Anger management

Let’s refine our bitchiness, says Lezlie Lowe.

Rene Angelil's got my knickers in a twist.

After Old Mr. Snooty McSnoots cancelled Celine Dion's Halifax Common concert last week and gave as his reason the wounds inflicted by Halifax's plentiful poo-pooing of his wife/employee, I had to sit down and ponder: are we mean? Or are we aptly critical, and just not very articulate?

Over the phone last Tuesday, Angelil told reporters he looks daily at worldwide Celine coverage and he's never heard anything worse than the platter of scorn Halifax served up as an appetizer to the singing diva's planned August 2008 concert on the Halifax Common.

And he wasn't just after finger-wagging at the media either—Angelil lashed out at posters to Halifax online message boards, too. (Wonder if he's clicked his way over to the 700-plus comments on Perez—those make the Daily News thread look like a church bulletin.)

Here's my message to Angelil: you've got a six-year-old. I presume you've witnessed a tantrum before. Can't you see that we're having one and everything will work out if you just leave us alone?

Halifax is growing up, here. We're stumbling to find our stride as a big city, ever-so-tentatively shedding the skin of being a far-east-back-water-pit-stop. And, like with any developmental lunge, the fallout can be a bit gruesome to watch. That's been abundantly clear in the foot-stomping aftermath of the Celine concert-that-wasn't.

Part of finding our big-city self is finding our critical footing. And that's a welcome evolution, in my mind. I'm all for a more jaded Halifax: one that doesn't feel the need to glom onto every star that's passing through town to film a movie of the week; one that doesn't lie like a rag rug, defenceless, when criticized; one that doesn't climb up the asses of companies sniffing to invest. I'm all for a Halifax that admits when a concert announcement is a disappointment, rather than welcoming it with our old-self rallying cry—"Sociable!"—and promises to would-be visitors that we are just right some friggin' hospitable.

I feel like we're almost there.

We didn't hold back on Celine, that's for sure. And I sense that's a sign we're learning that we don't have to suck up to the world in the cloying hope that they'll love us.

Not that self-doubt doesn't linger. I still hear people refer to Pier 21 as the "Ellis Island of Canada." (Honestly! Can we not even define ourselves free of outside landmarks?) And I still get caught in a standing ovation at the end of every play and concert I attend. (Please, everyone, just because it happened doesn't mean it deserves a standing ovation.)

Where Halifax still needs real work is in communicating its new-found cynicism. The city is like a teenager learning the skill of effective swearing. It takes a little practice to get it right.

If Halifax were a little more sophisticated in its criticism, we would have halved the public bitching and let the Céline concert sort itself out. Allow the fans to shell out $100 and see for themselves whether Las Vegas glitz translates to a muddy soccer pitch.

If we were a little more skilled in the fine art of condemnation, we would have recognized this simple fact: there will be other concerts on the Common. Maybe the next one will be U2. And, by the sounds of it, everyone will be happy. Or maybe it'll be, who the hell knows, Roger Whittaker.

I think it's worth considering, too, why Halifax reacted so strongly to Celine. It's simple: her proposed sing-and-strut strip was the Halifax Common.

Celine's been here before—at the Metro Centre—and people didn't pop a hernia over her then.

See, the Common shows have greater meaning for the city. When council is a broker in the deal, that means we're all brokers in the deal. When council's ponying up $150K in city money, we feel like we have a greater stake in it than we would in a strictly promoter-backed venture.

The greater meaning is symbolic. When a concert's slated to happen on public land (and not just some rocky left-over construction fill-in, but well-loved, well-used public land) it makes the whole venture part of our identity.

No wonder we feel so strongly about it. It's just too bad we weren't practiced enough with our scorn to add a little finesse to its doling out.

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