Music

Musings On The “Perfect Concert”

By Vijayta Narang • October 26, 2012 at 1:00 pm


Bassnectar. | Photo by Vijayta Narang

On a rainy Sunday afternoon a few weekends ago, I queued up to see Dispatch perform a free show at Brighton Music Hall. I have never really listened to much of their discography, only a few songs in passing, but I left the venue quite certain that I had just witnessed the perfect concert: the band performed with unbridled enthusiasm, interacted with the crowd, bought them beers, and were thoroughly loved in return.

The icing on top was probably lead singer, Brad Corrigan, climbing onto a beam overhanging the stage and showing off his beautifully-sculpted back. This begs the question: what is the “perfect concert?” Surely the music’s the only thing that matters, right? Right?

Not quite. A concert is an elaborate orchestration that, if missing any parts, can be extremely lackluster just as easily as it can be a success. Case in point: the girl next to you jumping up and down, disregarding the full cup of beer in her hand, the contents of which are instantly transferred onto your jeans. Or those couples who decide that a rock concert is an appropriate place for extended, fall-all-over-the-unfortunate-people-next-to-them PDA. Yes, this did in fact happen to me at the Two Door Cinema Club show last fall.

Metric. | Photo by Vijayta Narang

It’s kind of a bummer when everyone isn’t really there for the same reason. For me, a big part of going to a concert is being able to, for a little while, enjoy the music you love not as an individual but as a part of a bigger collective. It’s mob mentality in the best sense and is especially relevant in the context of electronic and dubstep shows which rely more on rhythms and beats than actual vocals.

“I think a good concert is one that makes you want to dance,” says Anna Diorio (CAS ’14), voicing an opinion echoed by many of the people I spoke to on the topic, which brings up another aspect: venue. Sure, the Orpheum theatres of this world are ultimately the wrong places for acts like Metric, who cannot be enjoyed from the confines of a seat. Metric was the first and only show I saw at Orpheum, and while it was great in every other way, the inexhaustible energy of the band was somewhat nullified by the seating which literally limited the audience’s enthusiasm. I felt like a caged animal in my seat throughout. Maybe that’s a little over-dramatic, but at the time it seemed applicable.

Of course, there are also the technical aspects. “It depends on the sound mixer,” says Phil Holub, a student at Berklee College of Music. No one wants to see the band talking to the back of the house about mic levels mid-show. And in many cases, the lighting and set designs are as important to a concert as they would be to a play. Lighting is essential to electronic acts like M83, who use it as a visual stimulus to accompany their overarching melodies.

Ultimately, it’s the musician who cements all the other aspects together. A large part of a concert’s appeal is the novelty of seeing your favorite band or singer in the flesh. The kind of connection that the artists establish with their audience is sometimes all it takes to make or break their performance. Bottom line: we like it when they talk to us. Be it anecdotes, or jokes, or even what they ate for breakfast, shows give us the opportunity to gauge a facet of their personality which is something about which we are inevitably curious.

Dispatch. | Photo by Vijayta Narang

Music is something that inexplicably brings people together, and people (like David Byrne) are still struggling to put their finger on what it is about music that is so unifying. With the right setting, it can be almost transcendental. Maybe there is no such thing as the “perfect concert,” but it’s an ideal to which every show should aspire. Why? Because it makes people feel good. And sometimes, that’s reason enough.