The newly refurbished Fleur has promised much: a smoke-free atmosphere (check); a more upmarket feel (check); bistro-style food (RSN); the return of the quiz (check; we’ve won two times out of three); and high-quality entertainment (read on).
Last year Friday and Saturday nights followed a predictable pattern. Friday saw a leather-faced muscle mary in a butch outfit prancing about to a tired routine with the gradually increasing accompaniment of baby oil. Saturday was usually a god-awful drag act miming to classics and/or cheese and/or comedy clips off the telly, interspersed with tedious audience participation. But occasionally we had The Fleurettes or Topping and Butch.
In its new incarnation, the Fleur has abandoned the leather-faced etc (the god-awful etc still seem welcome). Last night we were promised the delights of Jamie Watson, a “highly acclaimed male vocalist”.
I suspect approximately one of those words is accurate.
The DJ, James, introduced him. The music started and we heard a warbling noise heavy on the vibrato that we took to be James doing an impression of a poor singer. To our surprise, we saw that the highly acclaimed etc was making the noise. To be precise, a man dressed in black wearing a black hat murdering a song in the club style.
Some people, clearly drunk, appeared to be enjoying it. Further back from the stage discontent was more evident.
My immediate thought: I’d heard several people in the crowd sing better than him at a karaoke night here. One of them, Steve, quickly retreated to the other bar in the pub to protect his delicate ears.
A staple of these events is the “Everybody!” moment: the act belts out a popular number, reaches the chorus, and encourages the throng to fill in while he has a breather. A sure sign of a poor act is when “Everybody!” is followed by tumbleweed drifting across the stage, perhaps one lone voice slurring out a line of misheard lyrics before fading to incoherence, and then the star picking up to avoid an uncomfortable stand-off. It was at about this moment in the show – still the first song – that I began to maliciously enjoy it.
Our entertainment was billed as a vocalist, but apparently believes himself to be a fully fledged cabaret act. Between the songs he engaged in never-ending banter with an ever-decreasing band of alcoholic punters by the stage. I say banter; I mean a steady stream of insults and questions of audience members, the responses to which we were unable to hear since the act kept the microphone firmly clamped to his own lips. Much as I enjoy listening to one side of a mobile phone conversation on a train, I felt that a decent cabaret act might consist of more than that.
By this time I was sitting as far away from the stage as I could, by the window next to my quiz teammate Martin – I’d spotted an expression of sheer pain on his face and could guess why. We began a Statler/Waldorf two-pronged attack-whinge, too far from the stage to be heard against the ear-splitting din but very satisfying nonetheless. Martin wondered whether the act had “stolen his hat from poor Mike Reid”.
As the act, inevitably, left the stage to talk to the audience, I wondered what my responses would be were he to venture near. I decided how I’d like it to go, but I was sadly never approached:
Act: What do you do?
Me: I’m a critic.
Act: What do you criticise?
Act: And what do you think of my act?
Me: I like the hat.
At one point he started asking audience members for their profile names on a certain well-known web site (of which I am not a member). He said his own was “star_twister” (it is, I checked). Martin suggested a better name would be “singing_tosser”; we finally agreed on “twat_in_a_hat”.
As time slowed to a crawl, DJ James – one of the Fleurettes and far funnier than the act – began interrupting using his own microphone, seemingly to drag the act kicking and screaming towards some kind of conclusion. Now I began to laugh properly, as the act wasn’t too appreciative. Martin shouted “Get off the stage!” but it still wasn’t loud enough.
The final number at last. Half-way through, the music suddenly cut out – and then restarted from the beginning of the song. The act became confused; James apologised, “but I didn’t press anything”. The act said to him “Well, one more verse then fade it out.” He tried but failed to fit the verse to the music, said “Oh, forget it. Thank you and goodnight!” and left the stage. Classy.
The long-overdue-for-retirement tradition dictated that he return for an encore. James tried to whip the crowd into a frenzy but we remained resolutely unwhipped for the duration. One or two fellow malcontents commiserated with Martin and I at our hecklers’ table. Finally, the act ended before manslaughter could be committed in self-defence.
There was much speculation at how much money the Fleur paid him for that excuse for a performance. It was generally agreed by those present that, if we had our way, he wouldn’t darken our doors again.
Not long afterwards he emerged in a shabby tracksuit from his dressing room – I use the term loosely, it was just a room in which he got dressed – and left with his lady driver/manager/friend. Who, it turns out, had been sitting about six feet away from us for the entire show.
Avaragado’s rating: one slab of processed cheese