Save me from the audience

Save me from the audience at a live gig!

You pay your money (usually lots) and then endure people around you who seem to have misunderstood why they are there. Or is it me?

Judy Collins with a well-behaved audience at Cecil Sharp House folk venue, Camden.

I was at a Bruce Springsteen concert a while back. Around me, fans were wearing tour T-shirts, declaring their love for the Boss. Yet when he came on, they were absent for much of his set, trailing to and from the bar or the toilets. And each time they left, it meant people standing to let them pass, obscuring my view of what was on stage. When they finally made it back, treading on my toes and slopping over me the contents of their plastic pint glasses, they gave the stage cursory glances and yelled an occasional ‘yeah!’ but mostly simply talked to each other – at least when they weren’t taking gulps of beer. Yet at the end of each song, they’d jump and whoop, ‘More!’ Maybe they needed more since they’d not seen any of what had gone before.

Here’s someone who hardly considered there might be other people in the audience before doing her hair . . . London’ Soho Theatre

Then there was the concert where I watched the performers, not on stage, but on screen. And not the giant screen either side of the stage. The iPhone screen of the people two rows in front of me. They were standing on their seat to ‘film’ as the person in front of them was using an iPad that was blocking their camera. Both effectively denied me a clear view of the stage. I did try and ask them to be more considerate, but the amplification was too loud for them to hear – probably turned up to deter people from talking.

Lulu at Union Chapel, Islington. Maybe it helps being at the front!

It seems to me that people use gigs as a meeting place, reinforcing my view that live performances are about socialising not music – certainly at major venues. I exclude more intimate locations like London’s Union Chapel  – and I can remember a gig at Bristol’s Colston Hall where you could hear a pin drop, though whether that was because the audience was better mannered, entranced or just bored, I can’t say.

For me, adequate retribution occurred at a 20/20 cricket match. The crowd showed the same lack of attention to the entertainment on offer as the music at a gig, talking, drinking, looking in any direction other than towards the pitch. With the match finely poised, one of a particularly irritating group near me set off to the bar. When he returned with six overfilled pints, the game was over and everyone was leaving. Though I don’t suppose his group had noticed.

Quite what those on stage think of this. I suppose as long as the stadium is full, the merch is sold and the profits are high, they don’t care. But can they not see, do they not hear, that only about a third of the so-called adoring fans seem to be taking any notice? Surely not their ambition when they set out to become entertainers.

Author: Richard Smith

I'm a writer and storyteller and for much if my life produced sponsored films and commercials. Subjects were as varied as bananas in Cameroon, oil from the North Sea, fighting organised crime and caring for older people. Their aim was always to make a positive difference, but, worryingly, two commercials I worked on featured in a British Library exhibition, ‘Propaganda’.

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