Thursday, February 22, 2018

For the sake of appearances

Jasper Wilkins' Buzz review of Paramore's recent gig at the Motorpoint Arena seemed to me to be innocuous enough - but not everyone agreed.

On the contrary, a clutch of enraged fans seem to have taken exception to Wilkins' contention that "Paramore has always been the Hayley Williams show". While I can't comment on the validity of such a claim in connection with this particular outfit, it's certainly the case that some bands, especially in the live environment, owe their appeal and reputation almost entirely to their frontperson.

Some of those who have left angry comments have gone further, though, branding the write-up sexist on the grounds that Wilkins dwells largely on what Williams was wearing and how she behaved. For my money, he's entitled to do so if (as he argues) she is the focal point for attention and as long as (as I think is the case) he never oversteps the mark or says anything offensive or personally derogatory.

This does raise an important and rather vexed issue, though. On the one hand, performers should be judged primarily for their performance rather than for their appearance. Certainly, gig reviewers resorting to body-shaming as a means of scoring cheap points is unacceptable. On the other hand, however, surely reviewers should nevertheless be entitled to talk about appearances, rather than automatically debarred from doing so? After all, the visual aspect is a vitally important component of performance; to ignore it and concentrate solely on "what they sounded like" would be to fundamentally misunderstand the difference between a gig and an album.

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