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Audiences add local colour to wide variety of events

One of the chief joys of my particular job in the vast smorgasbord of modern journalistic endeavour is that I can range in a cavalier fashion across the cultural spectrum, unlike colleagues who specialise in particular branches of the arts as critics of dance, drama, music and pictures.

Challenged to have an overview, I am also useful to my commissioning self as an emergency pair of hands to cover anything on our agenda - a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none, if you prefer.

Although my eyes are obviously usually trained on the stage, that gives me the opportunity to observe many different audiences. Unlike workmates whose specialism can lead to them being pinned against the wall by readers who follow their weekly critiques of Scotland's concert and repertory calendar, my gadfly existence allows me to observe the way our rich cultural bill of fare is consumed by a wide sample of the population in their own distinct ways. The past few weeks have been rich in opportunities for that pursuit, as I visited venues very large and very small for the widest range of work.

With its 10th anniversary looming, many eyes have been on Oran Mor's A Play A Pie And A Pint, and the incredible international success of David MacLennan's lunchtime theatre venture and its weekly premieres of new plays. Yet its crucial audience remains a local one, with the boulevardiers of Glasgow's West End turning out in force for each offering, and ardently discussing the merits of each show in bars and cafes afterwards. There is a touch of the "here we are, now entertain us" about the Oran Mor theatregoers, but they are also very keen to be amused and provoked, undoubtedly share in the ownership of that success and are as supportive as that implies.

Which is also true of the folk of Ardfern, Argyll, even if they have to wait for a year or two before a Scottish Opera Highlights package of four young singers and a pianist turns up at Craignish Village Hall. The annual tour to destinations even a modest chamber opera production could not reach is one of the most important of the national company's activities as the appreciation of this audience amply illustrated. At the interval, an elderly opera buff was heard hymning its praises to a couple of much younger first-timers with a heartfelt "we are so lucky to have them".

In a venue only a little larger in North London, I saw Paolo Nutini make a live return for an audience that ran from fan-club devotees to over-gigged industry worthies. It would be wrong to take anything away from the man and his fine band, but the former played a significant role in softening the cynicism of the coterie at the back of the hall by the end of the evening.

By the same token, Beyonce's theatrical show at Glasgow's SSE Hydro would have been much less of an event without the thousands of excited (and often similarly, worryingly underclad) fans who cheered her on. Most recently, Rufus Wainwright's Usher Hall concert this week revealed an audience no less besotted, in their own rather quieter, more mature and better wrapped-up way.

If I was to code those gatherings in a synaesthetic fashion, Oran Mor's clientele were a rich chocolatey brown, Ardfern's a delicate teal, the Boston Arms a vibrant sunshine yellow, the Hydro pillar-box red and Wainwright's Usher Hall a deep purple. Future Herald reviews will carry such an assessment from our experienced team of critics. Okay, not really - but it would make as much sense as stars out of five in my opinion ...

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