Last night I went to see The Black Keys play at The Warfield in San Francisco. I haven't been to a concert in awhile, so it was nice to get out. I had very high hopes for this concert because the band released its new album -- Attack and Release -- on April 1.
Apart from some technical difficulties, the show was kind of a letdown. It wasn't bad, just pretty average. And when you have high expectations, it feels even worse. I think my main gripe was that they played for just about an hour, which is kind of stingy, especially if you've just released a new album! More importantly, their timing in general was off. Or, something was off and it didn't quite sound right. This was especially true when Pat Carney's uncle, who is featured on the album, came on stage to play.
The one caveat here is that the new album is actually very good.
This brings me to a broader topic, one that began nagging at me mid-way through the show. Does it seem odd that compared to live music I prefer listening to music that is engineered and packaged in some studio and then reproduced on a lifeless machine for my personal enjoyment? Is that sacrilege? Am I a terrible person for preferring the lifeless reproduction to the real deal?
Whenever I go to a show, I look out at the crowd rocking out. And I have a very good hunch that they would rock out to just about anything just as long as it was loud. Frankly, it doesn't even have to resemble a song. And this seems so odd to me because I'm sure most of these people would be quite discerning if they were listening to the song in the car or at home. They would be candid whether a song sucked or not. But for some reason, the collective music IQ takes a sharp nosedive when you are at a live show.
It's not about the music. It has more to do with being there, at a show -- it feels, collectively, more alive to know you are at a place, a gathering, where it is. And you know what, I'm done with that. It is fool's gold and I'm not interested.
I think this observation of the crowd, and its collective dumbness, poisons my experience of live music in general. I have been to only a handful of shows where the performer's musical skill and talent were on display and transformed an otherwise great recorded track into a completely new emotional experience. But that is more the exception than the rule.