Simon Tucker’s worried about the future of live music. To see why read on.
After attending the first of Radioheadsâ recent two night stint at the O2, I left in a sea of delirium and happiness at one of the best sets I have ever seen (and I have seen many sets) by the band. The set was a snarling, rolling, electronic beast and the band played with more confidence, humour, and stage presence than I had ever witnessed before.
The next day, I checked online to see what my fellow âhead fans thought of the show and what I read really left me disappointed.
People were complaining the set was âdifficultâ, there were not enough songs from The Bends, and to my utter dismay a few people even complained that âthey didnât play Creepâ.
I really was left scratching my head at these comments and it got me to wondering about what artists are expected to deliver to the public every time they take to the stage.
Is a modern, forward thinking, STILL WORKING, band expected to just get on stage, sing the âhitsâ, thank the crowd and go home counting the lucre?
This trend amongst fans seems to be getting stronger over the last 10-12 years. Complaints about the Arctic Monkeys opening their Glastonbury headline set with a cover version and the set leaning heavily on Humbug (the album they were then promoting) were everywhere in the music press and on forums. The same can be said about Gorillaz and their headline slot on the same stage. People complained it was too heavy on the new material, that the band didnât pull out enough hits, and that they didnât know who was on stage singing at any given time. Damon himself said that he should have introduced each guest performer on stage when they came on (although I HOPE this was said with tongue firmly in cheek). Glastonbury is meant to be one of the most forward thinking festivals in the world, famed for pushing boundaries, and the crowd are meant to be true music fans??? Now excuse me, but if you are a true music fan surely you donât need Lou Reed, Mark E Smith, Shaun Ryder, Snoop Dogg etc to be introduced?
Of course there can be cases of this type of audience behaviour found throughout live musicâs history. The famous Dylan âJudasâ gig is an obvious case in point, but it really does seem more prevalent lately.
Is the cause of this the download era? People downloading single tracks instead of albums? Music being used more as background and not something to submerse oneself in? Are people not as obsessed by an artistsâ entire catalogue and development anymore or do they just prefer to like a few songs by said artist and leave it at that?
If so, the future of gigging by current / future bands is in danger of becoming very stale indeed.
Ask yourself this, if The Beatles had not stopped touring, and you went to see them in â67 would you have preferred to hear them air tracks like âTomorrow Never Knowsâ or âA Day In The Lifeâ or would you have been upset that they hadnât played âShe Loves Youâ or âLove Me Doâ?
Artists like Bowie, P.I.L, The Velvet Underground etc constantly reinvented their stage show to match where they were as artists and what they were currently in to. They would maybe play a handful of hits (sometimes none at all), then draw heavily from the project they were then promoting.
Live music is the only art form that people seem keen to just repeat and rehash. If a film director / actor / painter repeats the same thing over and over they get rightly knocked by the critics and public alike (unless youâre an Adam Sandler fan of course and if you are thereâs no hope for you anyway).
Live music is becoming the aural equivalent of fast food. Quick, easy, makes you feel good for a bit, and then youâre hungry again an hour later with a mass sense of disappointment in yourself.
We canât let this happen! We must rejoice in hearing rare B-Sides, works-in-progress, fluffed notes, as this is the only way the band you love can grow and develop and who knows, that work-in-progress you heard and complained about might end up being your favourite track of the next album.
So if you go see your favourite band soon and they donât play many tracks you loved from their 1990s âgoldenâ period, be careful because soon they may finish their set by askingâ¦.
âYou want fries with that?â
All words by Simon Tucker.