I bloody love Live Music. Honestly nearly all of the greatest times I can remember are at, or related to live shows. Seeing Beyonce and Jay-Z perform Deja Vu together; watching Adele perform Set Fire To The Rain surrounded by falling water; just last week watching Rina Sawayama perform the best pop show I’ve seen in years; these are events that stay with you as a music fan. The energy of a crowd, the boom of the speakers and the constant risk of whether you have enough time for a quick piss before the main act comes on. I’m so happy that live gigs are back, but I quite like not being there too.
I’m definitely not saying that recorded performances, whether they be live streamed or pre-recorded hold a candle to being in the room with someone performing, but it’s a separate ‘experience’. Last year live streamed gigs started appearing every week, with artists launching new albums, reuniting with their bands and performing to empty venues across the world for thousands of fans online. Some were certainly better than others, Laura Marling’s performance at Union Chapel was outstanding, but I mainly enjoyed the ‘event’ nature it brought to just sitting at home and watching a concert on my telly.
I’m at the point now where I really hope live stream and ‘event’ type shows continue well into the next year and beyond, even if hopefully real audiences always get to be there too.
I’m writing this just days after watching the final of four live streams by Picky Bs favourite Björk, whose Orkestral series of shows in Rekyavik saw her re-imagining songs from across her catalogue with various musicians. Used as a way to get the Icelandic live industry back on its feet, as well as raise awareness and money for women’s charities in her home country, it felt like a special moment to be part of. Each week before the show she would write deep dives into the arrangements on her Twitter account, each song taking on a whole new feel. It had been rescheduled about four times, which for a live stream show feels even more ridiculous, but having this one-off feeling while watching each show made it feel extra special.
I instantly think of festival shows, where despite having never been to Glastonbury in my life, I feel part of the event thanks to live TV coverage. Being able to watch along with now legendary headline sets from Stormzy, Coldplay and Jay-Z, it brings even more fans to be part of such a massive event, even if I’m not personally in that crowd. I really enjoy going back and watching performances from certain album ‘eras’ or the accessibility to see that one festival show where they played my favourite song just the once. It keeps these performances alive, in an era where artists don’t really release ‘live DVDs’ of their tours anywhere near as much as they used to.
You don’t get the same atmosphere as at a gig, but I sure as hell would rather watch something professionally filmed than some dodgy video someone has filmed from the crowd while they block a shorter person behind them. There was a trend that started with big stadium shows having one of the nights live streamed to cinemas across the country and that sort of accessible ‘event film’ is something I really enjoy. I’d love to be able to watch the final gig of a long Phoebe Bridgers tour, or be able to relive some of the massive pop shows I’ve seen that have been begging for a recording that never arrived.
It’s absolutely not the same as being there, but singing along at home is still a big part of being a music fan for me.
Words by Sam Atkins.