Kennedy goes on the rubber-chicken circuit

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The Independent Online

Two years ago the issue was his dog; this time the last straw is a barbecued chicken in every concert hall. The normally staid world of classical music was abuzz last week about the violinist Nigel Kennedy and the conditions his management insists must be met if he is to tour Britain.

Two years ago he demanded that his dog should be allowed into every rehearsal room; this time concert venues have to pledge to provide him with a range of extras - security guards at every door, bottles of booze in the dressing-room, satellite television and specified snacks. And a barbecued chicken at every tour stop is obligatory to help him cope with the gruelling task of playing Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, London, Basingstoke and Croydon with the English Chamber Orchestra next year.

They are the kind of foibles associated with rock musicians or film stars, but Mr Kennedy - or Kennedy, as he now likes to be known - has taken on superstar status in the musical world. More than any other artist, he guarantees sell-out audiences. But concert halls and orchestras are increasingly concerned that the cost of pampering the virtuoso will make concerts unviable. Worse, other soloists may follow suit.

Among Kennedy's performance demands issued last week are:

* A five-star hotel's presidential suite with two double bedrooms

* Internet access at every venue

* Satellite and cable television

* Three bottles of Veuve Clicquot, 12 bottles of local beer and a bottle of quality red wine

* Sushi, a variety of sandwiches and a barbecued chicken

* A garbage can on stage

* Air conditioning and humidifiers

* Security guards. Kennedy's management, Redondo Beach International, insists that the men must be in position at "every doorway or wing to the stage, sound and lighting mixing positions, each entrance to the artiste's dressing-rooms, each entrance to the backstage area, the artiste's merchandising stands and all entrances and exits to the venue, 30 minutes before the doors are opened". Redondo also asks that "all security personnel must be identifiable by T-shirts, jackets or passes and will not be allowed to carry weapons or drink alcohol during the show day".

Kennedy is such a successful crowd-puller that none of those involved in negotiations wished to be named, for fear of incurring his management's displeasure. But one said: "We expect requests about lighting, or acoustic conditions, but classical artists have never gone in for demands like this before. It puts the viability of concerts at risk. We should stop bowing to these requests."

Insistence on large numbers of security guards in particular has raised eyebrows. Another said: "What sort of people do they think go to violin concertos? They're hardly going to rush the stage and rip his clothes off."

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