Tuesday 1 November 2022

Celebrate good times, come on!

Did you ever dream of being in a pop group? I certainly did. I was young and starry-eyed and I played bass guitar in a band called The Young Mark Twains. The practice sessions and politics are best forgotten, but being on stage... Wow! That was amazing.

The experience of performing music to an audience is what's behind Monaco On Stage, which opened on 15 October in the Salle d'Exposition du Quai Antoine 1er. It's not strictly an exhibition, more an immersive experience, a bit like a side show to the fun fair. Let me give you a tour.

The entrance hall contains signed photos of artists affixed to the walls: "To Betty with love, Tom Jones xxx"; "Pour Jacques encore merci, Marlene". Through here we enter a space called Riffs. Seven guitars are spot-lit in turn as a recording of a famous riff on which it's played is piped through a speaker. Listen out for head-bangers' favourite Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore. Sadly these aren't the actual axes played by the artists. They are nonetheless the genuine brand and line.

We now enter the corridor of Greatest Performers and a Disco room with spinning mirror ball. The Jackson Five's I Want You Back is playing when I enter, and I'm just about to start strutting my stuff when the spotlight shifts and a new musical excerpt begins. It takes three minutes to cover eight artists.

Further along, two Loges represent dressing rooms, one for divas, one for crooners. I ask if Monaco's famous female resident, Shirley Bassey, has loaned any items. Sadly not.

Let's continue to Restons Groupés which names individual members of famous groups who have performed in Monaco without their band-mates. Reines du Jazz recognises female jazz singers past and present. My Way cleverly fits together five covers of the English version of Claude François's Comme d'Habitude: Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, Paul Anka, Nina Simone and Robbie Williams. Then, through a swing door A Cappella contains only a single, spot-lit microphone. Attached to the wall are headphones through which you can listen to unaccompanied vocals. Norah Jones's voice outshines that of Sting, but then maybe she doesn't play bass guitar.

There's a small nod to the short-lived Moods, which I still miss, but no mention of other venues that feature live music in Monaco: Note Bleue where I recently saw Junior Giscombe; Salle Leo Ferre where I've seen Caravan Palace and where General Elektriks are soon to appear; Indigo in the Grimaldi Forum. Nor is there anything to suggest how much support is given to local artists who play regularly in bars such as Rascasse, McCarthy's and Brasserie de Monaco. I can understand it tho', as this exhibition is Monte Carlo SBM's showcase.

And now, the grand finale. On Stage attempts to give you the experience of playing in front of a huge, dancing crowd, blurred by smoke and flashing lights. It reminds me again of my own youthful band-playing experiences and short-lived pop career.

More stuff

  • Free entry
  • 15 October to 31 December, 2022
  • Organized by the Government in partnership with Monte Carlo SBM
  • Curator: Alex Jaffray, a French composer with a music production agency and a regular slot on television magazine shows
  • Designer: Rudy Sabounghi, a costume and stage designer

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