This month James have been on tour across the UK playing a series of extraordinary gigs in support of their extraordinary album…”Living in Extraordinary Times”. These gigs have seen the band support themselves with an acoustic set before they return to play a more traditional live show. That has provided people with the chance to see one of the most creative and successful bands of the last thirty years play a variety of songs in a variety of ways and given people the chance to connect with the band, and the songs, in a unique way.
What should have been something incredible and memorable though has served, at least on one occasion, to shine a light on something darker and more troubling about the experience of seeing a band play live.
Here is what Tim Booth tweeted following the show in Hull last night;
The responses to that tweet revealed that what had happened during the show was…unpleasant and upsetting.
During the acoustic set there is talking which breaks the connection between the band and the audience, people get cross and start to tell other people to be quiet which serves only to increase the noise.
Nobody is happy.
Then, according to people who were in attendance, during the main set a particularly ugly fight breaks out which leaves blood and beer on the floor of the venue.
In truth this could be any gig, in any city on any Friday night.
People who are not the sort of obsessive music fans who read sites like this see the name of a well known band and think; “Sorted, few beers, couple of lines, some tunes and a kebab.” That, by the way, is absolutely fine with me…I don’t care how much someone drinks or if they use coke or if they want a kebab. My problem comes when any of those things impinge on the safety, happiness, enjoyment and well being of other people.
A gig should be a time to feel joy, to hear songs that lift you and soothe you, to feel the music move you, to dance, to sing along, to laugh, to meet people, to live and breathe a little. If the behaviour of someone else interferes with any of that then the night is ruined.
At a recent Chris(tine) and the Queens gig the bulk of the show was ruined for me by a group of five blokes who talked, loudly, about all sorts of things (other than the music) for the entire duration of the show. I couldn’t focus on what was happening…I couldn’t connect.
The last time I went to see Shed Seven I had to leave after four songs after being hit in the face with a full pint of beer…soaking my clothes and making me feel angry and upset.
I once went to see Johnny Marr and had to endure two guys next to me smoking…despite a smoking ban. When I asked them to put it out I was smacked in the face for my troubles.
Go and ask any of the women you know what going to a gig has been like for them…you won’t like what they tell you. I can’t imagine you will find one who hasn’t had their evening marred, at least once, by some unwanted attention, touching or outright assault.
A ticket to see a band can be a pricey business today.
The folks who went to see James would have paid £50.
A James show is worth every penny of that.
Tim Booth is an incredible frontman.
The band are gifted musicians.
They play songs you know with a fire and passion that will leave you breathless.
They play songs you don’t know and make them sound like the only songs you ever want to hear again.
But when you are stood next to a drunken boor braying about whatever nonsense is in his muddled brain…when you are confronted with the lascivious grasps and grabs of a coked up thug…when you are soaked in what you can only pray is alcohol…when you are shoved, pushed or punched for confronting things…no amount of money makes it worthwhile.
Maybe you are the person doing the talking, whose hands are grabbing, who is launching the pint pot or who is issuing the threats…
Maybe all of that is your idea of a top night out.
Maybe you measure a good night by how little you remember.
“Mate, you would not believe what I got up to last night…” you drool down the ‘phone to your friend the next day. Delighting in your own debauchery. Thrilled by your terribleness. Savouring your sexually inappropriate conduct. Amazed by your level of aggression.
You are not a lad.
You are not a top boy.
You are not a geezer.
You are ugly.
You are the kind of person who revels in the misery of others to mask the awfulness of your own character…too frightened to confront the weakness inside of yourself you choose to trample on other people.
These are the people who hear “We only want to get drunk” in “A Design for Life” but who never hear “Libraries give us power”.
These are the people who hear “Let me get my hands on your mammary glands” in “Handsome Devil” but who never hear “There’s more to life than books you know, but not much more.”
These are the people who scream the loudest for “Sit Down” but who never hear “Those who feel the breath of sadness, sit down next to me.”
Don’t say sorry…be sorry.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Dance and sing and clap and cheer.
Make room for someone else to do the same.
The band are playing?
You can see the band…can the person behind you? Could you make a little room? Could you move back?
If you can’t enjoy a night out without ensuring that someone else is not enjoying their night out…don’t go out.
You won’t be missed.