David Garrett at the Waldbuehne.
The Waldbuehne, the stage in the woods, is one of Berlin’s most attractive outside venues. A natural bowl shape in the landscape has been terraced and seated for over 20,000 people. On a beautiful summer’s evening like this one, it’s really quite a sight.
David Garrett is an incredibly gifted, classically trained violinist who’s gone a bit Las Vegas. Hugely popular here he still plays classical but is famous for his ‘cross over’ concerts, including AC DC and Coldplay alongside tango, gypsy music, Mozart and Chopin. So I did know this, and I was warned, not least by him in his press releases, but, Lord above, it was all, well, a bit over the top.
Ok, currently reading a terrific book, Selbst Denken, (Think for yourself) by a social psychologist Harold Welzer, probably didn’t help. As you may have seen terrible floods, almost certainly caused by global warming, are currently devastating parts of central Germany and the Czech Republic. Welzer’s notion is that we all need to live more modestly, buying and consuming less, living ‘lightly’ on our planet, not only because its right to do so, but because it’s cool, and not to do so is vulgar, crude….the German word he uses is ‘plump’. Maybe the concert could be said to have a been a bit ‘plump’…
I was probably not in the greatest of moods either having had to stand waiting for half an hour at the entrance for the disabled. Supposed to open at five it eventually opened at five thirty. Organisers sensitive enough to make a separate entrance might also think to provide a few chairs for us. But no, and the disabled are generally so polite. The able bodied were whistling and booing at the wait long before there was a peep out of us.
Inside, the bowl, framed by trees, and with sections marked by box hedges, manages to be both spectacular and charming. As so often the disabled pitches were the last rank, so David and company were going to be ants in the distance but the hedge provided welcome back support!
David opened with Queen’s ‘We will Rock You’ and backed by three video screens, a rock band, dancers, and half a symphony orchestra he took us on ‘a musical journey’ from AC DC (very loud) to Coldplay (an identifiably nice tune in there somewhere), and back to Queen. About the classical choices, probably best not to describe what a rock band does to Mozart’s Turkish March, and suffice to say if Chopin had been able to write for modern day drums, he would still have probably stuck to the piano.
On the other hand, miraculously, the Beethoven, the scherzo from the ninth symphony, and Garrett’s final piece, the main theme of that symphony, Ode to Joy, were terrific. Despite the entirely unnecessary dry ice, lasers, videos, dancers, the headache bestowing stage lights shining straight into the eyes of the audience…. that tune is still amazing. Perhaps you can ‘cross over’ however you like but Ludwig will somehow already have been there and done that.
Before we set off home to sit, engine idling, in the post- concert traffic for half an hour, the encore was a version of Michael Jackson’s ‘Earth Song’, and David implored us to take out our phones, shine our little lights and add pointlessly to the carbon bill for the night… during which, whilst all around us there was a real, really beautiful sun set, we were treated to videos of sunsets.
Not far away, the rivers were still rising……