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Culture Reviews
X-mas at Studio 54
By Alex Meredith
Moscow might be in a different Christmas time zone, but 24th December means only one thing for me: Christmas Eve. After the false corporate starts, it is the first really big night of the festive season, the night when the warm up for New Year begins in earnest. Who better to whip up a bit of Christmas spirit than the all American disco line up of Studio 54 featuring Joselyn Brown. The seventies theme helped create a jumping party vibe, but by only staying on stage for a meagre 3 songs none of which I recognised, disco diva Brown also succeeded in casting herself as the Scrooge of the musical year.

My main issue was with the length of the performance. Even including the gasping sips of water and the unnecessary pleas to the crowd to limit their applause, I have seen flames on the Christmas pudding last longer. The DJ’s stayed on to spin out a full hour or so on the decks after the fallen star had had her ten minutes of Moscow fun, but Ebeneezer Brown made no second appearance. Studio 54 did their best to make up for the support act’s laziness with a retro 70s theme, some wacky costumes and a bit of confetti all giving the night an appropriate Christmas party feel. Nevertheless it did not solve the riddle of Brown’s brief appearance. Why would an American singer make the effort to come to Moscow to play on Christmas Eve if she was only going to stay on stage for three songs? Perhaps she had got her dates mixed up, or perhaps she was rehearsing for a bigger part in something else? I posed the question to her later in the club. Her answer, a cryptically evasive “and a happy New Year to you” went no way to solving the puzzle, though it did confirm that she may have got a week ahead of herself.

Even when on stage, her performance failed to impress. In her 1984 smash hit “Somebody Else’s Guy” (a song she incidentally left off her repertoire), the twinkle eyed diva promised not to get off her high horse and not to let go. Sadly on the evidence of Friday night, 21 years later she has gone back on both of those pledges. Though her energy was initially impressive, she knew what we didn’t - that she was only going to be on for three songs - so like the pinch-hitter, she threw caution to the wind in the hope she might prove she still has it. Judging by the crowd’s reaction, the scorers were not impressed. Vocal improvisations and forays onto the dance floor were the big shots she attempted. However these are the sorts of ego trips you expect to see at the end of a gig when the artist has the crowd in the palm of her hand. As it was, the unfamiliar songs, a tired outfit, and the way in which she asked the DJs to turn the backing music off and on gave her act the feel of a part-timer going through the motions. Like a wedding singer, she had no interest in the occasion and was only there to collect the pay cheque. Though it is an approach that might have struck a chord with many of the label-flashers present, they appeared as confused as I was by a singer who offers the mic to the crowd during her first chorus. There’s only one thing to say to that sort of misplaced arrogance – “humbug”.

With a disappointing stage act it was inevitable that the atmosphere would be a bit flat. Also forking out $2000 for a table on New Year would be a good reason for a night-in the week before for most XIII regulars. For those that had made the effort there was at least the treat of XIII’s typically imaginative dancers. This weeks stocking fillers included Liberty Duo (a rainbow cape-wearing, shaven-headed Elton John fantasy), some ballet dancers and most entertainingly of all two dwarves in reindeer antlers - Club XIII’s only concession to the festive season. I can only hope that these rather freakish horned elves stuck around to haunt Miss Brown for her mercenary ways. With any luck this ghost of Christmas present will spook her enough to reform her miserly act and put in a full-length performance if she ever returns.

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