[N0te: This piece first appeared in an earlier instance of my blog (troubledsoulsunite.blogspot.com) which has since been shut down. It’s being reposted here under the “My Favorite Posts” section of the blog.]
I stood there, watching a sea of over-happy preppy-children bouncing up and down, sometimes even waving their hands, all in unison, as the band played their jumpy indie pop, that, despite the fact that it sounds pretty decent on album, just sounded empty, repetitive, and boring onstage. “At least all their songs sound familiar to me,” I thought to myself, trying to salvage at least something from the night, trying desperately to get into the show, and not to be that bitter disenchanted guy; the one who everyone knows is a music snob, and is just too much of an asshole to let his guard down and just enjoy the show. “If their songs sound familiar, then I must know them, and I should be able to get into it.”
And then I realized- it’s not that I knew their songs, it’s that I knew a few songs; and all the rest follow exactly the same formula: high pitched guitar intro, keyboard based pre-chorus with the drums taking a bit of a break, and then a guitar driven (and I use that word lightly) chorus with a penchant sing-along “whoa-o-oh” or some sort of falsetto wailing. Every song. One, after the next, after the next; with the happy-go-lucky prepsters bouncing up and down the whole way through, as if they had no idea that they were just listening to the same exact track on repeat for an hour.
“An hour,” you might say to me, while reading this slightly negative review, “they surely played for longer than an hour.” Alas, it was not to be. They went on at 9:15 PM, left for the encore at a few minutes to 10, and were off by 10:15. One hour. That’s even less than Coldplay played for- and that was a free show. I don’t care if they only have one album worth of music. If I’m paying $25 (plus the cursed Ticketbastard fees) I expect more than an hours worth of entertainment.
While I was somewhat happy to be free of the claustrophobia that can occur while surrounded by indie-rock “Guy Smileys” for so long, and I was quite relieved to find that the show let out early enough for us to catch the express A train back uptown, it’s the principle of the matter that I speak of; play some covers (and that crappy Fleetwood Mac song that they did cover (Everywhere) does not count- it sucked), extend your songs, go into some jams- DO SOMETHING, but do not, and I will repeat this for emphasis- do not play a concert for only an hour. Congrats VW- you sold out two nights in a row, but if you want to keep your fans, you’re going to need to play for a bit longer, and make it a bit more interesting.
And it all boils down to this one point. Sure, I could’ve ignored the annoying fans had the band actually done something interesting at the show. What they did, quite adequately, if not exceptionally, was recreate- exactly- the sound on the album. It was as the band got all dressed up, grabbed their instruments, stood onstage, and lip synced and played while someone played their CD. There was no innovation, no jamming, no extended songs, no interesting covers- nothing too exciting.
But that’s exactly what I should’ve expected. This isn’t a band that’s looking to make it big on a tour following. Looking around in the crowd, those weren’t the type of fans they had already wooed. These were radio fans, the everyday music listener, who will go to one concert a year, maybe, if the band they’re currently in love with happens to stop off in their city. These fans have been force-fed VW via the radio waves and their favorite DJs, and have responded in kind.
So what’s going to happen when it hits the fan? Sure, they’ll come out with a new album soon, and it’ll probably have one or two popular singles. Hey, maybe it will be the next Dark Side of the Moon, and I’ll look back at this post, laughing at myself for my immaturity, claiming that at this show I “just didn’t get them” in order to save musical face, and not look like a total douchebag in case I turn around and decide I like them. That may happen, but I highly doubt it. These guys have two options in front of them: they’ll either make it huge on the pop rock scene, and will jump straight to playing shows at huge venues that will be attended by teeny-boppers who’s parents will be willing to shell out the $70 they’re going to charge for tickets, or- they’ll fade into one-hit-wonder obscurity, popping up ten years from now when bloggers do “Remember the 00s” posts, and we’ll all listen with forgetful nostalgia, wondering where they went wrong.
Well, I’m telling you right now- this band went wrong with their live show. If they would do it right, and try to gather a following of live music fans- the losers (like me) who will come back and see their favorite bands over and over, instead of radio music fans- the cool kids who’re gonna jump on the next big thing the moment it hits the airwaves, forgetting what they loved about their last favorite band, if VW does that, then they’ll survive. If not, then it’s goodbye yellow brick road for these guys.
And what’s so sad, is that there is a ton of potential in these guys, and it’s so obvious that they’re being stunted by the record companies to keep their songs short, radio friendly, and poppy, instead of brash, exciting, and innovative. Their music has no swagger, it has no punch, and thus it will never save the world.
Lester Bangs spent twenty years of his life trying to convince us that rock and roll had died. Right now, I’d have to agree with him.