“These are the days of miracle and wonder.” –Paul Simon, “The Boy in the Bubble”, Graceland
Watching McCartney play Thursday and thinking how this concert differed from the ones he and The Beatles gave in the ’60s up to the time of “Paperback Writer” when they realized audiences were just coming to see them and scream rather than respectfully listening to their music. And they could no longer duplicate on stage what they were doing for their last five albums (Revolver to Abbey Road).
When they started performing together in the early ’60s, they played small clubs like the Cavern and concert halls. They generally used small Vox amps and had no monitors or anything resembling what we would consider today to be satisfactory sound systems. In other words, they were a small house band at best before the nonstop screaming started. When that began, as you can hear in any concert clips up to when they retired from performing in the later ’60s, the technology did not match the hysteria and the logistics of the large arenas they had graduated to.
Watching Macca Thursday, you can certainly tell that the one Beatle who was a long-time performer and liked performing live was/is in his element with the state of current technology. Three large screens behind him so the audience can see him more close-up if they choose. Much larger amps and sophisticated p.a., such that even a potentially black-hole barn like Rexall allows for an ambient presentation of his music, probably in the range of 20-25x more satisfying than a Beatles concert of old. This has brought performer and audience closer than ever and made it possible for artists with great catalogues like Macca to communicate to the max with their fans. There is absolutely no comparison between McCartney performing at Rexall and a Beatles concert with constant shrill screaming, even in a small hall venue some 50 years ago.
True, the screaming has stopped now, but the technology has surpassed whatever sound barriers and made it possible to reproduce or match studio recording and, on numbers like Live and Let Die with pyrotechnical and lighting effects, to exceed the effects of very strong studio originals. I imagine this has had a lot to do with the resurgence of Macca’s live shows the last 7 years. The new razor-sharp band doesn’t hurt either–the four backup players are all better musicians than the original Beatles, ironically.
And so as I watched, I recorded with a modest camera, the various goings-on. I basically recorded excerpts of what I wanted: intros to songs, snippets of favorites–alternating between the big screen close-ups beside us and M onstage some 20 yards off. Nothing like this would have been available to Beatles fans 50 years before. I recorded M’s presence and to some extent, ‘the essence’ of the experience from a concertgoer’s point of view. I will always have this visual/digital record which I can call up on a camera, my computer, or t.v. of this remarkable one-time experience. The ‘residue’, atmosphere, and memory of the concert will continue into perpetuity for me and anyone else who may open the videos down the road. A strange, absurd permanence, continuity, and accessibility in an incredibly fast-changing universe.
My daughter headed off to Jasper for what turned out to be a picareque After Hours (cf. Scorcese’s movie) version of a weekend. Via texting, e-mail (with photos attached), and phone, she basically kept in touch every step of the way with my wife, creating a closeness, empathy, and lots of sympathy by the end as she dealt with various glitches and problems reminiscent of the original Out-of Towners movie. This kind of close contact would not have been as common or likely even a decade ago. Social media technology has brought people and families very close together. From the point of view of a parent, such a voyage back in the ’60s would have amounted to seeing the child off at the bus depot, getting maybe one phone call to announce safe arrival at the destination, and then waiting in the bus depot (sometimes for unnecessary hours if there was a delay) to be reconnected again. Technology has enabled the transmission of information from personal experience pretty much in the here-and-now. It has created multiple e-versions of presence. It has improved and increased communication flow and fostered way greater connection. What it does now would have been considered miraculous back in the ’60s.
I have been looking at personal experience and the world of late from the perspective of Information–that which we seek daily or long-term. The first episode above is about the information and insights that arose from a concert. It is about how Macca was/is able to communicate his ‘info’ to his fans live. It is about how we can record info (sound and visual) for later retrieval and call up as a record of our experience. Ultimately, the first anecdote is info about now and then historically speaking, and how technology has changed and enabled the arts, careers, concert-going, and connectedness between artist and audience.
The second anecdote is about the broadcasting and sharing of information from a personal life and experience, how that can and is communicated to others, how that connects people, and how much not knowing and separation have been and can be reduced. The technology increaseth and enableth the info. The info being what our personal experience is.
And lastly, there is the information of this blog entry, now broadcast and shared with you. You being the final receptor/arbiter of info to process and decide if any of it is interesting and has any potential relevance or impact/influence on your own life and experience, possibly creating further connections, or ironically, more separations. I think one concludingly realizes that there are choices here: choices to read or to continue reading. Choices also of how to interpret, process, and possibly assimilate or subsume the info of this entry–a position I have reached elsewhere on a number of other entry occasions. Our choices being us, who we are, what we want or need–what interests us by way, finally, of information and others. That which we potentially share with those who matter and those just ‘listening in’.