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    Questions: The Concert Edition (Encore!! Encore!!)

    A couple of weeks ago, I went to see Regina Spektor perform at the Beacon Theater in NYC's Upper West Side, courtesy of a gift from the soon-to-be-Mrs. Deadman.

    What a disappointment.

    I really like Ms. Spektor, could listen to her breakthrough album 'Begin to Hope' over and over again. But her live performance was uninspired and pretty boring, to be frank. Spektor just wasn't connecting to the audience and it really put a damper on the evening.

    My Beyonce and I were trying to figure out why the performance seemed so blah. Regina can't be blamed entirely - I think her music and her modest (perhaps-too-humble) personality would just fit much better in a more intimate setting than the 2,600-seat Beacon. And I'm sure the fact I didn't know most of the new songs which dominated her setlist certainly had something to do with my lackluster response.

    I don't think the quality of her musicianship was at fault. But while her voice was in fine form, and the newer music decent if forgettable, she did have her stumbles, most notably during a rap she performed near the end of the concert where she forgot the words. I felt like I wanted to be Simon Cowell, and tell her in my British accent that she should have just pushed through, as few people probably would have noticed the mistake if she hadn't sat there awkwardly for more than a minute trying to recall the forgotten lyrics.

    Regina got sufficient applause at the end of the show I guess to justify the requisite encores (another concert tradition that has totally lost meaning now that its become automatic), but it all felt empty and hollow to me, or maybe that was just my own letdown feeling showing through.

    In any case, I've decided to post a concert-related questions column. Looking forward to your answers.



    1) What was the first concert you've seen? How old were you?

    15. Survivor. Yes, "Eye of the Tiger," Survivor. Or it might have been Van Halen. Sammy Hagar Van Halen, unfortunately.

    There's no point in blackmailing someone who will admit to stuff like this in public.

    Nonetheless, resign.


    Springsteen. The River. 1st Concert Ever.

    God got me tickets, Jesus rode beside me, and the Holy Spirit bought beer.

    Yes, it was that good.

    Prince.  Purple Rain.  At Maple Leaf Gardens.  I was 13.  I hear the concert was awesome, but we were in the grays, and all we could see was the top of the lighting.  All we saw was the finale when his guitar ejaculated on the front row, and everyone squealed with disgust.

    I actually don't remember exactly what my first concert was, although it was either John Denver or Peter Paul and Mary, both accompanied by my folks. Yes, very embarrasing. I think my first non-parent concert was Billy Joel, seen with my brother. Yes, slightly embarrasing. My first family-less concert was Aerosmith, the 'Pump' concert. Not so embarrasing, but certainly no Prince or Springsteen. No Survivor, tho, either.

    I was fifteen when my parents took me to see Chicago. Since then, I've often considered myself the biggest dork on the planet as a result. But at least it wasn't Survivor.

    2) What was the best concert you've seen? What do you remember most about it?

    I love high-energy shows in tiny venues. It doesn't even have to be the best bands. My favorite shows were Violent Femmes in a bar in Iowas City after they were already has-beens and Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah in a basement club in NYC when they were still going-to-be's.

    Honorable mention to David Byrne and also the Fratellis.

    Have to be the 1972 Elvis & MJ "Equally Influential" tour. What's more gold than gold? That tour.

    I think some Lennon kid opened. Meh.

    Bob Dylan, November 1966. I'd been an early, early fan. My summer job on a cruise ship kept me from seeing him on his first Montreal visit in 1962, so I made sure to get tickets to this one. The first half of the concert was acoustic, the rest electric (with the nascent Band). All the real fans had by then accepted Dylan's right to choose his own musical direction, so there were maybe one or two catcalls, quickly drowned out by cheers.

    The venue was Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier of Place des Arts, a bona-fide concert hall with upholstered seats, unfamiliar territory for such a young crowd. The electric set was loud, but the crowd was well-behaved, aside from some raucous cheering and the fact people started throwing paper airplanes toward the stage. The airplanes were apparently too much for PdA management, who banned any more rock shows for the next several years. I've seen Dylan live five times, and that concert was the most memorable.

    U2, opening night (IIRC) of Joshua Tree tour, San Diego, '87. Ecstasy. They did Exodus, by Bob Marley. Beyond belief.

    Saw Dylan couple of times, and each time, stupendous. Had good luck there, I guess. He's talked, danced, even laughed. Springsteen pretty staggering too.

    Gotta say Ingrid Michaelson. Unfortunately I havent been to a really awesome big rock show spectacle.

    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. 1995. United Center, Chicago. What I remember most is that I don't think I've ever seen anyone as high as Petty was onstage. And he was still amazing!

    Youssou N'Dour, live at a concert hall in Dakar, Senegal.  He was amazing, as always, and went for maybe five or six hours (he was still going strong when we left early at 3 a.m.).  The backup dancers shook their thangs so hard, spangles fell off their sparkly outfits.  The hometown crowd was totally into him.  Everyone was cracking up at all his jokes.  Inconveniently, they were almost all in Ouollof, so I missed out on them.  Except one story about an immigration hassle in Paris (he asked the crowd, "And when you apply for a visa, what does French Immigration say?"  Holds out the mike.  The crowd roars, "NON!"  "And you reapply, and what do they say?"  "NON!"  Well, maybe you had to be there ... 

    same Regina, October, 2009

    3) What was the worst concert you've seen? What do you remember most about it?

    Secret Machines, sans one-half of the original duo, which I reviewed a few months ago. Radiohead also puts on a really boring show.

    Had to be Genghis and the Articlemen. Heavy metal frontman with 50's style collegiate band, in sweaters.

    Not sure whether the lead singer actually had lungs, or just pushed air out through his kidneys.

    Easily, Emerson Lake and Palmer at Montreal's 60,000-seat Olympic Stadium in 1977. I wasn't even a fan, but I was working for one of the sponsors so the tickets were free. The group was pretentious, the orchestration over the top, the sound system was terrible. Somehow, they managed to get a live album out of that performance, so at least someone left the stadium happy.

    Howard Jones at Canada's Wonderland, circa 1986, was pretty awful.  It's not good when a concert makes you realize that a singer you thought you loved actually has no talent.

    Jack Johnson opening for Ben Harper, Long Island, around 2003, was also pretty lame.  I thought I liked his music, but his opening set bored me to tears.  My opinion of that overrated singer hasn't improved since.

    that's a shame. i really enjoy jack johnson's music. not mindblowing arrangements or anything but he almost always puts out sweet, melancholy stuff that gets me all nostalgic and in a pensive mood, which i like

    That's how I felt about him, until I saw him in concert.  All I can recommend is -- don't spoil it by seeing him live.  Or if you really want to see him live, smoke a fattie beforehand.  He obviously did.

    i've seen some awful ones, including a Styx reunion tour. But probably the worst was at a Fourth of July concert, during St Louis VIP Parade, when REO Speedwagon took the stage. At one point they forgot the lyrics, but the lead singer screamed 'We may not remember the words, but we still know how to ROCK!' Or, not.

    Y'know how Genghis shouldn't ever have mentioned Survivor? There are bands which you just really really shouldn't mention. Ever. Not even in quizzes. Stanx & REO Shitwagon fer instance.

    Yes, you can mention Gwar.

    Survivor, opening for REO Speedwagon at the Taste of Chicago in 2000.

    What I remember is that everybody watching was around 30--absolutely no age diversity. And also, it was free, so Genghis is still a bigger dork.

    4) Who haven't you seen perform at a concert but wish you could have?

    Bright Eyes, like 7 years ago. We arrived in the neighborhood really early but figured that no one had heard of him, so we took our time getting something to eat first. By the time we returned, it was sold out of course.

    Janis Joplin, when she was still with Big Brother and the Holding Company. I actually had advance tickets to a concert at the Fillmore (maybe it was the Avalon) in I guess fall of 1968. At what now seems like the last minute, Big Brother cancelled (Joplin was on the verge of leaving) and Jefferson Airplane stepped in. I'd already seen the Airplane; I wanted to see Janis live. I never did.

    For some reason, I keep missing Leonard Cohen whenever he revisits his home town. I've got the DVD of his London shows, but want to see him live at least once.

    U2, Indigo Girls, Prince

    5) What's the best opening band you've seen? Do you usually arrive at a concert in time to see the opening bands?

    I can't even remember. It's almost always a disappointment. I try to avoid them, but it's always hard to know when the headliners come on. Why don't they publish that?

    Foo Fighters, opening for Dylan at Montreal's Bell Centre in November 2006, were phenomenal. Perhaps a little too phenomenal, since Dylan then made everyone cool their heels for a full hour before taking to the stage. Egotistical bastard! In his defence, maybe he was banging someone backstage. At his age, he can't afford to pass up too many opportunities.

    No question, and an odd one - but David Gray. Opened for Radiohead. Went on to see Gray 7 times in London, little pubs, less than 30 people sometime. THAT guy, in his young and angry period, was ungodly good. Like a Welsh Dylan. Built like a fire hydrant, head snapping from side to side, just he and a drummer, and just RAGE blistering out of him, but in these wonderful poetic furious tunes. Hearing him now, you'd mock. But of those 30 people, one night I had Sinead sitting at the next table, Elvis Costello across the floor, Pogues, and any songwriter in London who was a songwriter. And then Gray would come out and make 'em weep - with how good he was, and how depressed and hopeless it was, that he couldn't even give tickets away.

    Most opening bands are lame and i usually have no problem missing them. The best one I remember seeing was the Black Crowes who opened for Aerosmith. I bought their album the next week.

    I saw Melissa Etheridge open for (I think) the Eagles at Alpine Valley once. She's awesome.

    6) Putting aside the quality of the actual music for a second, what's the most important thing a singer or band can do to make the difference between a great concert and an OK concert or an OK concert and a bad concert?

    Invite me to party with them backstage. Not that that's ever happened to me.

    Treat paying fans with a minimal amount of respect (see above comment).

    Flirt with me during the concert, if he's cute.

    Stage presence. If you're a rock star doing the spectacle thing, own the stage. If you're a more intimate performer, relate to the audience. Tell us some stories. Be a raconteur, not just a singer.

    7) Even during great concerts, I often find myself looking at my watch near the end. Do you think concerts are not long enough or too long?

    Depends on the show

    A lot of concerts, I find myself looking at other peoples watches.

    Some I take home.

    8) What's the most annoying audience habit at a concert: a) Yelling out 'I love you' or some other term of endearment to the performer b) Yelling out the name of a song they want to hear when the performer has not asked for such input c) Singing loudly the contents of a song when no one else is doing so to the point where surrounding concertgoers can hardly hear the real performer or d) Something else that annoys the shit out of you.

    I just do not understand the people who yell 'I love you (Insert performer name here)!!' It's just silly.

    9) Why do you think audience members yell out to a performer during a concert: a) because they are swept up by the passion of the music and the moment b) because they hold out hope that the performer will hear them, notice them, and then invite them backstage c) because they like to hear the sound of their own voices and wish they had the talent to be a performer?

    I think none of us are answering this because none of us are that kind of person. Or so we tell ourselves.

    Some of us yell just because we're into sharing the love.

    That said, I like to confuse bands a little. Keep 'em on their toes. When Wilco was last through town (they were ROCKIN' by the way), I was in a balcony, and waited for one of those longish moments of silence between songs, then let loose a request for "Freeeeeeeeebirrrrrrrrrrd!" Tweedy cracked up. 

    Half-hour later, another pause, so I hit the button of a less confident... "Freebird??" Whole band started laughing. Tweedy promised they'd get to it.

    that's actually very funny. i still say you're an attention hog who likes to hear the sound of your own voice, but then we already knew that, eh!!

    10) The encore: a) Like it as is b) Should be revised (How?) c) Should be eliminated

    Encores should be real. I hate the default encore. If it's an incredible show, and the audience is going crazy, keep coming back. If not, go away.

    I second that. Sometimes the encore ends with a signature piece that you know the band or singer wasn't going to leave without playing and everyone realizes, "OK, that was built into the set list." I say leave everything you've got on stage; if the crowd keeps applauding, come out and say, "Thanks, but I just played my guts out for you." They'll understand.

    Fans also have to accept some of the blame, routinely calling for encores at so-so concerts in hopes the performers will finally click. It's like stuffing yourself at an all-you-can-eat buffet where the food wasn't that hot to begin with. 

    totally agree, acanuck. don't save your biggest hit for the encore just so you can end on that note. i just remember going to concerts earlier in my life and feeling like the singer/band had to earn the love from the audience and the audience had to earn their encore. Now i kind of resent the whole process.

    11) OK, OK, stop your clapping. I'll give you one more question. I give you $100 to spend on music-related items from your favorite performer - would you rather use that money to buy two tickets to a live concert or to buy a rare bootleg album from that performer that you don't already have and why?

    I have more recorded music than I will get a chance to play in my lifetime. Live performances are each unique experiences, though like most people I tend to take their availability for granted. I resolve to do better in future. I'd be at one of the Jazz Festival's free outdoor concerts just about now if it weren't raining.

    im surprised more people didn't answer this question as i thought it was a good one.

    maybe its just because i havent seen any life-changing shows, but i would probably rather spend my money buying a band's music than seeing it live. I know magic can happen with live performanced, but you know the quality of recorded music is going to be top-notch and you can listen it to it over and over again. plus, your ears take less damage, and the beer at home is much cheaper.

    still, the soon-to-be-mrs. deadman loves concerts and i do enjoy going with her to the smaller shows. and as my cousin says, you always feel like 50% cooler and hipper when you're at a concert, unless of course it's Survivor.

    "Smaller shows" may be the operative phrase. Generally, I find the more intimate the venue, the more enjoyable the show. Would you rather hear Springsteen with 40,000 other fans, or four dozen? Not that any of us will ever be offered the choice.

    You Americans are fools. If you've got $100, you should immediately go invest it.

    In T-Shirts.


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