Saturday, May 5, 2007

My Target Demographic

Recently, my wife got stuck downtown at rush hour after a conference, and some friends talked her into going to the Hard Rock Café for a live concert. The concert was part of a series called “Classic Albums Live.” A producer has assembled a team of studio musicians and they perform classic rock albums, track for track, note for note. She saw a performance of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, which impressed her. “They really nailed it,” she said.

Last night, we went to see The Eagles’ Hotel California. I was skeptical, because this seems like a cynical Marketing effort to exploit the nostalgia of people in my age bracket. Plus, I’m a natural skeptic.

This company of musicians tours medium-sized concert halls all over the east coast and eastern Canada, apparently unable to break into that lucrative California market. If you’re interested, here’s their Web site:

The Hard Rock Live concert hall is a very nice, modern venue that seats about 3,000, and they have bars all over the hall with waitresses who will bring you drinks. The floor area is flat, so that they can set it up differently for different kinds of events. Last night it was rows of folding chairs, so I don’t think those are ideal seating conditions. We sat in theater seats in the balcony, and had a perfect view of the stage. Here’s a link to a 360-degree view of the concert hall:

As we entered the hall, I noticed a sign that read, “No moshing or crowd surfing.” There didn’t seem to be much danger of that happening, because the crowd consisted of 40-something and 50-something people such as myself, dressed horribly for the most part. I noticed one guy in mismatched cammo: Jungle cammo shirt and a desert cammo hat. Anywhere he goes, he’s gonna take a bullet.

The producer came out to announce the show, and rhapsodized about how hard they had worked, and how difficult the music was, and how great the musicians were. Then he claimed that they are “not a tribute band.” “We don’t wear costumes or wigs,” he explained. I had to wonder if that’s the single criterion that distinguishes a tribute band from whatever this was.

When the show started, eight musicians came out on stage: three guitarists, a bass player, one female singer, one male singer/pianist, a keyboard player, and a drummer. They opened with the song “Hotel California,” running through every song on the album, finishing with “The Last Resort.” I was impressed by the lead singer, but as my wife pointed out, “They didn’t nail it.” The musicians were cautious and mechanical, trying very hard not to inject any personal expression into their meticulous recreation of the Eagles music. It wasn’t bad, it just sounded synthetic and uninspired.

However, any criticisms I might have with the music were vastly overshadowed by the efforts of the lighting director, who had purchased the finest computer-controlled concert lighting system that money could buy, and then manipulated them to shine directly in the eyes of the audience. The lights were an incredible distraction, often forcing me to turn my head away from the show I had paid to see.

I gave names to the lights:

    The Retina Peelers: 20,000,000 candlepower spotlights that will cause me to see purple spots for the rest of my life.

    The Disorientators: project a shadow pattern that breaks up the natural contours of the concert hall and then rotate, causing vertigo and nausea.

    The Seizure Inducers: dozens of strobe lights placed around the concert hall, which flicker slightly out of phase with one another.

After the album set, the band took a break, and came back out to play a set of Eagles’ greatest hits. By this time, a significant percentage of the audience had crowded into the space between the first row of seats and the lip of the stage, swaying and grooving in an attempt to recreate that moment in their 20’s when they had done the same thing for a performance by the actual Eagles. Some made that “Devil’s Horn” hand gesture, which seemed inappropriate for this genre of rock music. I noticed one guy waving a lighter in the air. There were a lot of bald spots visible from the balcony.


Anonymous said...

You were "Blinded by the Light"
Rock on, dude!

burton said...

Mann, that was a weak pun.

Anonymous said...

Hey Burt, can you do better?

burton said...

Hey Anonymous. If you know your music, especially music that you quote, and you look closely at my comment, you will see that I was merely following your lead.