January 01, 1996

The Art of the Tusovka

Just two or three years ago, western pop concerts in Russia were a special preserve, a haven for the weary souls of worn-out rock veterans. Long-forgotten dinosaurs like Uriah Heep and Asia were still favorites among long-haired provincials, though barely more than one hit wonders in their own countries.

In Moscow, their saccharine sounds would attract thousands-strong audiences, eager to relieve boredom and taste the exotic. The state"s concert monopoly, combined with incoherent bureaucracy and an undiscerning public, coalesced to form the anemic style of the Soviet live music scene.

There were a few performances, though, outstanding enough to be remembered for decades. The Duke Ellington orchestra at the end of the 1960s, Elton John at the end of the 1970s, and UB40 and Pink Floyd at the dawn of perestroika showed that the local music scene could consist of more than fringe elements invited by the aesthetes of the Soviet concert establishment. They also proved how western show business could amaze here with its genuine artistic flair.

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