A Cynic Writes...
Live Or Dead?
God I hate gigs. How can the Musicians' Union continue to campaign to keep music live when the experience is so dreadful? Getting a drink is like Monday morning on the Northern Line; getting a good view (in most venues) demands a pair of platform soles, binoculars and a powerful deodorant; and just getting in engages you in a ritual combining Gestapo interrogation techniques with the rudiments of ovine transfer as practised on One Man And His Dog.
Even revered concert halls like The Albert Hall yield few rewards. I was recently unfortunate enough to obtain a seat in the upper tiers of this wedding cake of a structure, and by the time the sound reached me it had been across the main road, three times round Hyde Park, and back the scenic way stopping off in Kensington High Street to look at shoes. And that was a quiet band.
Any act that knocks out more than a soupcon of dBs greets the audience much as Hurricane Andrew greeted the Florida coast. What I've never been able to understand is how and why PA systems down the years have continued in their failure to wrest a powerful yet ear-preserving sound from the tumultuous racket that is a pop group at full pelt, whilst recording technology in studio and home has followed an inexorable course from wax cylinder to the equivalent of having Def Leppard playing in your front room without the stains.
I know acoustics are subtle little devils - whatever they are - but how come listening to the noisiest, nastiest and niggliest music in the world on a half-decent hi-fi feels like having your ears gently coated in honey, whereas the same music played at a gig produces an effect comparable to having them syringed with caustic soda?
There appears to be more to this than room size. Could it be that live events still demand a ritual of self-flagellation that began more than two decades ago with the birth of 'The Pop Festival'? Could it be that bands on tour get so bored they need to amuse themselves and their entourage by strafing the punters of each town they visit? Or is it just that the tired old dogma of rock'n'roll and its associated mythology of rebellion provides a convenient excuse not to research and develop live sound technology, not to improve facilities, and actively to sell people a long way short of a good night out?