A column about live gigs

It’s expensive to be a music fan these days. I’ve splurged on a whole bunch of concert tickets this summer, and was lucky enough to see Björk at the Opera House and The Police at Sydney’s favorite toxic waste dump-turned-event space out at Homebush the following night. And I write this not to boast – okay, not exclusively to boast, but because I am becoming increasingly disheartened by the expense. It seems that this summer, we’ve had more music options than ever before, but they all seem to want to charge us more than ever before.

Tickets to both gigs cost about $150 – less than the entire day of the Big Day Out, which costs only $120 for 70 acts. Since Björk only deigned to play for just under an hour and a half, and the support band consisted of an annoying American guy brandishing a keytar (I still don’t know what their name was, since neither the advertising nor the organisers bothered to even tell us) it wasn’t exactly value plus. Sure, they couldn’t fit a lot of people into the Opera House forecourt – I think it ended up at 6000 – and they had a whole brass section to feed, and ridiculous outfits to purchase. But still, she could have at least hit the two hour mark.

What really irritated me, though, was that the security people confiscated any liquids as zealously as if we were entering an airport terminal rather than an outdoor venue in the middle of summer. They must have chucked out enough bottles of water to top up Warragamba Dam. It might have been forgivable if the queue to buy drinks wasn’t literally hundreds of people long, leaving us all sitting there parched.

Water is extremely important, a point those tireless moralisers The Police picked up on the following evening, informing us via looping advertisements that they were donating a portion of their tour proceeds to WaterAid. Well, not exactly. The people who were being generous to this important cause weren’t the band, it was us hapless punters who’d paid a fortune to go and hear them in a space with all the intimacy of an Aussie Rules semi-final, and poorer sound quality. So it wasn’t exactly encouraging to learn that they’d gouged a little bit more on top for some trendy cause.

I really am tired of being lectured by billionaire rock stars. Sting owns seven houses, and is a tax exile from the UK, officially residing in Ireland. If he cares so much about water, why not donate the whole of his wage from the Police reunion tour to the cause? It’s not like he needs the enormous amount of dough they raked in. Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers probably do, since they haven’t exactly been able to play any stadia themselves in the twenty-one years since the singer shafted them so he could do his own thing. But honestly, why not chuck some cash in yourself instead of making us do it?

Björk was guilty of political posturing too, dedicating her song “Declare Independence” to indigenous Australians. Which, of course, is just what the Aboriginal community needs – being told what to do by yet another rich white person.

Still, at least The Police had organised a decent support act. Sorry, I mean a famous support act. Personally, I timed my arrival so as not to see Fergie, who I dispute is in any way “Licious”.

Both concerts were absolutely amazing – an experience you can’t possibly replicate with a mere recording. So it isn’t surprising that due to piracy and the general stinginess of recording contracts, artists nowadays make far more out of touring than they do out of selling CDs. And this must be why ticket prices are skyrocketing ever upwards even while the Aussie dollar’s far stronger than usual. In future, they should include downloads of the gig you saw in the ticket price. And what’s more, when you’ve had to shell out the equivalent of five CDs to watch a band play live, it would be understandable (albeit illegal) if you went ahead and downloaded a few of their albums. Because at these prices, you’ve already paid for them.

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