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Originally published by CBC Viewpoint on Monday, December 8, 2003. All rights reserved.

CANCON Show in Kabul

By Russell D. Storing, CBC Viewpoint

On the 28th and 29th of November, the CANCON show came to play at Camp Warehouse. They'd spent the previous few days putting on a show for the troops at Camp Julien and I'd heard good reviews from there.

I was rather excited as it was only the second live concert I'd ever attended, both of them here in Kabul. I think of the Danish band LSD that entertained us earlier in the tour and, though I enjoyed that concert, I hoped that our own Canadians would leave a lasting impression on the international troops that came to watch the show.

Dave Broadfoot opened and, though I'm not certain that the other nationalities in the audience totally understood his jokes, the Canadians more than made up for that with their laughter. Next up was Shaun Verreault, who got the crowds rocking with some of his Wide Mouth Mason songs, mixed in with the music of Jimi Hendrix. By then the audience had grown and the hall was starting to fill up.

Rock Paper Scissors (Diana Frances, Brad MacNeil, and Drew McCreadie) took the stage next, and soon had the crowd howling with laughter at their impromptu comedy acts, with audience participation taking good-natured but humorous shots at both our lifestyle and a few politicians. I don't normally laugh easily but with the earlier comedy of Broadfoot and the show Rock Paper Scissors put on, I was almost at the point of tears.

Jana Jana (Jana Erangle) was next up, accompanied by her dancers Melissa and Lowela. The crowd whistled and yelled for more as she sang her pop-style music and danced around the stage. By now the hall was packed, and many of the soldiers had pressed forward to watch Jana Jana's entertaining performance.

Finally, Adam Gregory was up, and he got the crowd moving to the beat of his country tunes. I don't know if Europeans listen to as much country music as Canadians, but they were just as entertained and were thoroughly enjoying themselves.

For the grand finale, and to make us feel right at home, all of the performers came back up on stage, sporting Team Canada jerseys, and sang Stompin' Tom Connors' The Good Old Hockey Game.

With the show over, we moved back to the Canadian extension for a "Canadian Only" gathering. The performers mixed with the soldiers, getting pictures taken, talking and signing autographs. From the crowd at the concert and at the mess, I felt the show was a complete success. It had something for almost everyone in the crowd, displaying the variety and talent that Canada is known for. The success of the concert was not only due to the excellent skills of the entertainers, but also to the choice and mixture of talent as put together by producer Jessica McLearen.

I managed to get a few minutes of the groups' time, and had the chance to ask them some questions about coming here to put on the CANCON show. Adam Gregory was simply proud to be part of a show with such great performers, and felt that soldiers were a great audience, taking in the music and really appreciating it.

He said though it was devastating to see Kabul, and how the people of Afghanistan live, he could see they were happy with what little they had, reminding him of how lucky we in Canada really are.

When I asked Drew McCreadie of Rock Paper Scissors what made him agree to come play in the CANCON show, he said he wanted to come for the adventure. At first he wasn't sure if he was going to, but when he talked it over with some of his co-workers they mentioned he would not likely have an opportunity to come to Kabul again, and what better way to visit than to be surrounded by thousands of soldiers?

Jana felt that soldiers, compared to other audiences, were very attentive and, on a personal level, very respectful, allowing her group to have a great time and enjoy performing. When I asked for her thoughts about coming to Afghanistan in general, she told me, "Because Canadians are here in Kabul, my opinion is inconsequential. Right or wrong we have fellow Canadians here, and I will support them as best as I can."

I left for my shift thoroughly pleased with the show, knowing that if any of the other contingents have shows planned, they will definitely have a hard act to follow.

Copyright © CBC Viewpoint

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