Contrasting Maestros Perform Their Magic

It’s 6pm on Friday night and Swan Street Richmond is abuzz with excitement.  The street is littered with footy fans scurrying to meet their possie before wandering over to the lights of the MCG.  There’s a particular feeling in the air tonight.  It’s the anticipation and edgy feeling you get when there’s a big game on.  It’s the feeling you get when both supporters think they can win – when they think they will win.  It’s the kind of feeling you get when two teams that don’t like each other much are about to go at it and nobody wants to contemplate defeat.

I’m struck with an enormous sense of footy envy.  Being an Essendon fan, I want to go.  I’m watching footy fans meet and greet.  I’m listening to them talk.  Like them, I’m wondering who’s going to go to Buddy.  Can he be contained?  And Roughy?  What about Hodge? I’m wondering if Cyril will tear us apart in the ‘delicious’ manner he did last year.  All of a sudden, I’m wondering if Essendon can win.  Can we even get close?

Then, I look down at my ‘Yusuf in Concert’ ticket and my wondering continues.  I wonder if he’ll play Moonshadow as his encore. Or will it Father and Son.  Or maybe Peace Train.

As Yusuf Islam gracefully enters from stage right I get my first footy update from my mate, Zak.  Zak has been given simple and clear instructions – “send me two updates a quarter with scores and detail as necessary.”  With his first message Zak informs me that, ‘Scores are Hawthorn 0.0.0 to Essendon 0.0.0, five minutes before the first quarter.’  A good start from Zak, but as Yusuf gently glides into The First Cut is the Deepest I can’t help but feel Zak may have provided his best work first up.

Yusuf has the crowd spellbound.  He speaks to the crowd at a volume only a notch up from a whisper and sings a range of classics from Matthew and Son, Where do the Children Play and a personal favourite – I Love My Dog As Much As I Love You.  Zak keeps the messages coming, but I don’t like what I see. “18 points down at quarter time,” and then, “29 points down.  Buddy running riot.”

Yusuf performs a ‘dream time’ story of sorts based on a new musical coming up called ‘Moonshadow.’  His gentle, whispering voice makes you feel as though he’s talking specifically to you.  The lady behind me punctuates the story with plenty of ooohs and aaahs and I swear she’s listening to the footy.  Buddy’s probably kicked another one.  Zak messages – it’s half time and the Bombers are hanging in.

Yusuf is now on a roll.  His tempo has gone up a notch and instead of sitting with his guitar resting upon his knee, he’s now standing and a support singer joins him for a stirring rendition of Wild World.  Zak messages and the Bombers are back.  They’ve clawed within six points as the adoring Rod Laver crowd stands to applaud Yusuf.  I stand and clap.  I’m clapping for Yusuf and I’m clapping for the Bombers.

Yusuf leaves the stage for a rest and his band play Waltzing Matilda.  It’s a folksy song that matches the story telling of Yusuf’s most famous choruses.  The crowd are singing and swaying.  We’re celebrating everything good about Australia and I think of what might be happening at the MCG.  Zak messages.  Watson has just kicked a goal and the scores are even.  On cue, Yusuf returns to stage to sing Father and Son.  I think of Jobe and then I think of Tim – a great Essendon father/son combo.  I think of Dustin Fletcher and his father Ken.  I look at my phone and wonder what my father wanted an hour ago when he rang.  He’d be watching the footy.  He’d be swearing.  He, like me, would be praying for a Bomber victory.

Yusuf exits stage right, waving to the fans.  We stand again and chant for an encore.  We want him back.  We want Moonshadow and Peace Train.  I want an Essendon victory.  Zak messages.  “It’s all over.  Buddy beat us.  He’s too good.”  Suddenly Yusuf returns to the stage and the crowd roars.  I’m caught feeling sorry to myself.  And for Essendon.  What happened?

Yusuf tells us there are problems in the world.  I want to tell him the Essendon Football Club is one of them.  He tells us we need leaders.  I agree.  He plays Moonshadow.  It’s brilliant.  Everyone in the stadium sings and I forget about the footy.  He sings Peace Train and I’m on my feet.  I’m feeling good.  Yusuf leaves and the crowd chant his name.  Some call him Yusuf, some call him Cat.  It doesn’t matter what he calls himself.

I meet a mate after the concert who has been to the footy.  He breathlessly tells me about Buddy.  “Mate, I’ve just seen a pure genius in action.  He left the crowd spellbound by his magic.  He’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like it.”  I look at him and nod my head. I know exactly what he means.

About Sam Duncan

My name is Sam Duncan, a very passionte, slightly one eyed and mostly optimistic Essendon supporter. Originally from Yarrawonga, the home of the mighty Pigeons, I moved to Melbourne to go to Swinburne Universtiy in 2002. Feeling right at home as a uni student, I stayed for a long, long time, completing an undergraduate degree in media and communications, an Honours and Masters degree in the same field, and finally, a PhD in sport, media and cultural studies. I'm the author of 'Rolling with the Punches: Tales of an Aussie Traveller', lecturer in the Bachelor of Sports Media at Holmesglen and boundary rider for AFL Live. I love footy. I love Essendon. Go Bombers!

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