9th May is Day of Victory over fascism and also Day of Europe and as such is celebrated including in Serbia. When I say celebrated I mean that all European embassies participate in some projects mostly cultural. So in the main pedestrian zone here in Belgrade each of European embassies has had its stand where citizens might get known closer culture of certain country. Cynical as Serbs became toward Europe in last few years the comments were more like “I rather see and feel personally your culture than to look brochures” and I agree. Truth I traveled most than vast majority of my compatriots but still I’m finding all this embassy-activities kind of hypocritical.
Anyway mostly everything we were hearing, getting and associating with Europe and “European values” (as if we here live according to some Martian values) have some bitter taste of insincerity that’s why I wasn’t interested whatsoever to go and see what’s happening in pedestrian zone in last Saturday. But I was preparing to go on something different the same day in the evening. It’s European and is very welcomed!
Like many, I’ve heard about Leningrad Cowboys for the first time thanks to amazing Aki Kaurismäki and his movies “Leningrad Cowboys Go America”, “Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses” and the “Total Balalaika Show”. That only because I’m huge Kaurismäki fan. And then on my last year’s trip to the north (Finland) we were watching “Total Balalaika Show” in the bus. They were fantastic. It’s one of those concerts that if I would have to pick one to see most probably I’d pick that one. They were performing along with Russian Alexander ensemble (160 members) in Helsinki with 70000 spectators. It was absolute craziness!
They are Finnish band whose members look … well I have no idea what word to use here. Just observe the photo. Their hairstyle, costumes, stage… and their repertoire is from Russian folk songs (which I adore!) to rock and roll performing immortal hits of The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin … etc. It’s such an original approach and condemned to produce fantastic experience!
Needles to say that I was utterly thrilled when I heard they are coming in Belgrade! And LOL on the entrance I saw almost entire crew from the trip. People who I haven’t see, nor hear for months! “We couldn’t miss this!” everyone said.
Sadly, sadly, sadly the promoting campaign before concert wasn’t nearly as it should’ve been! “Leningrad Cowboys” are completely unknown for Serbian audience. My friends who were at the concert with me would never go unless I didn’t talk about it. Therefore there were not as many people as I was hoping to see. And the hall organizers picked was such a bad choice: It’s huge and with seats!!! Why on earth seats??? So of course the very first sentence Tipe Johnson said was: “Get your butts off those seats! No one is sitting where we are coming from!” and we were obedient! and then they started: “Back In the USSR”, “Sweet Home Alabama”, “Gimme All Your Lovin'”, “Whiskey In a Jar”, “Perfect Day”, “Easy Livin”, “Smoke On the Water”…
Communication with the audience was fantastic (which is very important for us. I don’t know if that’s the case everywhere but we generally have some impression that something was lacking if the concert was phenomenal but communication with audience poor). Anyway Johnson spent good part of the concert among us in the audience, was calling one kid on the stage to play special tractor-like guitar, was giving microphone to see our vocal abilities…
For the end as an icing on the cake was Tom Johns’ “Delilah” and then “Those Were the Days”. Then they left the stage but we refused to go so they came back with “Eloise” and David Bowie’s “Starman”.
Tipe Jonson said: ”I don’t know do you know but we know that we are for the first time here in Belgrade! And we are very glad to be here and you will be glad as well for being here tonight because you’ll say one day to your grandchildren that you saw “Leningrad Cowboys” when they played in Serbia for the first time!”
Not sure about grandchildren but I surely do have what to talk about!