Midem ’83 performance: The Galas

Despite Midem’s attempt at hideous futurism with its appalling New Palais, it’s somehow reassuring that the festival has clung to one of its most cherished eccentricities: the gala concerts remain chaotic.
For 17 years we have endured the hell of negligece or incompetence in the organisation and presentation of these important international talent showcases. It’s too late to stop now. The nightly shambles has become part of the annual Midem circus.
The nightly hassle to gain admittance een with complete accreditation (thousands more tickets apparently issued than there are seats available); the exhausting late starts and finales; the overunning in timings of the acts; uncertain running order and wrongly announced artists going on stage; the incomprehensible deference to the TV cameras; the amateur-looking, unimaginative sets; the lack of style or prestige in what should be major international appearances.
Against this annual scenario, virtually a real life Monty Python/Fawlty Towers sketch, it has always been an astonishing feat of professionalism for artists to project their best. But over the years, many eminent stars have launched outstanding careers at Midem, and generated much goodwill at the galas for the world of music. Perhaps they should all be awarded a citation: “Midem gala survivor!”.
It was the same this year, when top honours belonged to Melissa Manchester and Kim Wilde.
The American singer, already firmly established in the US, has the vocal range, style and pure showmanship, in the Bette Midler/Liza Minelli tradition, to become a world star.
Her new Arista single, Nice Girls Think About It, is merely a tiny example of the blazing theatrical talent of this singer who has a string of songwriting successes to her credit. If stars are born into Europe at Midem, then count Melissa Manchester on the way.
She had the unenviable job of appearing on the same opening night bill as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. The unique, soaraway vocals of Aretha puts her in a category all her own and she sang with all the improvisational skill that has made her legendary.
Motown’s Commodores demonstrated a smooth stage show that complements their consistent growth over the past 15 years into one of the ost successful male vocal acts. Their effortless, melodic charm on their British shows should consolidate their position, and they are determined to stay the course now that Lionel Richie has triumphed as a soloist.
The immense European popularity of Kim Wilde was obvious from the wild applause at the mere mention of her name. While her striking good looks have helped to launch her she proved, in a sensational show that silenced the cynics, tha ther simple, delightfully dated sound has great magnetism.
Her tight, impressive backing musicians helped Kim score with immaculate versions of her hits Kids in America, Chequered Love and View From The Bridge.
Inexplicably, heavy metal band Girl School and America’s chart topping Laura Branigan relied on backing tapes rather than creative musicians on stage. The result was scrappy endings to songs that made the performances sound unpolished.
American rock band Cheap trick predictably hammered home a carefully honed act that has been built up for several years in gruelling tours. Visually and musically, it was a breath of air for enthusiats of gritty rock.
Other gala appearances came from Captain Sensible, Rickie Lee Jones, violinist Jean Luc Ponty, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, the Heath Brothers, George Duke and Stanley Clarke, The Beat, Evelyn King, Nicole and the powerful French singer Julien Clerc.
The shows were televised by TF1 for broadcast in America and France. In fairness, the technical demands brought by the presence of cameras made some of the flaws in presentation understandable, but no less irritating for the artists and audience.
Midem galas need to be simplified and dignified into the sense of occasion they once were. Let’s hope some lessons were learned from the new Palais this year that can be built into improved continuity for 1984. But not too much new slickness all in one year, please, or Midem wouldn’t keep up its predictability.