Crowd Pleaser

March 17, 2010

Based out of Florida, Against Me! was the only US band mixed into the Canadian lineup for Billy Talent’s recent tour. Not only did they stand out as the only American band alongside the Cancer Bats and Alexisonfire, they stood out as the least interactive. In fact, the only words spoken at their stop at the Centrium in Red Deer were, “How’s it going Red Deer?”

This got me to wondering if they would have added to their performance with a little more crowd acknowledgement, or if it was fine just the way it was.

For the most part I highly enjoy bands that become involved with their fans. Encouraging crowd participation, clapping, singing along, jumping etc., provides a sense of camaraderie between the performers and the crowd and adds to the overall energy and excitement of the show.

Some bands offer personal stories and experiences between songs, sometimes unrelated to anything and other times pertaining to the particular song they’re about to play, their experiences recording the album, or happenings on tour. I find this helps connect the performer with the audience, giving the listeners insight onto the goings on of life in the studio or on the road, or perhaps the inner workings of their mind while writing their songs. I feel the sharing of life’s stories brings the musicians a little closer to earth and reminds us that they often have the same silly stories and strange occurrences that us ‘regular Joes’ experience.

However, not every band chooses to get that intimate with the crowd. I’ve found a lot of bands to include scripted lines into their shows such as the classic “You have been the best crowd on tour so far”. I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard that line. Times like that I wish bands would find a little originality. Pick out something unique about the particular city to comment on rather than generalizing it. Or just stick to the music. After all, that is the main reason we pay to go to a concert is it not?

I don’t have a problem with a band that isn’t outgoing or comedic if the quality of their live performance is high, such as Against Me!. I thoroughly enjoyed watching their set, solely for their music. Sometimes the only thing that matters is seeing some good quality music and appreciating the talent on stage. This is heavily dependent on the band though; a less established band could be seen as boring and impersonal and may not leave a lasting impression on the audience.

Mostly the debate is based on personal opinion. Do you prefer to watch a band that focuses on nothing but the music, or would you rather have the added entertainment between songs?

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  • Reply
    March 17, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    I totally understand what you're saying. Bands that don't speak at all can be wonderful. I saw Ben Harper in Vancouver one time and he was obviously having a bad night, about the only words he said were sorry and thanks. They were fighting with their monitors all night and so while the sound must've sucked for him, it was phenomenal for us and he channeled that anger into some of the best music I've ever seen.

    Ths flipside of that is someone like Ani Difranco who talks so much she almost forgets to do songs. It's wonderful and charming and totally at odds with the highly political music she plays, but you really feel part of the show.

    There is a place for the contrived scripted banter if it's to a purpose and not just because the band can't be bothered. U2 is one of those bands where rarely a second of their show isn't pre thought out. However they clearly understand and know how to manipulate the shared experience. Every word, motion and note is designed to heighten the experience.

    I guess what I'm saying, and what I think you're getting at is that as long as the band has put some thought, creativity and effort into the banter, or not to banter, than it's ok. At least that's what I think.

  • Reply
    March 17, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    That's exactly what I was getting at, you could have almost written it better than I did!

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