The idea that just a few years back musicians got up onto a stage and had a crowd mesmerized for hours with just their music must seem foreign to many in the ‘new generation.’ Sensory overload seems to be the trick of the trade at the moment and by my calculations; come ten years a music concert will involve a hovercraft, edible tickets and a monkey as a departing gift. As outrageous as the theatrics are, one cannot help but marvel at their creation, it is just a pity that they are starting to eclipse the musicians themselves.

RIHANNA singing on stage with a handful of back-up dancers is a long lost memory somewhere in the recesses of my mind. The image that I and the rest of the world now have emblazoned into our poor heads is a half-naked red-head practically having sex with transformer robots and riding a ridiculously phallic pink tank onto stage.  A little extra garnish to her tank-rider act was a conveyor belt across the front of the stage and a hole that swallowed her up for costume changes. If you looked closely you could spot the musicians and singers of her band somewhere beneath the ridiculous amount of pop paraphernalia. One needs to just stop and marvel at the absurdity of it – the talent over-shadowing theatrics that are running rampant throughout the music industry. 

Rihanna riding her pink tank

This virus seems to have affected even the most classic of acts including the activist band U2. The idea of a 360◦ tour is impressive enough with the band dishing out 110 shows over three years. Add a four legged stage design nicknamed ‘The Claw’ to the mix that stands 51 meters tall with each leg an entire sound system on its own, and ‘impressive ’just turns into preposterous. To add insult to injury, the need to be the ‘biggest and the best’ seemed to have out-weighed the bands concern for climate change with the chokingly large amount of carbon dioxide emitted in the beasts erection. It is such a shame that when walking out of the Cape Town stadium, after seeing one of the most esteemed groups in history, all that I heard people raving about was “that massive space-ship.” I will not deny the producers the credit that they deserve in erecting a gob-smacking piece of equipment. The video screen alone was composed of over one million pieces. My mind cannot comprehend that many pieces never mind assembling and disassembling them 110 times, but is it all really necessary?  

U2’s mega-structure “The Claw”

I cannot be the only one who wonders what happened to the days when just the sheer presence of an artist on stage was overwhelming enough. It is us, living and consuming in the rat-race society we have become, that perpetuate the problem. We need more. We need bigger, flashier and faster.  If we were given laser beams in one show we expect those laser beams to be shooting out of a robot’s every orifice while it flies over our heads in the next. In a time where online access to music is easier than pulling your socks up it is understandable that artists need to find bigger and better ways of attracting their fans who won’t admit it but cannot resist that free download.  

Almost every genre within the musical world is facing this problem, none seemingly more so than the little DJ with his headphones and his mixing desk.

The electronic scene has become renowned for its appropriation of the most advanced live performance technology which has successfully epitomised the acid electro music it accompanies.  I will allow myself one crude moment and exclaim: “That shit is trippy!” Electronic DJ DEADMAU5 is one of the frontmen of this craze with his LED-covered cube that consists of 36 massive tiles and costs an estimated $1 Million. Psychedelic imagery, Super Mario ‘chases’ and altogether weird techie images splay over the cube and into the crowd keeping them transfixed. If you wondered why you paid R350 to see a DJ, now you know why. The sad truth of it is is that most of the crowd who went for the ‘vibe’ will probably have failed to acknowledge the pure technological genius that Joel Zimmerman is who started producing chiptune tracks at the age of 15 and now writes the programs which he uses to produce his music.

The Mau5 and his Cube

 

SKRILLEX, the current king of Dub-Step, however, takes the techno cake with his motion-capture technology. Not only does the emo-kid reside in an out-of-this-world LED constructed frame during his Mothership Tour but also has a massive alien or robot (depending on his mood) match his every move on a projection behind him. Admittedly I am a fan of the music but watching an alien signalling for me to jump manically to the WOB WOB WOB resounding in my ears scares me.  The technology is undoubtedly impressive; the concept is however too much for me to handle.

 

Skrillex displaying Motion-Capture technology

If you, like myself, have begun to lose all hope in ever having a concert remotely human orientated ever again, you were sadly justified in feeling so. HATSUNE MIKU is a Japanese pop star, one who is selling out concert venues across Japan. HATSUNE MIKU however, is not real, she is an anime character who performs “live” with a band and is projected holographically. People, it seems, are willing to pay to watch a performer who doesn’t exist and after the re-appearance of TUPAC at the Coachella Music Festival are even more excited to see a deceased one.  The murdered rapper appeared in hologram form and performed alongside old friends DR DRE and SNOOP DOGG. Apparently the disturbing vision took four months to create and costs close on $400 000. For the more morally inclined individuals, do not fear; TUPAC’s surprise appearance and his prospective world tour have been permitted by his mother. As though this makes any of it sane!

Dead men and anime pop stars is what it looks like the future holds for us. One may question why having the ability to have a deceased performer resurrected or lug a multi-million Dollar space-ship around the world for three years is a bad thing, perhaps it is not. It seems safe to assume that as long as the possibility of doing something is there it will eventually be done. Perhaps like the generation before mine who marvelled at the creation of cell-phones I now too am receiving my own ‘shock to the system.’

Hatsune Miku ‘performing’ for her fans

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