|Like somebody else's digital dream..|
Recently Kate Bush made a request that concert-goers refrain from taking photos or recording video of her performance. My first reaction was 'That's kinda harsh, bit dictatorial..' but on reflection I totally agree with her. Here's why:
The best concert I've ever been to was Talk Talk at Hammersmith, London 1986. I've seen loads of really good gigs; The Clash supported by Spear of Destiny, Dinosaur Jr at The Mean Fiddler, Pavement supporting Sonic Youth and blowing them off the stage, Firehose in a tiny club in Brighton, and a whole host of others, too many to list here... But it was the total experience of Talk Talk's final UK appearance that was the standout show for me.
The audio was as good as it gets that night, and Mark Hollis's vocals were astonishing, every nuance in his delivery as clear as a bell. The band's musical arrangements and performance were incredible too - a group at the very top of their game with not a note out of place. The venue offered uninterrupted views of the stage and along with a few thousand others I was witness to a gig that felt intimate yet epic at the same time.
And nobody was holding up a mobile phone or digital camera because there weren't any in 1986. The crowd were fully engaged with a band that were equally in the moment, no distractions, no other agenda - a live performance was taking place and that was all that mattered.
It was awesome and I remember thinking even as it was happening that this was special.
I was still buzzing for weeks afterwards, yet there was no instant replay available - there was no internet or social media. I'm sure there was a write-up in one of the music papers at some point but I didn't search it out. Why would I? I'd been at the gig, no need for somebody else's opinion, I was stuffed to the gills with vibrant memories of my own. A while afterwards the BBC did broadcast a recording of the concert which I taped and would listen to now and then. Talk Talk went on to produce two more albums, both increasingly atmospheric and deeply nuanced and not particularly suited to live performance. Which was all fine with me, as simply listening to their music was a profound and satisfying pleasure.
Then they stopped, it seemed Mark Hollis's work with Talk Talk was done and he virtually disappeared.
Like many, I wanted more - the latter Talk Talk output was some of the most sublime music I'd ever heard and I couldn't believe that the sonic journey had come to an end. For a while I hunted down any new or obscure material. A live bootleg of the London gig was eventually released along with a DVD of the same tour 'Live in Montreaux'. I have them both. Ironically the DVD leaves me cold - watching little figures (cringingly 80s style too) on a screen is a pale imitation and can never equal the vivid memories in my head. I thought the internet would add to my connection with Talk Talk. It hasn't. I've come to understand that my love of the music is personal and no amount of pixellation will alter that.
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So I believe that a gig clip on YouTube is not only unnecessary, but actually a disservice to the performance, the band and the viewer.
I like taking photos and I like looking at them too (often post a few up here), but music performed live adds myriad layers, elevating the visual and blending it with the aural, emotional and physical senses - you can't record that. Because of this I agree with the advice - Be in the moment truly and there is no need to pixellate it. It exists forever, because you are there with the band, listening, watching, feeling. That is enough.