JOE COCKER: "Live at the Westel Connection Concert, Budapest"

Blues & rock legend Joe Cocker played a free concert at the Budapest Fair sponsored by one of the mobile telephone service providers of the country. The gig was inserted into Joe Cocker’s European tour, so he only took the necessary minimum amount of musicians needed to make his songs work out live too. The band consisted of a guitarist who looked like Eric Clapton and was at least as slow-handed as he is; a bassist chick who looked like Naomi Campbell or even better; two keyboard players, one of them playing the saxophone solos and conga too; a drummer who was tight as Joe’s belt on his growing belly; and two female backing vocalists supported by the guitarists also helping out through refrains. The band got on stage as early as 8:40 [night falls around 9:30 at this time of the year in Budapest] and the first two songs passed almost unnoticed, till they got to “When The Night Comes”, the first real hit to get some response out of the 70some thousand crowd.

The band was really professional and the sound was crystal clear, almost as good as on a CD. They didn’t change anything in the album version of the songs; there was basically no interaction with the audience, so the songs were flowing smoothly one-by-one as if coming from a record. The overall volume was a bit too low, maybe not to disturb potential calls of the audience and generating some more traffic for the sponsoring provider. :) Although I enjoyed the professional performance of both the band and Cocker (who was in top form) I really lacked a concert atmosphere. The fact that both the musicians and the background of the stage were black emphasized the static and faceless presence of the band even more. The 3 (!) sentences that Cocker altogether spoke to the audience were „Good evening, Budapest „after the second song,” We love you, Budapest when coming back for the encore, and “Budapest, see you next time” when leaving the stage. I think it pretty much sums the atmosphere of the concert up: a compulsory program point in the tour, done, forgotten, and moved on.

“Respect Yourself”, the new single sounded really good live and some of the old hits got the crowd clapping and cheering Cocker who behaved as if he didn’t even notice it. After way too many ballads, basically all the hits, he concert reached its climax with “Unchain My Heart”, the only song that brought some change in the emotionless performance with the saxophone player doing a minute long solo and running from one end to the stage to the other. With this 35 meters he moved more than the rest of the band altogether, including Joe of course too. The band came back with a medley-like encore that pretty much ruined the climax and that ended with “Cry Me A River”, Cocker leaving the stage without looking back, not even waiting for the musicians to line-up for a final bow. All in all the show was good enough entertainment for its price [it was free] but I would be quite disappointed if I had to pay for it. The main amusement for me was to watch the eye-candy bassist chick, and to count how many guitars the guitarist was using (I lost track after nine songs and five guitars by the way) and this amount of excitement is far below my expectations when going to a concert.

Review by Endre "Bandi" Hübner,