Saturday, 13 June 2009

Is It Live, Or Is It Memorex?

This week, someone in my office took their daughter to see Britney Spears LIVE at the O2 arena in London. I have to say I sat there open mouthed the next morning, as my colleague told me that Britney had mimed the whole show... I honestly couldn't believe it, so I looked up a few reviews on the net, and sure enough there it was in just about every write up. Yet one thing shocked me even more than the miming, and that was the apparent acceptance of it by everyone. Even the review on the BBC website said of the matter, and i quote "but does any of this really matter? not really". Not really?? NOT REALLY??! Have I missed something? When did it become OK to fake a complete LIVE gig??!

The news websites are full of interviews with excited teens exiting the venue, all gushing with praise at how "incredible" "amazing" and "awesome" the show was. Not a single one of 'em said "fifty f'in quid and she mimes?? What a rip-off! I want my money back!" (which is of course what they all SHOULD have said). Just seeing her prancing up and down seems to be enough to give these kids "the best day of my life...SHRIEEEEEK".

The excuse given for the miming (the management are not even trying to deny it) is due to the extravagant circus themed stage show. Britney is performing so many physical acrobatics during the show, it's just not possible for her to sing as well... Here's a crazy 'off the wall' idea for you... how bout you DON'T have her performing all the acrobatics then??! Maybe get acrobats in to do the acrobatics, and let the singer do the singing??! You did after all sell these tickets as a live music show, not a bleedin circus! The funny thing is, I've been searching the web for pictures from this "extravaganza", and to date have found nothing more physical and exhilarating than her strutting up and down the stage! Although the countless costume changes must have left the poor girl breathless, what a trooper!

So the question that immediately springs to my mind... was the circus idea invented specifically to prevent her from singing? You also have to think about the musicians in the show, were they bothering to play live if the 'star' wasn't? There is a chance that not a single note of this show was played live. I'd love to know what the legal position is if you sell tickets for a live music concert that is 100% backing tape.

This is yet another example of dumbing down in this world... I can't imagine anyone from my age group putting up with seeing one of their idols mime... I must admit, I bulked in the 90's when the boy-band\girl-band phenomenon really started to take hold. 5 good lookin' boys or girls in a line, all singing their hearts out... but hold on a minute, I can't see any instruments on stage! But this latest farce takes the biscuit. What next? £75 to watch a VHS video of Britneys greatest hits on a 28" TV at Wembley Stadium??! "ohh it was totally awesome, and so great to finally see her perform at Wembley" said the ecstatic girl with tears running down her face...



AXEFM Radio Download Hour said...

Fifty quid?!!! Ooh err. A very good post dear fellow. And thanks ever so much for the Faces links earlier. Will be checking them on Sunday. Can feel a Faces special coming on. There is a boot somewhere of the Ooh La La sessions. I need it!!!

Anonymous said...

What's this about Faces ???. Cough up the links Piley. As for Miss Spears well surely it's taking money under false pretenses surely ?. If Madonna can cavort for two hours and sing why cant Brit ?. It just show's you how dumbed down people are, no quality or talent required, just like Big Brother and all that carp. It's all horse shit any way, pop music kak, give me Faces any day chief no miming for Rodney and da boys (spill da beans P).


Cocktails said...

mmm, I just wrote a post earlier today moaning about people going to festivals for 'an experience' and I suspect that this is much the same kind of thing.

Music seems to be for some people about the 'experience' rather than about the 'authentic' or the 'art' (I can't believe I wrote those words but you know what I mean). For Britney fans, it's the 'wow factor' of seeing her - not the actual music that counts.

Kind of like seeing the Beatles in the mid-60s - didn't they just stop singing and playing anything properly they were so fed up with the screaming? Guess it was still all live though!

E F RICE said...

Carl sums it up very nicely Piley. Reminds me of your story about that 80's house classic 'Ride on Time' or something similar and a keyboard player having to work his bollox off to somehow electronically dub over her singing voice. Reason being she couldn't sing a word of English at the time, or something like that !!

PS - Kylie or Madonna anytimne for me mate, ooops guilty pleasures rear their ugly head again!

AXEFM Radio Download Hour hahaha said...

Hey mate. I've posted a beginners guid to podcasting for you over at my blog - and show 5 is already up!

Piley said...

Cheers Axey - FIFTY big ones!! yup, what a bargain eh?! will keep an eye open for that boot.

Carl - spot on. Funny enough, it was Madonna that sprung to mind to me too... twice Britney's age, yet she can cavort and sing at the same time. Its very depressing though when people go to see something like this and come away thinking it's great eh? BTW, Can you help the Axe man out with this one??

Cocktails - just been over to your gaff and laid down quite an extensive reply, sorry to go on. You are spot on tho, people are so transparent, they just wanna be 'seen' there, or tell there mates they were there, or even better RING THE FKERS UP during the concert to prove they are there... how irritating??! It's nothing to do with music. When i started going to festivals in the 80s, there were only 2 a year! and they were exclusivly for music obsessed people and weirdos (although the general opinion was they were the same anyway!) Now I hate the average clientele at a festival, full of city w@nkers all ringing the office on their mobiles… cheers for that.

EF - blimey, forgot that little nugget! A certain drummer from a band we used to see a lot was moonlighting in the band Black Box for a bit, and he told me that himself! I honestly can't say anything against Madonna or Kylie, both have done songs I really like, and no matter if you are a fan or not, they certainly have some talent. Not sure if Brit has tho... unless talent is how many different outfits you can wear during one 2 hour show...


Mondo said...

I've heard whispers that some of the bigger trib bands play to CDs as a safety net - I knew a bloke doing the support slot for a Queen tribute band, the soundman had the right hump as this bloke's band had to be soundchecked for levels, while the main act were using CDs for certain parts

Anonymous said...

I've never been a fan of chart pop type stuff but have to admit i really like a lot of Madonna's stuff. It's good pop and she can deliver the goods live, she has talent.Have to admit i've never really got Kylie but at least she does not rip people off by lip syncing. I just feel really sad that Britney faking it is enough for the kids , they just blindly accept it. Terrible , we would have bottled a band off for that when i were young :-).


PS Word verification is spredd mmm nice :-0.

Kolley Kibber said...

I can remember being part of an audience who almost rioted when it became apparent that the Teardrop Explodes (performing in 1982 at their most dysfunctional) were using a backing track - if there'd been any suggestion that the vocals were mimed, they'd never have got out alive!

Expectations have changed beyond measure, especially at these Enormo-Gigs. The audiences are largely there for the smoke and mirrors, not the music. I'm inclined to blame Bono, just because I like blaming him for things.

Nazz Nomad said...

I've heard rumours for years that even so called "legit" bands like Aerosmith and Kis (whomever is even behind the make-up these days) had vox and instrumentals augmented by tape.
Britney has lip synced for years- who cares, it's like expecting a monkey to type the collected works of shakespeare to expect any integrity from music or politics or sport.

Heff said...

I'm not so sure that Aerosmith and Kiss are doing that. (Why would Kiss bother?)

But these "girl groups" : Brittany, "Xtina", Ashley Simpson, Janet Jackson, etc. have been doing it for YEARS.

Anonymous said...

Frightening. How can people who have been ripped off say it doesn't matter? How long before this becomes the norm? I daresay there's all sorts of stuff goes on behind the scenes that we don't know about but this just seems to be a complete rip off. Unfortunately, with the steps forward in technology and things like samplers some degree of recorded backing seems to be coming more accepted in 'live' music. However, you have to ask the question, if she's that interested in the circus why doesn't she just fuck off and join one? Her kids must be so proud of her. At the risk of sounding slightly sympathetic though I do wonder if she's been forced into it by management to make up for some of the money she's lost them in the last few years. Record company execs tend to be the real bastards who would stop at nothing to part a punter from his cash and view the artist purely as a commodity.

Furtheron said...

yep I'm as lost as you are... btw if I go to a London Show - which my daughter loves to do I watch a whole troop of people sing and dance like mad... that is the point. BTW they also do 8 shows a week for half a year or more.

So either Britney just needs to stand with a mic and sing... Snow Patrol do that and do it very very well or do the full on musical act...

Isn't the point that live music should be a unique performance never to be recaptured? Even shows I've been at that I've bought on CD or DVD are not the same as the being there the spontaneous bits etc. etc.

Anonymous said...

I actually sat my nephew down like 12 years ago and put "The Song Remains The Same" DVD from Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden in '73 and made him watch the first couple of songs to make this point.

If you are not good enough to go out on the stage with no lights, explosions, costume changes, choreography etc. then you ain't that good. When you watch that for example and see the audience mesmerized by seeing musicians that know what they are doing then you know what talent is.

I love when you ask someone about a show and the first thing they say is something about how the props were excellent or the stage show was awesome. Yeah, but how did they play? Did you even notice that?


Piley said...

Thanks everyone, some brilliant responses on this one...

PM - It doesn't shock me TOO much about tribute bands, but at a fiver a go down the local hall, I guess you can't get too distressed about it... (i'm assuming the vocals were live??) But 50 quid to watch miming?? Ouch!

Carl - completely, she deffo has talent, doesn't matter if you like her or not. Funny enough, a couple of weeks ago I unearthed a box of videos, no covers, no labels, was gonna just bin em, but was intrigued what was on there. All mainly stuff I'd recorded of TV and never bothered to watch (Sky+ is now a much more convenient way of recording then still not watching!!). First one I put in was A Michael Parkinson special with Madonna. Weird... i don't even remember it happening, let alone taping it!!! But in it she sung her upcoming 'new' single Hung Up. The vocals were incredible, so much so, I thought she was miming, but it soon became clear it was all live. Incredible vocals... it might me on youtube somewhere, worth a look.

IShould - blimey, you were angry in them days eh??! ;-) Yes! Great Idea! Lets blame Bono!! Can we get Sting in there somewhere too???

Nazz - I'm sure (well, I hope) there is still integrity out there, but you are right, you wont find it at this end of the market (kiddie-pop pap)

Heff - I hear Butlik mime all their live shows... shockin eh?? ;-)

Anon - you are right, it is a 'rip -off' I don't care how you dress it up, you are ripping people off. The sad thing is, the kids going don't seem to care they are being ripped. Just 'seeing' Britney, seems to be good value for them. I'd feel very sad if my son spent that sort of money only to have someone mime.

Further - what a great point. A gig is a unique event, something that can never happen again. It doesn't matter that the next night is the same set-list, it will still be different in some shape or form. The vocals on this entire WORLDWIDE tour are the same. When i went to see the Damned the other week, they played a genuine impromptu song. Added at a whim by a request from the audience. now THAT is a unique live moment. Someone would have to go buy a new CD for Britney to do that!!

Wil - now there's an odd word 'talent'. It seems its isn't always necessary these days. And the kids of today aren't fussed with it either. I mean, how else can something as useless as Paris Hilton become a celeb??! Kids love her, but what does the idiot actually do??!


Anonymous said...

I think EVERY kid , nephew, neice son, daughter what ever should be made to watch Led Zeppelin. Wil i applaud you sir :-).


Istvanski said...

Good post. Do you think that when this Brittney generation get older that they'd happily pay for mimed performances of West End shows like Cats and Les Miserables?

John Devlin said...

Cor, not checked your site for a few days, not only is there a new post but also 17 comments to plough through. Interesting one, I personally think Nazz Nomad is on the right lines. Its horses for courses. I personally would not tolerate miming at any gig I went to but then I would be going to see the band, listen to some great tunes and see how they are interpreted live. The spectacle comes second to me. I remember seeing Bowie on the Glass Spider tour. Was it any better for dancers, props, acting, sound effects etc? No. I just wanted to hear him sing his classics with a good band.

The Britney thing is a show that is not really about musical excellence (or even competence). Its all about dancing, costume changes, how much flesh she shows and actually seeing a pop icon in front of you. Almost like watching a promo video. I'm guessing for the majority of people who go thats what the're paying to see. Whether she can cut it live singing wise is probably immaterial to them - its secondary to the spectacle of the event.

As my good friend Carl always says "You pay your money, you take your choice" - probably knowing that she's not going to sing live.

Piley said...

Carl - Wil is weird like that... He says somethin like this, and you want him to be your kids godparent.... then you look at his blog!!!! (haha! just jokin with ya Wil!)

Istvanski - Interesting point.. I guess it stands to reason that these kids will expect less and less of a live performance as they get older... Although i'm guessin that a bidda culture like Les Mis is likely to be "boooooorrrrin" to the Britney generation!

John - I know where you're coming from... (thankfully) these artists are polls apart. There will always be a Britney (or the next model of Britney) and it will always be aimed at the same type of fans... then there is REAL MUSIC! which will always be played live.. I agree. I guess I was just disappointed that we have reached a point where this is tolerated full stop - even if it is aimed at the, how can i put it, less 'serious' music fan??


Cocktails said...

Actually if it makes you feel any better I walked past one of those pianos they have laying around central London at the moment and there was a 10 year old banging out the riff from Smoke on the Water - to much applause from his mate. Some things will never die!

Anonymous said...

LMAO! Ya just never know what you're going to get out of me.