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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Sense of an ending

One of the many - very many - complaints I have about live music is that most bands appear to put very little effort into starting or finishing their performances with any particular artistry. Knowarrimean?

These clunky start/finish efforts come in all shapes and sizes. One of the most common (and possibly the worst) is that thing where one of the group (usually the singer) chirrups up with “How ya’ll doing tonight” on the mic right at the very beginning. Oh dear. Before they’re even played a tiny bit of one of their rubbishy songs they’ve already killed the mood (if there was any mood). Endings are often equally banal - and too long in coming anyway because of many bands’ vaingloriously over-extended sets. An announcement that “this is our last one” is a classic dud approach, as is the cranked-up drums before the final, delayed “fer-dumpf” drum beat (as mocked by John Peel on his show way back when).

No, this won’t do at all. The initial and concluding moments of a live performance are … well, they’re as important as any other part of the sweaty little efforts we’re subjected to, and in fact are arguably the most important parts. Come on everyone. Make an effort! I won’t bore you with a tedious list, but a few examples of scintillating starts and excellent endings from the back catalogue …

Starts: Paul Collins Beat bursting into Hangin’ On The Telephone with zero notice at a gig in 2008, an opening that - bizarrely enough - sent shivers down the proverbial spine (mine at least). The effect wore off after about 30 seconds and by the end of the song (never mind the rest of the set) it was all rather so-so, but the start … Also featuring good openers: a Selfish Cunt gig where a woman in some kind of vaguely threatening face paint appeared in a single spotlight on a darkened stage, played a mournful trumpet piece for about a minute and then proceeded to intone “London’s burning / London’s fucking burning” over and over again in a genuinely unsettling way. There was Herman Dune’s drole “Good evening Sheffield” which worked because one of the band was wearing a Mexican poncho that seemed off-kilter that night in just the right way. And who can forget that Killing Joke gig many moons ago at a biggish college auditorium where the people at the front erupted into moshing mayhem as soon as the Killing Jokers crashed into Love Like Blood (or whatever it was)? This is memorable for me because of the way that myself and my weakling friends were caught totally off-guard, having accidentally taken a position near the front unaware that tribal war-dancing was about to break out … Yes, all good ones and there have probably been quite a few more that I can't think of right now.

Endings: my favourite is probably a Go-Betweens set-finisher one long-ago night in the 80s when they slowed down the finale of their concluding song and synchronised the final drum beat with the house lights going completely off. Hey! Other fave endings: an Uncle John & Whitelock gig from about 2005 where they finished and the singer immediately jumped off the (small) stage and began throwing himself around in the audience in time with the first post-gig tune from the DJ (all done with such sheer joyful abandon it was a wonder to behold). Another good one was a Hospitals gig where the drummer attacked his drum-kit with a ferocity that would surely have awed the puny-wristed Keith Moon. I may be imagining this now, but I think during the last chaotic minutes the drummer split several drum skins and eventually kicked the entire kit into several broken pieces. Funny stuff.

Anyway, you get the picture. What went on in the main parts of these gigs I can now hardly recall. That’s kind of the point, right? So come on - give us something memorable at the beginning and at the end (and preferably in between as well). But in any case stop all this introducing and thanking. This soul-crushing issuing of reminders of forthcoming gigs and crappy merch. Please! Give us a sense of a beginning, a middle and an end

And now stop reading. This blog post is over. Finished. E finito. Bye. Thanks for reading. 

Oh ... sorry, I forgot to tell you. I'll be posting here on this blog again next week. Why not check it out? Oh, and you can set up an RSS feed if you want to. And send me an email if you'd like me to blog on something in particular. And another thing. No, wait. Listen. Wait! Don't go ....

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