Long Live the Live Show: Part 2
by Kira Grunenberg
We left off talking previously, about the scramble to save every moment of a great live show when you know it won’t be landing on any DVD. Recalling the bullet points from Part I, and my focus on John Mayer, what about anecdotes and venue amosphere?
John Mayer isn’t a lengthy show talker but says enough that there are usually a few lines here and there that become “quote worthy” or at least provide an extra insight to a song that you hadn’t already found online or maybe he hadn’t told anyone yet, if a song is new. Plus, any mention of personal connection to a particular tour stop never hurts to save for posterity, right? (Seeing him myself at the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater on Long Island, Mayer mentioned that was where he saw his first live show ever, in 1992!)
Venue atmosphere might not be something a service like Set.fm would specifically relate to, as listeners are pulling up live performance playback from the comfort of home or on the go but, still, the way a show unfolds at a certain venue can make all the difference in one’s listening experience; whether it be there or at home and a week after the fact if it’s a show in the Set.fm archives.
Audiences love to cheer for the unfolding of a great solo, the unveiling of a stellar backdrop or effect and applaud hometown shout outs. Nonetheless, there’s something to be said for a venue and audience that otherwise allows the music to be heard and enjoyed fully, with just a touch of unspoken but universal respect. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule where excessive screaming is typically expected (e.g. tween/teen pop concerts where the performers are more multi-entertaining stars than strictly musicians.) but even experienced artists and older audience demographics can sometimes take the fan engagement too far, which can take the concert into musically, less-focused territory. (New Music Box highlights this dilemma, talking about a recent concert by Elton John with too much singing along.)
One might argue that venue size prompts an expected amount of energy one way or the other, like a stadium versus a small nigh club. However, energy doesn’t have to equal distracting commotion. Jones Beach Theater being as big of a venue as it is, comparable to a mid-sized arena with 15,000 seats, the place can definitely get loud and wild but I was able to easily hear and appreciate every piece of the set I heard, without my neighbors screeching on either side.
Collectively, every live experience and presentation is going to be one-of-a-kind. That’s what makes live worth appreciating. What makes my ideal show won’t be to everyone’s preference but that’s why these shows will never dwindle in demand. There’s an ongoing need for that balance between striving to preserve as many special concert nuances as possible and knowing that you can’t experience live music if you are trapped behind your smartphone all night. Living in the moment is just as key as being able to blast a live recording in the car five years later, with the friends who came along to your favorite show. Hence, this is what makes the rise of the work done by Set.fm and others like them, so invaluable. Fans can start to put down their screens, enjoy and take in everything, knowing a well made archive will be there waiting for them after the night ends.
About the author: Kira is a music journalist out to highlight the threads that connect all the arts, through writing and provocative discussion. She is the Executive Editor for the AAMPP™ Music Network, which recently partnered with her website,ThrowtheDiceandPlayNice.com and a regular contributor to SoundCtrl.com. Follow her on Twitter: @shadowmelody1