Monday, February 25, 2013

What Do I Get?

Standing at the back of the Cat Power gig at the Wellington Town Hall on Saturday night I was reminded of just how much a live performance can change the way you feel about a band (or an artist). Especially if your only previous exposure to their music was of the recorded and tweaked variety. A live show leaves an indelible impression in a way that dozens of encounters with recorded output can’t. Loud and up close has a certain magic about it, a particular way of getting in, under the skin, for the long haul. If they turn it on live, chances are they’ll have you for life, no matter how patchy the discography may turn out to be.

I’ll get back to the Cat Power gig in a future post, but it got me thinking about the upcoming visit to these shores (in April) of post-punk stalwarts, the Buzzcocks, and my own feelings about that particular band.

On one hand, I was thrilled to see the Wellington gig (of four across NZ) scheduled on the only Saturday night date of the short tour, a date that also rather conveniently coincides with a couple of birthdays. And I was excited that I could actually choose to see the Buzzcocks for the first time, live, after so many years of following from afar, should I wish to do so.
On the other hand, I’m highly sceptical about reunion or nostalgia tours. More so when it comes to a band from an era so firmly associated with my wide-eyed youth phase. Not so much because of the idea that the band is now just cashing in, or because of the (usually) extortionate ticket pricing. No, nothing quite so high-horsed or noble, but more out of concern that the gig may change the way I feel about the band.

What happens now that the tinted eyewear has been removed and I’m forced to confront the band through grown up eyes? What if they’re way past their best? What if the gig is a steaming pile of dogshit and onetime idols are publicly outed as try-hard chumps? Gasp!

In recent years I’ve passed up opportunities to see The Cure and New Order precisely because I couldn’t come up with answers to those sorts of questions. Or because I couldn’t come up with an answer in time to secure a ticket.

Recall of my first New Order gig is special to me and I want to preserve it. By some reasoning – decipherable or otherwise – I felt that seeing them again would risk tarnishing how I felt about the band going forward. I also had issues with the absence of Peter Hook (but let’s not go into it too much).

As for The Cure, the thought of watching the onetime Prince of Goth, Robert Smith, heave his aging overweight frame across a stage, all the while trying to convince us that his own unique variation on teenage angst was both heartfelt and genuine, well, let’s just say it was more than I could bear.

I did however make an exception for The Specials in Auckland back in 2009. That was an experience, a roadtrip, an extended weekend with friends I hadn’t seen in yonks, something that went well beyond the notion of simply attending a gig. So I don’t really count that one, I see it as an exception to the rule.

Which brings me back to the Buzzcocks … what to do? One of the true genre pioneering bands of my generation and I pass up the chance to see them? But what about that awkward moment when I realise I’m standing in front of a 60-something balding Manc git screaming at me about teenage masturbation? Or when he’s reminding us of how hurt he was that time he fell in love with someone he shouldn’t have fallen in love with … I mean, really?

Or I could just live in the moment, have a night out, and have some fun. Disconnect from that baggage and have a good night out watching a band I once adored …

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