Sunday, 8 March 2009

Terror on the number 45 to Ilford

I had a dream the other night, so vivid and with such a narrative that I’ve decided to subtitle it - “Terror on the number 45 to Ilford”.

Basically, it involved a mad bus driver driving a bus very badly along roads, across pavements and down alleyways and eventually driving under scaffolding too low for the bus and taking the roof off in the process.

Most entertaining.

Britney Spears started her tour last week – how thrilling for us all.  And, of course, the entire thing (or almost the entire thing, depending who you believe) was mimed along to a backing track.  Meaning that you didn’t actually hear a single word she “sang” if you went to the concert.  Call me insane, but that’s not a concert is it?  That’s someone dancing around for a couple of hours mouthing their mouth in time to the words.

Miming in concert is one of my pet hates.  I don’t see any excuse for it at all.  If you can’t dance and sing at the same time, then get some dancers to dance around you.  If you can’t hit the same notes you hit in the studio then either drop the key of the song, or rearrange it slightly.  And if you can’t sing at all, and rely entirely on studio technology to create the melody line – then don’t call yourself a singer and pretend to go on tour!

Partly, of course, there is the desire nowadays to hear a perfectly recreated version of the studio track on-stage and whilst that is almost always possible to achieve, it’s quite complicated and expensive to cart all that extra equipment and expertise around the world with you on tour.  But the answer is obvious – don’t try to sound exactly like the studio record.

If you go to the theatre to see a play.  Let’s presume it’s an adaption of a film you’ve also seen.  Then you’re prepared to accept that the sweeping mountain view in the background will be a painted backdrop and not actually the mountains you saw in the film.  You’re so caught up in the drama (presuming it’s a good production) that it doesn’t matter.  And the same is true of music – if the concert is good, then you should not care that there are slightly fewer guitar parts than on the record, or that the harmonies aren’t quite as intricate. If you want to hear the studio version, then listen to the CD (or MP3).

There is another element to this, of course, and that’s the curse of celebrity.  The strange desire some people have to just “see” someone “famous”.  I don’t understand it, but even I haven’t felt it myself sometimes.  There is sometimes the desire to just “see” someone famous.  But I guess that’s the product of a society in which we are starting to celebrate people for who they are rather than what they do.

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