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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Does live music have to be seen to be made?

To the O2 to see Pet Shop Boys and marvel at the staggering number of great records they have made. Most of the music is actually coming off an invisible hard disk. Neil stands still and sings. Chris stands behind a podium which could be a Hostess trolley for all we can see of what he's doing with his hands back there. Terrific as the show is, it's difficult for an audience to demonstrate its enthusiasm as it normally would when the show continues as if on castors. The audience likes to feel it can influence what's going on on stage by applauding bits of the performance it particularly likes. Clearly, such observations are the maunderings of a survivor from an earlier age. However it's clear that other people feel the same atavistic impulse, judging by the way the applause swells when the dancers do something spectacular. They are clearly doing something that we know we could never do ourselves. Our traditional expectations of a concert involve music not merely being done, but being seen to be done.