An ecstatic crowd of 5,000 made their way through a test show run by veteran band Indochina on Saturday in the nation’s first live indoor performance since the pandemic closed the concert halls more ago. one year.
“I can’t wait to feel the vibes,” Celine, a 40-year-old teacher said before the show.
She was not disturbed by the rules which required her partner to stay at home. “I am ready for future concerts with the same health protocols, if they are as well organized as this one.”
The test show, dubbed Ambition Live Again, was organized by Prodiss, a music industry union, and Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, which manages the city’s public hospitals.
It aims to assess the risks of coronavirus infection for an audience standing with masks, but without social distancing. If it is effective, it will be duplicated throughout France to reopen the country at full capacity; 2,000 concert halls hit by the pandemic.
“The concert halls have been closed since March 2020, it’s unfair. We wanted to assess what scientific response we could provide, ”said Angelo Gopée, one of the organizers of Saturday’s concert.
“We want to model a protocol applicable to any pandemic, so that we never have to close our rooms again”, explained Gopée, general manager of Live Nation France, one of the main promoters of concerts.
Other European cities, including Barcelona and Liverpool, have already tested indoor shows without signs of increasing infection.
Ahead of Saturday’s event, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo accused “bureaucracy” of delaying the start of similar trials in France.
Expectations are high for a reopening of the cultural sector, the cornerstone of the French economy and its soft power, which represented 2.7% of gross domestic product before the pandemic. COVID-19 has decimated the live performance industry. In 2020, Prodiss members suffered an estimated 84% drop in income, losing 1.8 billion euros.
Testifying to the symbolic importance of the concert, a battery of politicians – some of whom were campaigning for the regional elections in June – came for the show.
Hidalgo, Paris region President Valérie Pécresse (two potential rivals in the 2022 presidential election) as well as Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot and Health Minister Olivier Véran were among those bopping along to Indochine hits like “I asked the moon” and “The Adventurer. “
At a press conference, the politicians were keen to show that a return to normal life is imminent after more than 15 months of health restrictions which have left the French weary and eager for change.
Verdict at the end of June
If successful, Indochine, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary as a band, and warm-up DJ Etienne de Crécy, could pave the way for more concerts at full capacity soon. The Killers, Dua Lipa and Elton John are among the stars of the Parisian parades in the coming months.
Saturday’s event also tests public acceptance of the health pass, which will go online on June 9 in France to facilitate travel and entry into large-scale events. Viewers were asked, but not required, to plug their negative coronavirus test results into an TousAntiCovid app before the show.
The event, which has been repeatedly postponed due to resurgent infection rates, has been brewing for months. The cost, estimated at around € 1.45 million, was met by companies such as Spotify, French rival Deezer and media conglomerate Vivendi, as well as public funds.
Out of 20,000 applicants, 7,500 low-risk people between the ages of 18 and 45 were selected to attend, excluding some of the older Indochina fans.
From Wednesday to Friday, the Accor Aréna de Paris – one of the country’s flagship concert halls where international superstars such as Britney Spears and Lady Gaga have performed – transformed into a giant test laboratory.
The 7,500 people chosen were tested for COVID-19, but only 5,000 were allowed to attend the concert. The other 2,500 were placed in a so-called control group and had to stay at home.
The participants were tested a second time on Saturday, and the two groups will have to do it again in a week to assess whether the concert increased the risk of contamination. The results will be known at the end of June.
Enthusiastic fans – many dressed in Indochina t-shirts – began to congregate outside the venue in the early afternoon sun. The concert started at 5 p.m. due to the persistent 9 p.m. curfew, a painful reminder that life is not quite normal yet.
Nonetheless, for two hours, fans danced, jumped, clapped their hands and sang Indochina’s greatest hits. Singer Nicolas Sirkis was visibly moved to be back on stage. Bars and food stores were closed inside the arena, but organizers handed out bottled water at the entrance.
Smart cameras everywhere
Saturday’s test concert also attempted another first: smart cameras assessing whether masks were worn correctly.
An algorithm developed by French AI startup Datakalab will process video feeds from the cameras and provide statistics indicating whether the audience kept their masks on during the concert.
The technology is controversial. Last year, Parisian public transport operator RATP stopped using Datakalab’s tools in the metro after CNIL raised concerns.
However, France’s privacy watchdog gave the green light to protocols for the test concert, saying the public had given consent and safeguards were in place.
Datakalab will store the images on hard disks, and delete them as soon as Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris so requests, said the company’s co-founder and CEO, Xavier Fischer. “We process the images locally because there may be security holes in the cloud services,” he explained.
Most of the spectators seemed to accept the setup. “I’m aware of the controversy around the cameras, but I don’t really mind, as long as it’s an experiment and it’s not used for mass surveillance,” said Aurore, a production assistant. 29-year-old television. because we consider ourselves to be guinea pigs. ”