Wednesday, March 31, 2021

"I'll never grumble about sound checks again"

"I hope people miss live music as much as performers do." I would have probably said that they do (or I do, at least) in response to Chris of Christine And The Queens - until I read the Guardian article in which she was quoted. Now I'm not so sure.

Take Anna Calvi, for instance, for whom performing live is absolutely integral to her sense of who she is: "I'm such a different person on and off stage. On stage, I'm much more confident and fearless. Off it, I'm quiet, soft-spoken. It's been strange only being one half of myself for the past year." Rufus Wainwright implicitly agrees: "There's a duality that occurs for a person when they go up and perform - I think they really become themselves in a lot of ways, when they're true to their art." And as Mike Hadreas aka Perfume Genius poetically puts it, "Playing live is how I feel like I'm in the world. I miss feeling like a real person and not just a quilt of ideas." For Calvi, as for Samuel T Herring of Future Islands, performing is a means of feeling truly free, while Chris sees the stage as an "outlet ... emotionally, physically - it's a catharsis I need".

Live performance is evidently not a solitary pursuit or a one-way process, but instead a genuinely reciprocal experience founded on an intimate relationship between artist and audience. Nile Rodgers apologises for sounding like "an old hippy", but it's hard not to get misty-eyed at his comments: "Music is about people coming together from all situations, positions and philosophies, creating this powerful, unified force. We need that now more than ever. I tell you, seeing people from the stage enjoying themselves reassures me that life is good and that people are good. It's amazing to experience how much love people can have in one place." Herring also craves "that human interaction, celebrating the joys of life", while lockdown hero Tim Burgess rightly notes that the success of his Twitter listening parties exemplifies "how desperate people are to connect through moments of music together".

In less abstract terms, musicians often rely on gigs to roadtest material before recording it, and for many it must be a profoundly unsettling experience to have created new music and sent it out into the world but to be deprived of the opportunity to witness its impact on listeners and audiences first hand. Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor talks about his love for the "feedback on a huge scale" that only a show can give, while Herring claims that Future Islands "don't feel our albums are a final release - the release is sharing it with people in a live setting".

Let's give the final word to Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite: "[W]hen things open up again, I'm looking forward to watching some really noisy band melt my face. It's been too long." Amen to that.

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