First of all let’s address the elephant in the room, okay less of a whole elephant and more of a head. Ben Gardner’s to be precise.
Having seen Jaws live at The Royal Albert Hall (RAH) last year, I was there when the musical cue for Ben Gardner’s head was mis-timed. There was certainly none of that this time, as the rows of people in front of me who jumped several feet in the air simultaneously will attest to.
I was seeing Jaws in concert at The Cliffs Pavilion in Southend-on-Sea, which whilst it can’t compete with the RAH for splendour, acoustics, screen size or enthusiastic crowd, the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, lead by Ben Palmer delivered waves of goosebumps and musical delights in spades.
I had initially been hesitant to see it at a smaller theatre, worried that the spectacle wouldn’t quite be there and I would be able to capture that spark again. Overall experience, it could never hope to equal the giddy heights of RAH but musically it was fin-tastic and the orchestra bristled with excitement and exhilaration under the conduction of Ben Palmer. We’ll have an exclusive video interview with Ben later this week.
There were numerous live musical highlights but none with more energy and verve than Man Against Beast, I write about its power here: Scores
As you’d expect the screen wasn’t as big as the RAH screen and we may have had conductor Ben’s head bobbing into the screen throughout, which I loved the irony of - seeing as Bens and bobbing heads play such a pivotal part to this film. Not that it distracted from the triumphant performance at all.
The seaside setting, right next to the sea (Thames estuary for those being picky) only added to the pre show atmosphere. You could almost be an islander on Amity, only if you were born there of course.
Seeing Jaws live with an audience is almost like a religious experience of sorts, we all know the film inside out but collectively laugh at all the same places, the same was true with the Southend audience. Not quite as feverish as the fanatical RAH crowd - Jaws live Mecca if you will - there was no cheering and applause when Bruce exploded at the end.
It was great (white) seeing the Jaws live experience brought to different parts of the country - even though I know one of our followers was disappointed that Scotland was missed out, obviously they are gonna need a bigger tour. This meant that this classic Spielberg film was being brought vividly to life for a whole new generation of fans.
I happened to be sat next to two 14 year old girls who were giddy with excitement at the prospect of seeing it writ large in such an exhilarating way. They’d been studying it in English last year (hats off to their teacher) and they have been hooked ever since.
The Czech National Symphony Orchestra delivered a blistering performance that aurally - for me - was on par with the RAH for a couple of reasons. Because you were closer to the action of the orchestra, with it being a more intimate venue, you almost felt as you were actually part of the orchestra and could more easily deconstruct the Jaws score. I genuinely loved the intimacy over the RAH, it dragged you into the orchestra as if you were Chief Brody in that reverse zoom and simultaneous dolly shot AKA the ‘Jaws shot’ when Alex Kintner gets attacked.
That intimacy made it more immersive and personal in some ways so it has been amazing to experience Jaws in concert at both levels.
Whether Jaws in concert is seen live at the RAH or your local theatre it still has a powerful impact, heightening the primeval power of the film and score. Seeing it with a live orchestra is a must, however and wherever you see it.
It was almost like a rite of passage for those 14 year old fans - who follow The Daily Jaws on Instagram incidentally - and it should be a rite of passage for any Jaws fan, no matter what their age.
Three yellow thumbs up.