Revolver

Fri, Feb 24, 2012, 00:00

BRIAN BOYDon music

THIS MUST BE a first: on his current tour, reformed brat Ryan Adams is asking that sketch artists be sent along to his shows instead of photographers. It’s not a joke – even by Adams’s own skewed standards.

His thinking is that the media photographers who come along to take pictures to accompany the printed reviews of the show are a distraction from the event.

Adams is by no means the first artist to ban photographers or the use of camera phones by punters at his shows, but what makes this less a diva-strop type of demand and more of a polite request is his considered suggestion that a skilled sketch artist quietly goes about his work for the purpose of newspaper reviews. It’s all very quaint, but so far on the US leg of the tour a few newspapers are playing ball and the resulting imagery is dramatic and engaging.

And Adams isn’t stopping just with the photos – any mobile phone use by a concert goer is furiously frowned upon. As the reviewer from Lousville.comnoted in his report: “If you were so foolish as to even flash the backlit screen of your phone momentarily, you were descended upon with klieg lights and a stern admonition to PUT AWAY YOUR PHONE”.

Personally, I still don’t think that’s going far enough. I have been to gigs where you’re required to hand over your mobile, given a receipt and then collect in on your way out, and the experience of being in a venue free from rows of mobiles held up aloft or idiots tweeting what song the act has just played/what song the act is in the middle of playing/what song the act has just started to play is a wonderfully liberating experience.

Talk to the average act these days and they will ruefully say that going on stage is like appearing at a press conference with so many devices being thrust their way. They also find it dispiriting to look out and see so many heads bowed down over their phones as they tap away as if they were at an exam not a live music show.

Sometimes the no-photos ban has a practical reason behind it: when Kanye West toured his Glow in the Dark album in 2008, he requested no photos be taken as he wanted to keep his elaborate and expensive stage set a surprise for people who had paid to see the spectacular later along on the tour.

Talking, texting, tweeting during shows is selfish and stupid. Just as the people on the guest list are usually the ones talking loudly down the back and ruining it for everyone else, so those who are working overtime on their phones are sucking out the atmosphere of what should be a communal event.

We’re not talking the Taj Mahal or Eiffel Tower here – there is no need to digitally record images of a performance, especially when every photo taken ruins sight lines and annoys people around you. And that rubbishy video you took of a song – are you really going to be looking at that ever again or are you just taking it because you can?

What Adams is doing on this tour (which is billed as an intimate guitar/piano event) is not just enforcing the no-photo rule, but also not allowing drinks into the theatre during the performance and requesting that no one comes or goes during a song. Prissy behaviour, maybe, if you’re a media guest-lister used to posing your way through a show, but real fans will know what the tour is all about.

Gigs these days are an expensive business and those who pay for full-price tickets are entitled to a show without needless disruption.

There’s been a lot of talk about Adams’s do’s and don’ts, and the consensus so far is what a welcome throwback these shows are to pre-mobile days when you went to see a band – not tweet about them.

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