It’s 2022. November 6th. Sunday evening. We had bought tickets for Macy Gray in De Oosterpoort in Groningen. »On How Life Is« was twenty years ago an album we both liked very much, and newer songs like »Thinking Of You« sounded so good that we treated ourselves to what was to be for our first concert in three years.
One hour late
The guy checking the tickets said that the show will begin about an hour later, so we were prepared for the wait and glad when the band came on and began to play without much ado.
They started off with »Strange Brew«, an old Cream number from the 60s. Brilliant musicians. From left to right: Bass, percussion, drums and keyboards. No guitar. After the intro song keyboarder Billie Wes asked us to welcome Macy Gray.
We did, and she came on. With costume and all. Starting off with »I’m so happy you’re here. It’s been a long time since I’ve had you near …«. She sang a few numbers, the band was perfect and suddenly they switched into Fly me to the moon from Sinatra. In other words, I love you. Beautiful.
Then keyboarder Billie Wes sang a song that grew longer and longer. Keyboard solo. Bass solo. Drum solo. Macy Gray just stood in front of the drum set, back to the public, drinking something, and at some stage she just walked off. The band finished the song, and then they too walked off the stage. Weird.
After a few moments a disco song started. From tape. »What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more.« Not one of my favourites. And where is Macy Gray? And the band?
The percussionist came back on to his podium, playing along to the song and animating the public. No sign of Macy Gray.
So I decided that that would be a good time to go for a leak, and when I came back in the band was playing „We Are The Champions“ from Queen. Phantastic bass by Alex Kyhn, but without Macy Gray and with the audience singing the chorus.
At that stage everybody around us was thinking like »Wait a minute. What’s happening here?« We’re singing a Queen song at a Macy Gray concert while the soul queen herself is somewhere back stage…
At the end of the song bass player asked us to get Macy back on stage by chanting „Ma-cy, Ma-cy, Ma-cy, Ma-cy“. Was there a touch of desperation in his voice?
To us it wasn’t clear at all whether she would come back or whether the band would just continue to play funny covers until the audience would either leave or get angry. Confusion.
And on it goes
But she did come back. In a red costume. Entering from the left. Waving to the audience. Turning around, bowing down and showing us her back side. Rare entrance.
The show continued with The Disco Song morphing into Rod Stewart’s »Do ya think I’m sexy«. It could have been funny, but the sphere Macy and the Jet Club had built up during the first few songs was utterly gone. You could literally see the questions mark above the heads of the people around us. What’s happening here?
We sat there, listened and after a few songs she suddenly said „Good night, everybody!“ and walked off, taking the band with her. What’s happening here?
We were a bit stunned. We had waited for an hour, the show including the rare break had lasted for another hour. And that was it? A few fans shouted for an encore, but there was not much enthousiasm in the crowd.
At some stage the band came back, again started to play without Macy Gray and Billie Wes asking us to give a warm welcome to Macy Gray by chanting to get her back on stage. Deja vu.
She did come back. With a new dress. And another cover. »Creep«. Radiohead. Now, that’s a guitar song. Chaka. Chak. Whoooom. Full blast guitar. But I’m a creep. I’m a weirdo. She sang it as if she meant it.
»I try« began. The audience was asked to sing the chorus. I try to say goodbye and I choke,
I try to walk away and I stumble, though I try to hide it, it’s clear, my world crumbles when you are not near. Macy Gray just threw in a few phrases here and there.
After the song she wanted one person from the audience to come up on stage and sing for her. Not with her. For her. Two men climbed up to the stage and, while she sat down in a red fauteuil that has been waiting for her all evening, they tried to destroy the chorus of I try as best as they could.
The band started to play »Thinking of You« and she sang along, but it didn’t sound half as relaxed or fun as in the video that persuaded us to buy tickets and go see Macy Gray a good twenty years after On How Life Is.
And then there was one last song. I don’t know the title. A slow one. Like in a club, when they play a slow song at the end to make you leave, she joked. And it was beautiful. She sang with soul. And the band was joining in.
A weird evening
It was a nice ending to a weird evening. There seemed to be almost no connect between the band and the singer. When she wasn’t singing she stood with her back to the audience.
There was a lot of „Are you ready?“ and „We’re doing all the work here“ and „Fuck ‚em all“ and stuff like that. As if the lady singing for us was an honor that we had to earn in the first place.
After that beautiful last song the lights went on, and we left quietly, feeling confused about what we just had experienced. What a weird thing that was.