So, aside from the severe drop in IQ that resulted in an Emergency Room visit, I actually went to a couple of concerts this weekend. Both at the House of Blues, which is new and clean and has far, far too much alcohol readily available.
Saturday’s was Opeth, and… someone else. Enslaved, I think? Somehow my memory of that evening is spotty, though I actually do remember a disturbing amount of the actual events that occurred the whole time. I just can’t remember how it all sounded, or what songs they played, the little things that make it a concert rather than just a really loud bar. Willem seemed happy with the song choices; he said that Opeth played three songs off their most recent album and then one song each from their prior seven albums, so it was quite a mix of stuff. As far as I could tell, it was well-performed and the crowd was very much into it all. Everbody wore black.
Sunday’s concert stands out much clearer in my mind, in terms of the concert itself, as opposed to my own string of poor decisions and results thereof. The band was Blue October, with Longwave as an opener. Longwave seemed a tad overwhelmed, or underwhelmed, or something – they kind of stood there, sang their songs, and then left. They certainly weren’t bad – I’ve seen considerably worse opening acts before – but I also didn’t rush over to buy a t-shirt or CD.
Blue October made an interesting choice, set-wise: they played their new album, consecutively, in its entirety. I’ve been on album-release tours before where they played a lot of a new album (I think the Barenaked Ladies free concert in Government Center in Boston, for the Stunt album, may have hit all of their new songs, but not in order), but this was very much like plugging in the CD and listening start-to-finish. It’s called Approaching Normal, and happily, I like the album and have listened to it (a lot) over the past few weeks, so I knew what was going on with it.
After that, they threw in a selection of slightly older stuff, mostly from the prior album (Foiled) – I think they played something like seven songs from it, including “Congratulations,” which I’d just read about how they almost never perform that one live because of the emotions it taps into for the lead singer. (For those who aren’t in the least interested in the band but want to be able to act like you were there, the short version of the background is, the lead singer has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and been through at least one hospitalization for it, and writes lyrics which are very clear and intense and graphic – not in an NC-17 sort of way, just very explicit and straightforward. Very much of the lyrics ring quite true, even for me, and I haven’t had the pleasure of an actual psychiatric hospitalization.)
So, a really good show, but I have two complaints. One is a mild one; I thought they did a great job with the sound quality and energy level, and they’re obviously a band that grabs a lot of energy from the act of performing in front of an audience. But I just like it better when I go to a concert and hear something totally unexpected – a quiet, acoustic version of a song that was recorded very heavy in the studio, or an up-tempo version of what is usually a ballad, that kind of thing. And there was none of that here; each of the songs that was performed was immediately recognizable as itself (assuming you had a reasonable familiarity with their music). Not a problem, really, just a personal preference that wasn’t met.
And the other one? My God, did the audience suck. I mean, really. This is a band with – if the online buzz and forums and fan sites are to be believed – a very strong, intense following. They know they’re delivering certain messages that resonate strongly with some people, and so I expected the crowd to be very into the music. Not thrashing about and harming themselves or others, but singing along, jumping up and down, just moving. And, no. It was a largely stationary crowd, with no real life or intensity to it. Clapping politely after each song, singing along to the older, more popular stuff – but it was as though most of the people there didn’t realize that the band had just come out with a new album, and so for the first 75 minutes or so, they just stood there and listened.
Regardless of my level of fan-ish-ness, I always make a point of learning about whatever band I’m about to go see in concert. If they have a new album out, I try to at least get a hold of a single or two from it so that I know what to expect, and if they’ve been on the road for a while I’ll look up the setlist (Willem hates this, finds the concept of posted setlists to be personally offensive, and would rather be surprised by whatever they play next… it’s one more way that we just don’t look at the world quite the same, I guess).
So it just struck me as strange, how flat the crowd seemed. Of course there were some very hardcore, intense fanboys and fangirls screaming their little heads off, and I did my best to sing along and at least make it look like somebody had listened to the album before showing up – and I saw a few others who were familiar with the new stuff – but overall, it just seemed flat, somehow. Maybe being a Sunday night contributed to it, but seriously, people! I spent the prior night in the ER and then napped in my car on Sunday afternoon, and I was able to dredge up some enthusiasm!
Geez. Must I be the role model for everything?