When I first knew that Alexis Bistro is going to run a series of live jazz performances (July – September 2009) at one of their branches in Great Eastern Mall, Jalan Ampang, I was thrilled. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that Rachel Guerzo was going to perform a tribute to Cole Porter. (For those in the know, Cole Porter was a jazz legend in the 1930s-40s. He was famously known for his hit song Night and Day and countless other soundtracks for Hollywood cinema at that time.)
I must admit that I was first surprised to learn that there is actually a niche in Malaysia that appreciates refined Western entertainment to warrant such a performance but later on felt guilty for thinking so. However, after attending the performance, my initial thought was completely justified and my guilt immediately flew out the window.
The restaurant was fully packed that night. The ambience was nice and the space was small enough to allow a more intimate setting for the show. Thankfully, I managed to reserve a table in advance and had a lovely dinner with a friend prior to the performance which was scheduled to start at 10:30pm.
After being seated, I noticed that there was a small printed card that served to remind diners to switch off their mobile phones and remain silent throughout the performance on each table. I was glad that the organizer was smart enough to do that. They even announced the reminder right before the show in case some people had missed the notice on the table.
As soon as I thought my Friday night could not get any better than that; great meal with wonderful company proceeded by live jazz music, I was oh-so-wrong. Throughout the show, people continued to talk and laugh on top of their lungs. While Guerzo’s voice was powerful and warm enough, all I could hear was a cacophony of chatters coming from every direction. It was obvious that majority of people were there for the food and company, not the performance.
What I find disconcerting was that the organizer at that stage did not do anything to calm the diners down and I blamed them completely for this disgrace. I hate to say this but it isn’t that surprising anymore that Malaysians will continue to be Malaysians; rude, disrespectful and above all ignorant. But I expect the restaurant to take up the responsibility of crowd control. After all, they had organized the show and there were some people like me who wouldn’t have gone there, if not for the show.
As I sat there trying to drown the annoying noises around me, I felt angry and shameful at the same time. I was angry and embarrassed that people were not respectful enough to give their attention to the performers. They should have left their tables if they wanted to dine and chat only. At the end of each piece, Guerzo tried to interact with the audience by providing them with a trivia on Cole Porter and introducing the band members, but I could not hear anything because the chatters were louder than her voice on the microphone.
Needless to say, my friend and I left the show during half time. There wasn’t any point in staying if the organizer and diners were going to behave like jerks and I was not interested to participate in such an initiative. I won’t attempt to dine or attend anything organized by Alexis Bistro again.
So, if anyone from Alexis is reading this (I hope through some miracle, you do), I would like to give you this advice. DO NOT organize such shows anymore if you can’t deliver. If you’re willing to sell your integrity as an organizer (who ideally should have protected the audience’s right to enjoy the performance without disruption as well as provided the performers the respect that they deserve) in order to keep your dining customers happy, then remain as a restaurant. Otherwise, have the courage to enforce rules by turning customers away if they’re not there for the show.
This whole thing about the “Malaysia Boleh” (Malaysia Can) mentality is not about how many things you can do, but by the things that you can do well.