Rock Concerts: Now More Annoyingly Annoying Than Ever?

Brian Raftery | March 15, 2007 5:10 am

Today’s Guardian music blog questions whether concert guest-lists have grown out of control, using a recent Arcade Fire concert at Brixton Academy as an example:

…even Arcade Fire, bastions of creative integrity, have become victims of a success they cannot control. First off, it didn’t bode well that the queue for the complimentary tickets and guest list at the gig almost equalled that for standard tickets. A large number of complimentary tickets usually means a great deal of handouts from sponsors to, dare I say it, people who are only there for a free night out, as opposed to the thousands of people who tried desperately to pay for tickets only to be left disappointed when the band’s UK shows sold out in a matter of minutes. Sure enough, on entering the stalls, I realised I was surrounded by people who didn’t really care very much about being there, certainly not half as much as they cared about getting the next round in and fiddling constantly with their mobile phones.

There was almost constant chatter, embarrassingly obvious between songs and, even worse, after some of the band’s lesser-known album tracks (Haiti for example) many of the people around me didn’t even bother to clap. A couple in front of me, clearly not well acquainted with the band’s material, gave up on enjoying the music after the first song (which was, by the way, a particularly jubilant performance of Keep The Car Running) and nattered on uninterrupted throughout the show, only pausing for breath, curiously enough, when the band did.

There are a lot of assumptions at work here, so let’s pull back a bit: First off, a time-of-release show by a band with as much attention as the Arcade Fire is going to be a chattering, nattering zoo of assholes no matter what; that’s just the way concert-going works nowadays (we’re not condoning it, mind you, but just about any show you go to nowadays is going to be packed with fans who see concerts as less of a musical experience and more of a musical social experience). Secondly, considering how few gigs the band is playing in the U.K. this month, you can expect that a large portion of the guest-list crowd consisted of radio-station employees and–ahem–music journalists. And certainly, we can’t start taking away the press members’ plus-ones anytime soon, can we?

Finally, anyone who’s ever been comped for Brixton knows that the will-call line there is shite. It’s like one little old lady working out of a hut around the side of the building. No wonder everyone who survives it winds up drunk and screaming into a cell phone.

Freeloaders are killing live music [Guardian Unlimited Arts Blog]