To people who’re not living in the Beirut area, reaching the Quadrangle pub is more difficult than other concert venues such as Nova pub (Sin el Fil), LaCite (Jounieh), Mocean and Tantra (Kaslik). To those who haven’t been there in a while, Quadrangle has transformed into a better pub: art illustrations on every wall, a neat bar overlooking the stage, spread out tables across the floor and a carefully designed sound system to reach listeners in any direction within the pub. One major issue struck me continuously throughout the night, which is that one huge concrete wall blocking the view of almost the entire band from attendees sitting near and in front of the pool tables. The drummer / bassist were always buried out of sight, giving way for the main performers to shine and that was exactly what all the bands had in common that night: one single attention focus point.
Acoustic band Plugged were decent openers for this show, with acoustic alternatives tunes that entertained the crowd. A bassist was missing from their lineup (giving attention to only the two acoustic guitarists playing their chords) and the vocalist, although having smooth vocals which work nicely with alternative music, seemed to be whispering his lines rather than actually singing them (we were struggling to hear him properly). Still, Plugged were comfortable on stage and their setlist entertained the crowd.
April is formed of vocalist Rachel Minä joined by acoustic wielding guitarist Amadeus Awad. The purpose of showcasing Rachel’s talents (the single attention focus point) worked out nice with the song choices. I wonder if April might expand into a medieval orchestra in the near future; that would be quite amusing to watch and would further satisfy the general mood of the performance.
And finally, the main attraction of the night, Amadeus Awad, the guitar virtuoso playing the 4th Radio Active Nightmares event with a special Joe Satriani tribute included in the setlist. For starters, if I hadn’t twisted my neck to catch a glimpse of a bassist’s hand on stage, I would have suspected that Amadeus had some 8 backing tracks being played in the background that he’d been jamming along throughout the night. I wish not to be harsh at all, since all the band members are skillful players with no noticeable errors at all in the one hour performance, especially from Amadeus himself with all that graceful finger artwork he showed us all night along. Still, having high expectations already, I expected a spectacle like no other, with composed structured songs, drums and bass solos, crowd interaction (Satriani’s Crowd Chant?) and especially stage presence from the band. Now although improvisation is the name of the game here, Amadeus was the only one playing: almost all the songs were agreed chord sequences (like D (RE) F (FA) E (MI) for example) that the band would keep playing over and over again for more than 10 minutes while Amadeus, without a doubt, amazed us.
STILL, at a certain point, not too late into the show, one would notice this tiring repetitive rhythm section, like a backing track that’s set to repeat a hundred times and I started mentally demanding some variance, perhaps a certain improvisation would lead its way into a drum solo, a bass solo, a keyboard solo! Why not? Isn’t Amadeus Awad one of the talented bands around here? Why would I expect something less than a mind blowing performance. Anyway, Amadeus’s playing style is highly interesting, his technique flawless and his improvising capabilities is above professional. 40 minutes into the show, faces were getting less interested, the excitement that began with the show was now simply a musical state of mind where the listener is there, listening to high volume music, but is not really into the mood as much as the band is, and obviously Amadeus himself, who could jam along those “backing tracks” for hours, without ever smelling the stench of boredom. The Joe Satriani Tribute part of the night was actually quite amusing with Plugged’s guitarist sharing the stage with Amadeus, playing a number of Satriani tracks such as “Always with Me, Always with You” and others.
Finally, I’m not contesting the musical expertise of Amadeus or his band members, but high expectations should always be met with similar results, and I think Amadeus Awad can arrange a much interesting musical show for all the band members and for the crowd than improvising over repeated backing tracks. Eventually, perhaps that’s just what’s wanted here so good luck for the band, Amadeus and Quadrangle for more future successful events.