French rock in concert test for the return to normal life – POLITICO

PARIS – The excitement was palpable at the Accor Aréna in Paris.

An ecstatic crowd of 5,000 made their way through a test show starred by veteran band Indochina on Saturday in the country’s first live indoor show since the pandemic closed concert halls more than ‘a year.

“I can’t wait to feel the vibes,” Celine, a 40-year-old teacher said before the show.

She was unfazed by the rules that 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 a permanent audience 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 affected by the pandemic.

Spectators outside the test show Saturday afternoon | Laura Kayali / POLITICO

“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 as never to 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 increased 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 underwent a valued 84% drop in revenue, losing 1.8 billion euros.

As a testament to the concert’s symbolic significance, a battery of politicians – some of them campaigning for the regional elections in June – came for the show.

Hidalgo, President of the Paris region Valérie Pécresse (two potential rivals in the 2022 presidential election) as well as Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot and Minister of Health Olivier Véran were among those who jumped on Indochinese tubes like “I Asked the Moon” and “The Adventurer”.

In press conferences, politicians were keen to show that a return to normal life is imminent after more than 15 months of health restrictions that have left the French. weary and the desire for change.

Verdict at the end of June

If successful, Indochine, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary as a group, and warm-up DJ Etienne de Crécy, could pave the way for other concerts at full capacity soon. The Killers, Dua Lipa and Elton john are among the stars who will line up the Parisian parades in the coming months.

Saturday’s event also tests public acceptance of the pass sanitary, which is due to 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 euros, was supported by companies like Spotify, its 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.

Cheerful fans take advantage of the test concert in Paris | Laura Kayali / POLITICO

From Wednesday to Friday, the Paris Accor Aréna – one of the country’s flagship concert halls where international superstars such as Britney Spears and Lady Gaga have performed – has transformed into a giant test laboratory.

The 7,500 people chosen were tested for COVID-19, but only 5,000 were allowed to participate in the concert. The remaining 2,500 were placed in a so-called control group and had to stay at home.

Participants were tested a second time on Saturday, and both groups will have to do it again within 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 gather outside the venue in the early afternoon sun. The concert started at 5 p.m. due to the continuous 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 return to a live 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 start-up Datakalab will process video feeds from cameras and provide statistics indicating whether the audience kept their masks on during the concert.

Cameras have been put in place to see if music fans were wearing their masks correctly | Laura Kayali / POLITICO

The technology is controversial. Last year, the Paris public transport operator RATP stopped using Datakalab’s tools in the metro after the CNIL data protection authority raised concerns.

However, France’s privacy watchdog greenlit protocols for the trial concert indicating that the public had given consent and that safeguards were in place.

Datakalab will store the images on hard drives, and delete them as soon as Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris asks them to, said the co-founder and CEO of the company, 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. “

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