Patterico's Pontifications


Concerts and Proximity

Filed under: Music — Patterico @ 12:02 am

So the wife and I saw The Police on Saturday, and Glen Phillips last night.

We spent a lot less on the Glen Phillips concert, and probably enjoyed it more.

I think a lot of it had to do with our proximity (or lack of it) to the performers.

If you gave me one of those nice long Ping drivers, I could have leaned forward and poked Glen Phillips in the kneecaps without significantly lifting my behind out of my chair.

Whereas we saw The Police at Dodger Stadium, with about 54,998 other people. We sat in deep foul territory on the third base side, and without the binoculars I forgot to being, the members of the band were antlike in appearance. Even with the video screens, I had to take Christi’s word for the fact that Stewart Copeland was wearing glasses.

The Police sounded fine. Don’t Stand So Close to Me was oddly soulless, and Sting pussed out on some of the notes in Roxanne. And on one of the songs, it sounded like he sang the whole first verse in a different key from the instruments. My friend Amy, who is very musically savvy, agreed.

Those minor nits aside, they sounded great.

But there’s really something missing when you can’t see the artists’ faces. I can fire up one of my favorite artists’ CDs or DVDs any time. But if I can watch them perform close up, it’s an experience that can’t be duplicated by a DVD — whereas a DVD beats a crappy seat at a huge stadium concert, every time.

IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL POSTSCRIPT: At a dinner Thursday night, we learned that a couple we know would also be attending the concert. We joked about how we’d see them there. Ha, ha! With 50,000 people attending, what were the chances?

We saw them in the parking lot.

P.P.S.: This guy had better seats than we did.

11 Responses to “Concerts and Proximity”

  1. Ah, yes, good seats – the maker or breaker of a good concert experience. Well, at least if the band or artist you’re going to see has a soul beyond their music. I’ve been at a couple “mega-concerts” (including Lilith Fair 1998) and have seen bands that, on stage, look like they’re just back in the studio all over again. The seats didn’t really matter so much then.

    On the other hand, having front-row orchestra seats when the ex and I attended Dear Friends as performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra was nothing short of amazing, especially when Uematsu’s well-beloved piece “One-Winged Angel” started up; it’s cello-heavy in the opening, and had I one of the aforementioned long Ping drivers, we were close enough that I could have tapped two or three cellos from my seat without doing much more than leaning forward.

    Rick Wilcox (71646f)

  2. Rick is absolutely right; if I can’t sit close enough to see the performer’s face without binoculars, what’s the point?

    Whether it’s a concert or a play, the point ( at least for me) is to experience something more immediate, more visceral than watching or listening to a pre-recorded performance.

    Sitting in the nosebleed seats, watching the blurry Jumbotrons or peering through a spyglass adds nothing to my appreciation for an artist — but it does increase my crankiness index.

    I saw Ian MacKellen perform in Richard III from the front row at UCLA; it was thrilling to witness a brilliant thesp bring one of Shakespeare’s most famous villains to life. More than a dozen years later the memory is still vivid, something I doubt for those in attendance who couldn’t see the face of the twisted prince.

    It goes double for musical performances, ’cause they often don’t sound as good live, and if you can’t see them on stage, why not just listen to the CD on a crappy walkman after having your eyes dilated to approximate the concert experience.

    Mike Lief (e6260e)

  3. Many years ago, I saw Glen Phillips at a tiny club — “Bottom of the Hill” — in San Francisco. It was a hole-in-the-wall joint, smaller than many brewpubs i’ve been to.

    I’ve never enjoyed one of his shows as much as I did that one (although the Glen / Nickel Creek show at a House of Blues venue in Hollywood came close).

    aphrael (12fba5)

  4. Also: the last time REM toured, I looked at their schedule, and saw that they were playing up here at a big venue that I don’t like very much — but in San Diego, they were playing at Street Scene, an outdoor music festival.

    I went to San Diego and managed to get myself up to about five rows away from the stage; that was *much* more fun than when I saw them at the huge venue a decade ago.

    So, I think you’re right: proximity to the artist matters a great deal.

    aphrael (12fba5)

  5. When does old/elderly get taken into play when performers reach, say 55+? Age has its rank and privileges, but sounding young is not one of them, plus the energy is gone. However, when the younger/newer ones are not ever good enough, I guess oldie is acceptable.

    Sue (492bb7)

  6. Boy, you go out a lot. With work and kids, how do you do it?

    sam (679dd2)

  7. You know maybe it has something to do with…gulp…aging. I used to rock with the best of them, even in the nosebleed sections. There was a sense of community even way up there -maybe it was the collective lighters being waved in unison, or the whatever being passed back and forth, or the sweet scent of something illegal wafting through the air, and even though Mick was ant sized we still knew he was strutting his stuff just for us in the heights. But sheesh, nowadays, who needs the unending crowds, the fire hazards with all those lighters, the squished together seating, and that big fat guy next to you spilling over into your seat while hollering ‘YEOW!’ in a voice so loud you’re ears start leaking fluid. No thanks!

    Dana (4cbb3b)

  8. I saw them at the Pond on Thursday, and by luck managed to get front row seats to the right of the stage on the day of the concert (yes close enough to spit on Andy). Bonus bragging rights, the security guard who was standing next to me hooked me up with the playlist.

    IMO they sounded really good, though I was a little perplexed at some of the changes made to some of my favorite songs. Highlights abounded, and Sting is far skinnier in person than I ever imagined.

    Of course the best parts of the show were Stewart Copelands antics. He nearly bit the farm jumping down from his percussionists tortures rack a few times.

    Crappy cell phone videos here

    Gabriel (6d7447)

  9. Proximity is key. It’d be enough, really, just to be able to say I saw Stevie Ray Vaughan live. Knowing it was at a general admission venue and I was maybe ten feet from the stage enhances the entire experience (not to mention the girl behind me coming on to me).

    otcconan (04f624)

  10. I saw them in Vegas two weeks ago. They were average at best. Sting is insufferable. They used new arrangements on a couple of songs, but mostly they played it straight with their hit songs. I too scored day of tickets and was probably thirty yards away from the stage. They were the best seats I have had at an arena concert in years but it didn’t matter because the Police just weren’t that great.

    jt007 (0d3bd3)

  11. Proximity is super important. My favorite concert ever was a pretty obscure modern classical band called Bond. We were in the House of Blues, and close enough that they could actually talk to us a bit and I don’t know how long a Ping is, but presumably that would apply as well.

    David N. Scott (71e316)

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