Neil Young and Crazy Horse--"Are You Ready For The Country (live)" (mp3)
Over the next month or so, I begin a fairly intense (for me), if brief, concert season--Springsteen in Louisville, Sufjan Stevens in Chattanooga, The Who in Nashville. These are all big shows for me in one way or another. Several of my friends going have never seen Springsteen before, so the chance to experience that with them is exciting. Our seats are behind the stage; I've never done that before, but Trout assures me it's a satisfying concert experience. Sufjan is playing Track 29, our newish, popular concert venue for pretty big, not huge, acts. I saw the Drive-By Truckers there briefly, until circumstances and friendship caused me to have to leave. He is playing a Christmas show; I love his homemade Christmas CDs. Seeing the "half-Who", as Trout calls them, is something I was talked into. It wasn't too difficult; they're playing Quadrophenia in its entirety and that was a seminal album during my teenage years. That concentration of shows got me thinking, what makes for a perfect concert?
(It didn't hurt that I had to drive a group of boys back from Nashville the other night very late and the only thing that kept me awake was blasting through the headphones a bootleg recording of Neil Young's current tour, specifically his stop at Red Rocks in Colorado. A live music can create an envelope, a trance-like experience that you don't want to leave.)
So, after some pondering while driving a microbus, while cutting the grass, while not watching football all weekend, here's what I've come up with:
10. The artist has to have some rapport with the audience. I'm really not interested in the engmatic, misanthropic performer who can't be bothered to acknowledge that he (or she, though not likely) is actually playing for an audience of living, breathing people. If that wall is that high, stay home. I'll listen to your CDs instead and try to pretend you're not a freak show. Even if all you have to say is "Thank you," say it, over and over again.
No doubt, concert fans, your criteria would be different. I'd enjoy hearing what your own standards for a great show are.