Scary stories from a lovely place
As a foreigner living in an African country I often feel more aware of the shortcomings of my race in reference to others. One of these discoveries is that on the whole, white people cannot dance. I’ve always suspected this was true, but a few weeks ago it was brought home to me with dramatic force.
I took Stephen to a U2 tribute concert. I was a little embarrassed buying tickets to what is essentially fake entertainment, but I went ahead because, in Stephen’s words, “it might be the closest I get to a U2 concert.” The poor man left Ireland before he was of age and U2 haven’t toured South Africa since he’s lived here.
It was actually really good. U2’s music is pretty easy listening and the fake band members were entertaining. We were in the Fringe Theatre in Braamfontein which was a bit reminiscent of amateur plays I saw as a high school drama student – movable seating for about 100 people, thin, black curtaining and a clunky spotlight. The backdrop was a faux broken brick wall graffitied with such words as ‘fight’ and ‘peace’, no doubt intended to evoke some of the more difficult elements of U2’s Irish heritage.
The music was good. ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ rocked. ‘With or without you’ made me as sad as it did in the funeral scene in Looking for Alibrandi. ‘Walk on’ motivated me. I have since wanted to listen to nothing but U2.
It even inspired some daggy white people to get up and dance. The audience were majority white, aged late 20’s to late 40’s. There were even a couple of kids and grandparents. The enthusiasm for dancing was a little slow to get going, but eventually a few brave souls stood up and started swaying awkwardly. Then another and another. Finally a song with a good beat came on and more and more got into it. White people need a good beat so there is something they can bang their hands together along to. Clapping makes awkward white dancers comfortable because they can do something with their hands and sway side to side, forward and back. As it goes when more and more people stand up, those who stoically try and remain seated have to give in. My favourite was a grandpa who finally stood up once everyone around him was up. His swaying was the most untimely.
There was one performance that stood out from amongst the rest – a middle aged rocker sitting to my left who looked like he would be a surfer if Jozi wasn’t landlocked. In the first half he was sitting much further down the front, conveniently adjacent to the aisle so he could really spread out. He furiously strummed his air guitar, sung with his eyes closed while moving his head from side to side and punched the air between rifts. In the second half he moved further towards the back, near us, where he could really let loose. His wife looked like one very classy lady. Her demeanour was much more self controlled than his. But, with the extra space around him, he forced his woman to get into it. They waltzed in the aisle and he embraced her from behind, singing sweet tunes into her ear. She had much more dignity than him, but she didn’t seem to mind his embarrassing display. It was cute.
Strangely, for their encore, the band decided to play “one or two of their own songs”. But these were also covers. They closed with ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, which, sure is a great song, but we were there to hear fake U2, not fake Lynyrd Skynyrd. This aside, it was a good night. And yes, Stephen and I did join in the display of awkward white dancing, awkwardly of course.