Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday Favorites: Concert Reviews?

I was looking through some back issues of Uncut magazine this week and I suddenly recalled this . Seeing as it was a music magazine, it naturally had concert reviews. I considered going back to that well to re-explore this topic, but alas, I am lazy and, more importantly, believe that my earlier entries were for the most part inherently better than the content I produce today, so I decided to make my first stab at the subject this week's Friday Favorite.

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.


Micgar said...

Yeah I got you, here! Each venue can change so much, that the one review is irrelevant. Yes if they commented on maybe the energy they put out or maybe a general comment on the song(s) then I think it'd be better. You bring up something that I hadn't thought of when I've read those Rolling Stone reviews!

MC said...

I was just thinking that Las Vegas and Branson, Mizzou may be the only places where a concert review holds water because those shows are the same every night.