Lis­ten to the mu­sic, watch the god­dam band and stop the tweet­ing

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion -

THIS MUST BE a first: on his cur­rent tour, reformed brat Ryan Adams is ask­ing that sketch artists be sent along to his shows in­stead of pho­tog­ra­phers. It’s not a joke – even by Adams’s own skewed stan­dards.

His think­ing is that the me­dia pho­tog­ra­phers who come along to take pic­tures to ac­com­pany the printed re­views of the show are a dis­trac­tion from the event.

Adams is by no means the first artist to ban pho­tog­ra­phers or the use of cam­era phones by pun­ters at his shows, but what makes this less a diva-strop type of de­mand and more of a po­lite re­quest is his con­sid­ered sug­ges­tion that a skilled sketch artist qui­etly goes about his work for the pur­pose of news­pa­per re­views. It’s all very quaint, but so far on the US leg of the tour a few news­pa­pers are play­ing ball and the re­sult­ing im­agery is dra­matic and en­gag­ing.

And Adams isn’t stop­ping just with the pho­tos – any mo­bile phone use by a con­cert goer is fu­ri­ously frowned upon. As the re­viewer from Lousville.com noted in his re­port: “If you were so fool­ish as to even flash the back­lit screen of your phone mo­men­tar­ily, you were de­scended upon with klieg lights and a stern ad­mo­ni­tion to PUT AWAY YOUR PHONE”.

Per­son­ally, I still don’t think that’s go­ing far enough. I have been to gigs where you’re re­quired to hand over your mo­bile, given a re­ceipt and then col­lect in on your way out, and the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing in a venue free from rows of mo­biles held up aloft or idiots tweet­ing what song the act has just played/what song the act is in the mid­dle of play­ing/what song the act has just started to play is a won­der­fully lib­er­at­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Talk to the av­er­age act these days and they will rue­fully say that go­ing on stage is like ap­pear­ing at a press con­fer­ence with so many de­vices be­ing thrust their way. They also find it dispir­it­ing to look out and see so many heads bowed down over their phones as they tap away as if they were at an exam not a live mu­sic show.

Some­times the no-pho­tos ban has a prac­ti­cal rea­son be­hind it: when Kanye West toured his Glow in the Dark al­bum in 2008, he re­quested no pho­tos be taken as he wanted to keep his elab­o­rate and ex­pen­sive stage set a sur­prise for peo­ple who had paid to see the spec­tac­u­lar later along on the tour.

Talk­ing, tex­ting, tweet­ing dur­ing shows is self­ish and stupid. Just as the peo­ple on the guest list are usu­ally the ones talk­ing loudly down the back and ru­in­ing it for ev­ery­one else, so those who are work­ing over­time on their phones are suck­ing out the at­mos­phere of what should be a communal event.

We’re not talk­ing the Taj Ma­hal or Eif­fel Tower here – there is no need to dig­i­tally record images of a per­for­mance, es­pe­cially when ev­ery photo taken ru­ins sight lines and an­noys peo­ple around you. And that rub­bishy video you took of a song – are you re­ally go­ing to be look­ing at that ever again or are you just tak­ing it be­cause you can?

What Adams is do­ing on this tour (which is billed as an in­ti­mate gui­tar/pi­ano event) is not just en­forc­ing the no-photo rule, but also not al­low­ing drinks into the theatre dur­ing the per­for­mance and re­quest­ing that no one comes or goes dur­ing a song. Prissy be­hav­iour, maybe, if you’re a me­dia guest-lis­ter used to pos­ing your way through a show, but real fans will know what the tour is all about.

Gigs these days are an ex­pen­sive busi­ness and those who pay for full-price tick­ets are en­ti­tled to a show with­out need­less dis­rup­tion.

There’s been a lot of talk about Adams’s do’s and don’ts, and the con­sen­sus so far is what a wel­come throw­back these shows are to pre-mo­bile days when you went to see a band – not tweet about them.

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