There’s recently been plenty of fodder for inspiration in the humble metropolis of Vancouver. On June 1st, Vancouver played host to that beacon of reason and planetary evangelism, Al Gore. A mere three days later, our fine city received the silky voices and slightly enlarged girths of 90s R&B legends (not to say has-beens), Boyz II Men. For those who shamefully admit to such a conflicted psyche as to include a shameful pop culture addiction and a more noble inclination towards global awareness, this was indeed a cornucopia of mental and emotional stimulation.
An evaluation of Gore’s and Boyz II Men’s respective performances would require the assembly of a collection of purely objective, value-free, and insightful criteria by which each performance might be assessed. What follows is a humble attempt at such an analysis, coloured only slightly by wistful memories of junior high dances.
1. Proportion of sceptics entering the venues left thoroughly convinced by the plight of the performer.
In both cases, one could argue that the majority of attendees were already converts, thus begetting far fewer outcries and objections that one might normally encounter at such events. However, a substantial portion of the audience must surely have consisted of feisty sceptics, a practical given in the case of the Former Almost-President, and a no less notable side effect at the Boyz II Men gathering, where twenty-something boyfriends were trapped by the persistent tugging on their sleeves from romance-starved girlfriends. Gore made a persuasive case for the intimate relationship between atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and our planet’s temperature over the last 650,000 years, while Boyz II Men propounded the sweetness of a similar intimacy between a strong man and his boo. Using state-of-the-art data and immensely effective graphics, Gore methodically tore down Global Warming misconceptions concerning the level of scientific consensus (it’s pretty much 100% people) as well as the contested view that effective climate change mitigation inevitably involves Machiavellian economic sacrifices. In an equally effective manner, the flawless vocal stylings of Boyz II Men convincingly refuted the mistaken belief that they had indeed, following dizzying rise and precipitous decline in the mid-90s, blown their cheddar on frequent overdoses and misled racehorse-buying binges (as occurred during the downward spirals of Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer, respectively). Still, this criterion was ultimately hard to gauge so let’s call it a tie.
2. Quality and nature of audience responses to the performances.
Al Gore’s talk, as one might expect, elicited respectful and whole-hearted applause. This was most apparent following his clever witticisms on his ‘fall from grace,’ and his rousing calls to action in the face of mounting climate change risks. In contrast, rapturous mouthing of nostalgically recalled lyrics and the impassioned waving of illuminated cell phones characterized the enthusiastic response to the Boyz II Men concert. Who is to say which is superior? This question would have been best answered if Mr. Gore had happened to sing a few bars of his favourite tune for proper comparison (maybe something as obvious as Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell?). But in the absence conclusive data, I would hazard to guess that more doe-eyed females trailed after the jersey-clad pop idols than envisioned happy days of marital bliss with Mr. Gore after deposing the formidable Tipper. Therefore, if pheromones and other such goodies count in any way towards audience responses, Boyz II Men clearly took this round.
3. And Finally: Making the world a better place.
Here, Al Gore takes kudos by doing his best to dispel climate change myths and engendering action towards a potentially catastrophic global risk, while credit must be given to Boyz II Men for continuing to provide an alternative to the trashy, consumptive, and racist themes that often plague the world of hip hop and R&B. In the case of Al Gore, his recently released film, “An Inconvenient Truth” with its message of urgency and rationality (highly recommended for those who were unable to secure the highly coveted tickets to his live talk) will have that most precious of opportunities to engage a large audience. Meanwhile, it is likely that Boyz II Men will unfortunately continue their path of relative obscurity. Although, in the end, we must conclude that both ‘performers’ did their part to make the world a better place, it remains clear that Mr. Gore is adding steam to a movement that will likely be of slightly greater import than roses and sultry ballads.