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(en) Freedom 6322 Nov 16th 2002 - Crass fail to show the way

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 25 Nov 2002 10:08:56 -0500 (EST)


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Voices and Music in Opposition to War, The Crass Collective at
Queen Elizabeth Hall, London on 8th November 2002
This was a big disappointment. Actually, I'm too kind. It was crap. Not
because any single performance from the eclectic mix of performers
was bad (although some were), but because it was just so bloody liberal
and worthy. That it was being staged at the Queen Elizabeth Hall
should have been warning enough, as should the £20 ticket price.
Despite this most people, like me, were attracted to the South Bank by
the fact it had been organised by The Crass Collective. Twenty years
on, the name Crass is still big enough to sell the QEH out. What a
shame it was such a let down.
While it was good to see Freedom being sold in the foyer and Mark
Barnsley leaflets handed out, it was all but impossible to connect the
anarchism evident outside the hall with what went on within. Voices
and Music failed, both as a performance and as an anti-war protest.
After a pleasant enough piano piece, well played by Liam Noble, one
punk shouted out "what the fuck has that got to do with anti-war?"
Good point. You can imagine Tony Blair, sitting in Downing Street and
on the phone to Bush, saying "shit, George, they're playing anti-war
songs and poems on the South Bank. Let's call the war off!"
A long, rambling and - I have to say, pretentious - poem by Penny
Rimbaud illustrated the problem with this concert. Rimbaud read
Methinks over atonal sax riffs. Frankly, it looked and sounded like a
spoof of poetry clubs you'd see on The Fast Show. If you've seen Mike
Myers in I married an axe murderer, you'll know exactly what I mean.
And I'm someone who likes atonal music.
While Rimbaud performed, a screen behind him showed the looped
image of a plane flying. Its intention, I think, was to suggest 9/11. But
if so, why not show images of the planes crashing into the Twin
Towers, perhaps alongside pictures of the devastation caused by Israeli
forces in Palestine, or by the Allies in Afghanistan? These images are
censored from our television screens. They'd have been powerful, and
might just have made Rimbaud's poem bearable. Crass used to push
the boundaries. They used to be challenging. This was just liberal art
house nonsense.
Don't get me wrong. There were some good performances. Goldblade
stormed through two great punk songs. John Sharian delivered another
Rimbaud poem, Amerika, with skill and conviction, to a choral
backdrop. Christine Tabin gave a powerful performance of Brother, can
you spare a dime? All very nice, if a little disjointed as a whole - but not
exactly challenging. This was mainstream stuff, and little or nothing to
do with Crass's own anarcho-punk roots or their ability to shock. There
was a real gap between the audience, which included a large number of
anarchists, and the performance.
Voices and Music illustrated the weakness of Britain's anti-war
movement. Peaceful marches, die-ins, poetry reading, placard waving,
dance and the rest ain't gonna stop this or any war. The safeness of
these things means that middle class liberals, a smattering of whom sat
rather uncomfortably in the audience, can ease their consciences
without stepping out of line. That such an event happened in the
Queen Elizabeth Hall was hardly a surprise. The fact that Crass were
associated with it was. There's an old Crass song called What the fuck?
I thought of it as I left. What the fuck was the point of Voices and
Music?
Richard Griffin



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