Over the last couple of days I have watched Amy MacDonald performing Ordinary Life with The German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra a couple of dozens of times. There’s something totally compelling about it which sends shivers up my spine. Of course it helps that Amy MacDonald is young and good looking with a good, strong, interesting voice. Her face is mobile and fascinating to watch as she does odd things with her grey-blue Scottish eyes. She sings like she really means it without ever descending into Shirley Bassey-style theatricality. Too much ‘living’ a song can get annoying.
The song itself is tuneful and stirring in the way the arrangement swells at the chorus. I have a soft spot for orchestrated pop music: classical music often bores me while pop music sometimes seems too lightweight. Yet the combination of the two in this song is terrific, at least to my ears. I neither want to fall asleep nor roll my eyes at the silliness of it all.
When seen from the backstage camera you become aware of the sea of faces that confronts the singer. This must be absolutely thrilling if you are the kind of person who thrives on that kind of thing, and singers presumably do. Also from backstage you get a better idea of the sheer physicality of an orchestra; of the movement of the musicians as they play their various instruments. At times the whole stage seems to be in motion, like some turbulent sea and it is only when watching live concerts that the complexity of what musicians are doing comes home to me. At such moments I almost feel proud to belong to the same species. The musicians have practised their instruments for years and now, just to create this intricate interweaving of sound, they subordinate themselves to the whole and contribute their part, like ants building a colony. I find this idea, as well as the resulting music, very moving.
Yet the main reason I watch this video again and again is because Amy MacDonald looks so alive while performing, like Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s idea of ‘flow’ made flesh. She looks relaxed and composed yet at the same time concentrated and intense, as though all her attention were focussed on this one moment. There is something almost intimate about watching from so close-up.
The rest of the concert is also very good though for me the high point was this first song.