Monday, August 3, 2009

All I Ever Wanted, All I Ever Needed is Here in My Arms

(In the event that you are reading this blog through a feed or Reader application, you may not have noticed that I changed my blog around a bit, including the name. You are now reading The Casual Observations of a Casual Observer. It is a much more accurate title for these entries, since my days of 12 cans of Diet Coke in an afternoon are long gone - thank heavens!)

On Friday afternoon, JR and I drove down (JR drove, I was the navigator) in the rain to Great Woods in Mansfield (the more these places change their names, the more inclined I am to call them by their old, non-corporate names) to see Depeche Mode in concert. Our seats were in a great spot in the first level on stage right, and we had no difficulty in seeing the band. JR commented that the last time we saw DM in concert, we were so far back, it was like watching a music video, but this time, it felt like a live performance. There is nothing like dancing in your seat, singing along to the songs while the music vibrates through your whole body.

This was my first concert experience where a large majority of the audience was openly taking pictures using digital cameras, iPhones, and the like. It was pretty distracting, especially when the house was pitch black except for all of the illuminated LCD screens in front of us. We ended up commenting, "I guess it didn't really happen if you can't FaceBook it in real time?"

It got me thinking about the whole "living your life" vs. "documenting life" quandry in which we seem to find ourselves in this digital age. (This parallels the "talking in the movies syndrome" that some people seem to find acceptable; I don't, by the by.) Personally, I was at the show to rock out to one of my favorite bands. But there were definitely people there, including the very intoxicated and obnoxious Australian men in the row front of us, who spent more time recording the show than enjoying it, and I felt that they were missing the point.

Performance is one of those things that lasts within a specific period of time and is made up of the elements that are brought by both the performer and the audience. If the audience isn't giving the performer the courtesy of its full attention, why should the performer feel obligated to do their best? Why not "phone the performance in"? Or in this case, why bother having separate concerts at all when it would be easier for the band to film one show in a studio and just broadcast it in stadiums on different dates in different towns?

DM lead singer, Dave Gahan, spent a lot of time last Friday engaging the audience, getting people to sing and clap and wave their arms around. The unity of that kind of participation can reinforce some amazing positive energy, even from a venue that wasn't sold out. I hope that will never be lost, and I hope that audiences will put away their cameras and recorders and just relearn to enjoy the show for what it is, because Facebook is never going to be able to recreate that kind of interconnectedness, no matter how many people you friend.

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