Monday, May 29, 2006

Concert Reviews?

I was reminded of something I've been meaning to write about for quite awhile now while visiting Popped Culture. You see, for years I've seen concert reviews in music magazines and I just don't get the point of them.

Let's look at this objectively.

For almost all other media like books, movies and cds, the material the reviewer is examining is likely going to be the same one you are going to get yourself, with maybe an addition or edit somewhere along the line.

Now let's look at a concert/live performance. What the reviewer is seeing is a unique event, one that is being witnessed from a particular point of view at a particular venue with a particular setlist(which is likely to change a few times down the line) and different opening acts throughout a tour, all of which are variables which make such a review far less applicable to your own situation if you plan to attend one of the artists/band's concerts some time in the future. Additionally, the reviewer's opinion of the show will appear long after you may have a chance to see the show on a regional or national level, and is certainly a lot less useful to you if you are reading it in a local weekly or daily paper and it just happened. How does it benefit a potential concert goer reading about a past concert that took place under a unique set of circumstances?

Now you may say that a concert is like a play, and I am not objecting to those kinds of reviews. There is a very good reason for that. Since the venue isn't going to change, the material is going to be constant and the cast is largely going to be the same with an understudy or two thrown in on occasion, well, a reviewer has a good shot of giving you, the potential viewer, a heads-up about what to expect.

If concert reviews were very general, based on the work of a lot of different witnesses at different venues, then they would be much more useful. You would know that generally speaking, the artists are playing certain songs, their performance was usually up to a certain level, and the event took around a certain amount of time. But that's not how it works at the moment, so it is at best a very flawed reviewing standard.

I am not looking for science here, just a sense of consistency which has been lacking up to this point in this kind of reportage.


Karl said...

Yeah, I never did understand the purpose of reviewing concerts. I either went to the show or I didn't and I don't see how a review helps either way. You want to help me understand how the concert was? Send me a damned video of the show.

MC said...

A video which would be the same for all viewers of course. ;)