After a long-awaited absence, the son of legendary Lebanese singer Fairuz – and himself equally legendary these days – Ziad Al Rahbani held a series of three concerts on December 20-22 in northern Beirut.
“Ziad Al Rahbani & Les Artistes” showcased Rahbani’s newest jazz compositions, his favorite world jazz classics – mainly Brazilian Bossa Nova tracks – and a few of his own Arabic tracks originally composed and sung by Fairuz. Six up and coming vocalists took to the stage at different times, backed by a live band and Rahbani on keyboards, to bring the tracks to life with their voices and occasional samba dance moves.
Known not only for his music but his deep-rooted political leftist beliefs and farsightedness on Lebanon’s socio-political history, Rahbani didn’t miss this occasion to highlight these either, as five of his so-called “Manifesto” – his political column for Lebanese daily Al Akhbar – were also read on stage in between performances.
Still, Rahbani made it easy for the audience to completely forget that this was his concert, let alone that he was on stage. His intermittent quips in between acts and sporadic singing along with the female singers were the only proof that he was part of the concert at all. Numerous shout outs from the audience, asking him to sing, fell on deaf ears.
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It was as if Rahbani came to present everything that was liked and favorited by him and not the audience. Every time one of the female vocalists who sang Rahbani’s Arabic compositions – a Syrian originally from Homs with an exceptional voice and slight resemblance to Fairuz – came on stage the hall erupted in cheering and clapping.
“When Ziad saw this,” one person in the audience noted, “he should have taken it as a queue to play more of such tracks he knows we all came for. His music is great, but he is just doing what he wants to do and hear,” she lamented.
Even though Rahbani’s latest performances truly disappointed many of his fans, thirsty to hear his voice rather than just playing the piano in front of them, to hear his own fresh new musical marvels, insightful socio-political observations, characteristic humor and endless wit, it is still very doubtful he lost any followers due to a lackluster show.