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Googoosh performing in Toronto on July 29, 2000. Photo by Peter Jones/Reuters

Standing ovation
Googoosh is a smash hit -- again

By Pedram Moallemian
July 31, 2000
The Iranian

They said she was sent by Khatami. They said the reformists were behind her tour. They said the conservatives were to benefit the most by it, to show their core supporters the terrible consequences of reforms. They said she would appear in an ethnic outfit, to cover up the fact that she is obliged to wear a hijab. They said her husband, or was it somebody else in her entourage is associated with the intelligence ministry. They said she was too old to make a come back and her era is over. They said she is ruining all their memories.

One thing they did not say was like her or not, agree with her views or not, enjoy her music or not, she is still the best entertainer Iran has ever produced, period. And with the first few lines of her first song echoing over the cheering crowd, nobody even remembered a word the cynics said.

She was emotional, frail, nervous, but it was as you had returned a fish to water. She belonged on that stage; she owned it. She made love to her audience with her smile, her eyes, her hands and movement and she had them in a frenzy more than a few times.

Googoosh was doing what she does best, entertaining a near capacity crowd at Toronto's Air Canada Center. The stage was decorated with pillars replicated from those at Persepolis. Before she walked on stage, the entire stage area was drowned in green, white and red lights and her entrance will surely be remembered for a long time by all the fans. The standing ovation went from a minute to five to ten and if she hadn't made people stop, it may have never ended.

She was back.

Ron, the gray-haired usher for our section, told me later that he had worked at concert arenas for more than 25 years. He had seen the biggest acts of all time: The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bee Gees and Metalica to Madonna and Celine Dion. "But I have never, ever seen so many people cry at a concert," he said. "She must be very special, I can see how she has touched so many people".

Googoosh started with "in the name of Iran and Iranians" and then asked the audience for a minute of silence in the memory of "the father of all poets, writers and intellectuals of Iran, Ahmad Shamlou."

Then she offered the audience greetings from Iran. "From all your mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, I think they would allow me to be the messenger of their greetings and best wishes for you all," she said. "The women in the audience who have been married before know, you always get an acne or a cold sore on the day of your wedding. I've got a sore throat today and I apologize for it."

Listening to her carry some of her more difficult tunes, it was hard to believe she is not 100%. Her voice, mostly silent for 21 years, seems even stronger. She performed 23 songs, most of them old ballads and love songs. She also included a few new songs, all of them in her old style, with catchy lyrics and tranquil melodies.

She included most of her all time favorites; songs most Iranians have many memories with: "Talagh", "Hamzad", "Pishkesh", "Mano Gonjishkaye Khuneh", "Mordab", "Jadeh" and "Gharib-e Ashena" to name a few. And who can forget her rendition of Ali Salimi's Ayriliq in Azeri, which she dedicated to her "hamshahris". She also presented her song "Bekhun ta Bekhunam" to her grand child and all other children.

The audience was a mixture of men and women, young and old, rich and not so rich. Each had a different reason for being there. "She isn't a feminist per se but she broke so many barriers in her time," said Fariba Kamali of Toronto. Another fan, a 69-year-old woman who would not give me her name "because I am going to Iran soon" was there because "Googoosh smells like home, she reminds me of the good times".

Seventeen-year-old Poopak Zarifi who came all the way from Houston said: "I never listened to her before but a friend gave me one of her tapes and she was so different." "All the others (other Iranian singers) are so shallow, her songs are deep and have a meaning."

Noticeable absentees in the audience were her contemporaries, her co-workers, her friends. Mansour and Shahram Kashani were the only other artists, familiar faces I noticed hiding in the middle of all the others. I am sure other colleagues who had worked closely and performed with her before, people such as Hassan Shamaizadeh and Shahram Shabpareh had good reasons for not being there.

Googoosh is scheduled to continue her tour with a stop on August 5th in Vancouver. Twelve U.S. dates have also been announced so far. One of her promoters also mentioned that they have received offers from Dubai, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan, but nothing has been confirmed yet. "She will be touring Western Europe though, for sure" he said.

For those who are planning to see her on the other tour dates, here is some advise: If you expect a deep intellectual event, or some political grandstanding, or want to hear some opinionated discussion, stay home. But if you are only seeking a diversion, wish to re-unite with some of your old memories, aspire to be entertained by a master entertainer or just have some fun, you'll enjoy every minute of it. Also see Googoosh concert review by Termeh Rassi


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