I love to see a band perform live. In fact, I remember someone once saying that if you want to become a fan then see a band live, or something like that, and I couldn’t agree more. That wonderful feeling when you come out of a gig after being thoroughly entertained and you then go on for the next two weeks playing the music constantly until you either grow weary or another band steals your attention. It happens, and it is a fabulous reaction in these days of forced advertising and product placement, you cannot buy this and it’s an artist’s life blood.
It doesn’t matter which genre it is either. I recently saw Run the Jewels and loved them, and their support act Danny Brown got me listening to his back catalogue. Both brilliant live. The show had the feeling that they had put as much effort as possible into it. Danny Brown was a support act with his own light show! RTJ spent as much time talking to us as they did performing their fantastic music.
So, what happens when it goes awry?
I have unfortunately seen this too many times. Either the band comes on and smashes through their songs or there is no effort put in with the stage, lighting and no ‘personal touch’. I think they need to listen to the fans with this one. I will give two examples of how this can be wrong or right.
I recently was bought tickets to see Arcade Fire at the Genting Arena in Birmingham. They played ‘in the round’ and I thought how much effort had been put in. The huge video screens started winding up the fans before they came on. The light show was probably the best I have ever seen. The music was second to none and the band could have played all night. The fans came away buzzing and guess what? I am still listening to their albums on a repeating cycle as I write this!
But then we have the opposite…
I am purposely ignoring the two occasions I have had to sit through a performer who has drank too much to perform properly. They effectively stole my money and despite promises of ‘making it up to us’ from one recent one (Editors Note: Here's looking at you Paul Draper), nothing has been forthcoming. Don’t bother offering if you have no intention of doing it, you know who you are if you are reading this…
Anyway, rant over for now
The second example is a band that comes on and thinks it enough to just rattle through hits and then disappear. Its not good enough anymore to ask for someone’s money then just turn up sing a bit and bugger off! Put some effort in! and I am sick of the bloody ending! Sing a big hit, say goodnight to mad applause, go off stage, wait 2 minutes and then come back on to sing an encore of one of your hits that your fans knew full well you were coming back on to sing! Finish the gig with a big song tell the fans it’s the end and be done! Or do something out of the ordinary. U2 used to come back on in completely mad clothes and sing stuff no one had heard (zooropa tour). Make it special or don’t bother.
Also spend some money on light and screens. I think these can be rented now. Put a show on. have some smoke, fireworks, lasers anything to make people think its special. Talk to the audience, we put you there, remember that when you moan about fans wanting photos/autographs. If you don’t want fans then quit the band, give all the money back and go and work in a factory. No one will bother you then.
I am not talking about bands starting out here by the way. I recently saw October Drift, Average Sex and The Blinders, all relatively new bands, who make a show without all the gizmos. But they love their fans, and all put on a mighty show. And they both cost less than £10 to see, and they were worth every penny. Their merch was excellent value and I felt that I was supporting them. Well worth it.
‘Big’ artists seem to lose touch with this. At the Kasabian gig t-shirts were the equivalent of a small mortgage. Didn’t get one & I love Kasabian, they are the band that went to my son’s school! Leicester lads done good. Coldplay at Wembley was a magnificent event. The show as worth every penny. Lights, fireworks, light up wristbands the lot (and they were brilliant) worth every penny of the £60. The T shirt I bought for £35 is terrible. Its unwearable. It is all shapes and I am not, for £35 I expect something to last a bit longer than one wash! ELO wanted £25 for a cap. £15 for a key ring! What the hell is that all about!
We are there to be loved not exploited. That Wembley knows how to charge as well. Two beers and some popcorn, don’t expect change from a £20 note. Disgraceful. The ticket is a fortune, then I have to get there and park/take the train/walk etc. You are there all day, so you need to eat or drink at some point, and they know it. Have a drink pay too much, have a meal sell a kidney, have a pudding as well and you remortgage your house.
So, let’s go to the other extreme. The Charlatans at their recent ‘North by Northwich’ event. 4 gigs in one week, returning to their hometown, gigs going on all over the place a pop-up exhibition of their history a great vibe to the place and I haven’t even mentioned the record fair, talks, great food and drinks flowing. To top this, they broadcast the Friday night gig all over the world via a live stream! I was there, and it was incredible. This is a band who genuinely love their fans and wanted to give something back. Tim Burgess was the DJ before we saw Average Sex! 2 hours later he was on stage with his own band then did a DJ set at the local club! That’s giving the fans what they want. Best two days of music I have ever been to and two of the best gigs ever. Bought loads, drank loads and made loads of new friends, and most of all I had a fantastic time that will live long in the memory.
So other big established bands listen up, the bar has been raised! Your move.