a sea of glorious sounds - not be assaulted by an insulting few.
Katie's first words to the crowd when she came on stage to start her almost two-hour set were that she wanted the vibe to be casual.
She happily asked for requests to be called out from the audience.
I am guessing she didn't mean ill-mannered, offensive interruptions from people who should have been banned from the bar 60 minutes prior.
I think a fan summed it up perfectly on Katie's Facebook:
So sad those bogans up the back kept talking, it spoilt the night.
It was such a privilege to see a local international artist who's worked a lifetime perfecting her art, only to be talked over by a drunk disrespectful group in the audience.
If they want a pub band and a chat go to the pub!"
Now don't get me started on the apparent acceptance now to film live music on phones and tablets.
Isn't that illegal?
Rebecca Marshall is Business Editor and Features Writer with the Sunshine Coast Daily