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The Killers play Glastonbury

About the second thing that occurred to me last night as I tuned into the BBC’s coverage of Glastonbury is that there ought to have been – ought to be – be a musical subset of The Great Rust Debate On Whether (For Best Appreciation Of An Event Or Contest) It Is Better To Be Physically Present At It – Or Not, And Instead Watch The Live Television Coverage.

There might have to be some different conditions for this particular sub-division, of course, with music in broad terms we’re talking art rather than sport.

When you choose to watch a music most likely you’ve gone there – or tuned in – specifically because you like the type of music that is being performed, whether it’s classical, pure pop, heavy rock, jazz or rap, grunge, hip-hop or electro-funk.

Attempt to relate that to say football and it would be akin to admitting that your taste is for the tiki-tacki passing made famous by Barcelona, the long ball English game, or perhaps that of the ‘park the bus’ (defence first) mode … and thus will only go to matches that feature teams which espouse your favourite.

Which is, of course, to miss the point of sport altogether – it’s more about the winning than the manner in which you achieve it.

Next up comes the issue of whether – e.g. with rock music – your particular fetish is in hearing the music you’ve fallen in love (with via a ‘recording’) performed live, note for note, on stage; arguably, detractors might suggest, you might be better off just buying the CD, especially since sometimes those who perform complex anthems do so purely by standing in front of banks of speakers and/or electronic instruments and barely move or project out to their audience.

Or, alternatively, perhaps, your taste may be for the drama and excitement of a band with a charismatic front man and/or virtuoso musicians who in concert treat their famous hits as merely the foundation for a series of epic renditions which may extend, for example, an original three-minute song into a fifteen-minute ‘experience’ which can potentially takes their audience of the night to a potentially different place at every gig.

I guess at the end of the day – sport or music – it may still all boil down to the “I was there” aspects.

Whether it’s better to be able to tell your grandchildren that you actually once saw Lionel Messi play a European football game at an English ground in the flesh – or whether (if you never had that privilege) in your time you watched him play maybe fifty games live on television.

To an extent there is a direct parallel when it comes to music.

In my time I’ve seen Bob Dylan, The Steve Miller Band, Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Ray Davies of The Kinks, Van Morrison, Tim Buckley, Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd, the Beach Boys, Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention, the Boomtown Rats, Santana, Johnny Winter, The Allman Brothers Band – and countless others that as I type I’ve forgotten – live in concert and at more than a hundred venues and/or at festivals at Crystal Palace, Knebworth and the like.

At many of those performances (some of the above artistes I saw more than once, some of them tens of times) part of the attraction ‘in the moment’ was definitely the fact that I had – to some degree or another – been in the same place (and hopefully breathed the same molecules of air) as these legendary artistes.

Thankfully – back then – few of them disappointed and the majority impressed sufficiently that one felt that one had been privileged to be present at the appearance of super-human beings, or maybe aliens just landed briefly from outer space on their way to another galaxy.

Which brings me back to last night and Glastonbury – and further comparisons between sport and music.

With sport there’s an element to which the attraction of football or track & field transcends the generations – you can be my age (67) and join your kids or grandkids in enjoying the spectacle of a Premiership match or an Olympic finals day for the simple joys of watching elite sportsman of the day strut their stuff.

This is where there may be a big difference with music. The Rolling Stones are in their seventies now, been a live band for over fifty years, and we’re still (if that is your taste) watching them.

But who would want to watch say Pele or Franz Beckenbauer, in their sixties or seventies, playing football in front of a paying audience?

(Some might, I suppose, would ask similar about who would want to watch the Stones in 2019 when they’re as much a global corporation as anything: playing to packed stadia or arenas in which those wealthy enough have bought VIP packages for £400 per ticket and more, arrive at the venue in their Bentleys or whizzo 4 x 4s … watch the concert … and then go out afterwards to a swish restaurant, all as part of a normal pretty standard luxury weekend for them in which said Stones concert was just a minor milestone, just like the following week when they’ve got tickets for the Centre Court at Wimbledon or the Royal Enclosure at Ascot.

Meanwhile, maybe, the bulk of ‘original or true’ audiences who first made the Stones what they are probably cannot afford these days to go to a Stones concert at all – or at least, now without saving proportions of their pension money for several months.

As it happens last night I ended staying up beyond midnight, having awaited for the arrival of a pal of thirty years-plus who worked at Radio One before we were in business together and who has been a committed rock/pop music fan all his life.

He arrived about half an hour into the Glastonbury set by the US band The Killers, headlining on the Pyramid Stage.

I first heard the Killers’ music on the PA whilst sitting in a pub and since – to the derision of those around me – have been known to claim since I was one of the first ever  to ‘discover’ them … these nay-sayers pointing out that the Killers were about twelve years into their career when I finally came across them.

My pal last night – a regular concert goer and Killers fan – mentioned that he’d seen the band twice, both times at the O2. I kept to myself the snide thought that he was probably the beneficiary of one of those £400 VIP packages when he did so.

Last night’s Killers’ set at Glastonbury probably scored a review-worth 4 stars out of 5 and played out with due spectacle, lights and verve in front of an audience numbering maybe 50,000 in total.

But I’ll tell you something.

Though I enjoyed the performance – and indeed the various play-outs of recorded footage of events and happenings from around the festival site, plus the sight of fans basking in the experience of being there in the baking sunshine and heat – I was still very glad indeed, thank you, that I was sitting at home with a cool beer in my hand in the company of an old mate, catching up on our respective family news … and not there in person.
































About Michael Stuart

After university, Michael spent twelve years working for MELODY MAKER before going freelance. He claims to keep doing it because it is all he knows. More Posts