Spectacle and a good head: the secret of Vrienden van Amstel LIVE

“It’s just a full circle spectacle.” That is how singer Xander de Buisonjé describes it to RTL News. He has been active in the annual event series since 2000. First as lead singer and pianist of Volumia! and from 2003 without band. In fact, he has hosted the show seven times.

From the pub to Rotterdam Ahoy

It all started on January 15, 1998 in café De Heeren van Amstel, on the Thorbeckeplein in Amsterdam. Various Dutch artists came together to perform in the classic brown pub. And not only performing together, but they also sang each other’s songs in duet. The performances were also soon broadcast on television.

From 1999, each series of the program was concluded with a concert Ahoy. But today there is only the concert in Ahoy, which is also broadcast on TV. “It was an instant success,” says Buisonjé. “We first sat in a pub and just made live music. That’s where it all started.”

And that was for the already successful band Volumia! a new chapter. The band already had great performances, but the performance in Ahoy Rotterdam surpassed everything. “Such a large room, so many people. That is a completely different dimension.”

Perform with your heroes

With so many artists together – this year there are 28 acts on stage – it often happens that there are performances with idols. That was certainly the case for Buisonjé. “My great heroes from the past were the musicians of De Dijk. They are still my heroes,” he says.

With Volumia! he always played a few songs by De Dijk. Years later, he suddenly found himself on stage with his idols. “Then I sang together with Huub van der Lubbe, with the whole band. That was really fantastic.”

And it doesn’t stop with performing with your heroes. In all those years with the Friends of Amstel, Buisonjé has experienced enough special moments. For example, he kissed Ellen ten Damme during a performance, which they had agreed in advance. “It’s part of the act. I can always enjoy it, give it a little bit of fun.”

The secret

Is giving a little bit of fun to the show the secret behind the success of the Friends of Amstel? “You just know you’re getting the very best in every area. Audio-visual, surprises and what’s even possible in terms of stage,” explains Buisonjé. “You just don’t see that anywhere else in the Netherlands like that.”

“You also know that the best artists in the Netherlands are there and that there are surprising collaborations,” the singer continues. Think, for example, of ‘When I see you again’, by Thomas Acda, Maan, Paul de Munnik and Typhoon. The song reached double platinum status in the Netherlands.

“I think all that together, plus the fact that those artist friendships are real, explains the success.” The feeling between the artists and all employees involved in the shows is the most important, according to the singer. “And you also take that with you on stage. People feel that too.”

“Foam is good!”

With a beer brand in the name, the lagers are of course everywhere. A special foam head expert is therefore present when recording commercials for the Friends of Amstel. Recordings don’t start until “Foam is good!” has been heard. Rightly so, according to Buisonjé: “The foam head is important. If I go with a beer, the foam head must be good.”

And whether beer is still being served at the after parties? Naturally. “But you can’t tell 90 percent of what happens there, that’s just private,” says the singer laughing. “You’re just having fun together, like friends and girlfriends in a village pub one night.”

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