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I went to the REM and Radiohead concerts at Thunderbird Stadium this weekend. These two concerts were the first Big Venue concerts I'd ever been to. darthmaus said that it was much more laid back than some of the concerts she'd been to; despite the crowds, I didn't feel stuck or crowded except in a few obnoxious instances which had nothing to do with the choice of venue or audience organisation.

REM was good. Out of Time and Automatic for the People were two of the earliest CDs I owned. The crowd was not as thick as I'd expected it to be, though. flipzagging pointed out that they haven't done so well lately, and are more a band-that-was than a band-that-is. It's kinda sad, really... but maybe that's just my reaction to seeing something out of sync with my internal map. REM, in my mind, is one of the defining bands of my generation's music.

Despite that, the concert was great. The energy of the audience was infectious, and Michael Stipe is as much a performer as a vocalist.

Radiohead's concert was great, too. I'd even say better, but that would beg the question of what yardstick to employ. Now, I'd never been much of a Radiohead fan except for the ubiquitous Creep and High and Dry, but das Maus is a big geeky fan of theirs. What surprised me is how much their style has changed since they last got a lot of radio-play. I had borrowed Kid A, Amnesiac, and the single There there from her beforehand, so I wasn't taken totally unawares. It took me a while to get a taste for the ambient electronica style of music that they've turned to in the last few albums, but it was well worth taking the time to acclimatise myself; I enjoyed the concert all the more for not needing to challenge my pre-conceptions of their style in the middle of a live performance.

Thom Yorke is, from what I've heard, a shy guy. He makes up for it on stage by being the most spastic performer I've ever seen, and I thought Stipe was pretty spastic when he came on. There was a particular song ("You and Whose Army," I believe) in which he was playing keyboard and singing for the close-up camera mounted beside. He was hamming it up, playing with the audience, singing to us rather than for us, and it felt like he was singing directly to each one of us. Between verses he would turn his back on the camera and step toward the real crowd, and just by sweeping his arms up drew a roar from the crowd. He was playing us as an instrument as much as the piano.

The Radiohead concert was a fascinating exercise in redefining the boundaries between music and performance from within the mainstream. This might just be part-and-parcel with concerts, but though I went for the music, I found that the entire performance went far beyond just music and into a more encompassing experience. The lighting was genius and was as much an instrument as the bass or vocals, the audience's roar and applause was sampled and incorporated into the music, layered over and over with other elements until it was no longer just a recording and became an instrument in its own right, and the feedback loop between the band and the audience was, at times, an instrument. The environment of the crowd as it interacted with the band, itself, and me, and I with it, was as much a part of experiencing the performance as was the music.

Of course, as I said, these were the first Big Venue concerts I'd ever been to. Maybe you've been there, done that, and none of this is news to you. Disregard it, then, because I found it interesting to muse about and that is enough to justify the digital ink. :-)

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No mention of Consternated Blonde!? :)

My own spastic-flailing dancing style was vindicated in high school by Michael Stipe (who has really toned it down in his old age), and further encouraged when I got into Radiohead in university.

I'm really glad I got to enjoy Radiohead with you, and that you can still hear despite my overly exuberant fangirl screaming ;-)

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