Last week, we touched on live music’s inherent ability to bring people together. This week, we’re taking a more in-depth and interactive look at what makes a concert unforgettable. But first, a brief history of live music.
Back in the mid-nineteenth century, composer Richard Wagner changed the opera scene by instituting what he called Gesamtkunstwerk or “total work of art.” His philosophy was that opera, rather than remain mostly a musical vehicle, should encompass every aspect of the creative arts – poetry, music, drama, and visual art all working in complete harmony. These operas were the Woodstocks of their time, and Wagner worked to take them to the next level.
The better part of two centuries later, Wagner’s vision is still being realized at every great live concert. It is my firm opinion that the most memorable and significant live performances tap into this “total art” idea. Live music, above all, is about performance, and performance is dramatic. Performance takes place in a setting that enhances its story. Performance not only pleases the eye and ear, it creates a unique experience in which the show becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Not just songs, lights, and energy, but a fully realized, artistic vision. The best live concerts are so enveloping that they can only be described as “mind-blowing,” “epic,” or “best show ever!” Sometimes this entails an eight-piece band, elaborate stage design, and psychedelic lights; sometimes it only requires a solo performer on a bare stage.
As every concertgoer knows, this type of magic can’t be captured every time a band steps on stage. Even some of my favorite groups, which will remain nameless, have disappointed me live. This is simply the nature of the business. And this is what makes it so special when an artist you love blows you away in person. My all-time favorite shows – from acoustic performances to hip hop concerts – accomplished what Wagner envisioned back in 1860. I could gush about these incredible memories in extreme detail, but I’d rather hear from you.
Send us your own stories of your favorite concert experiences, whether you were onstage or in the crowd, to [email protected]. We’ll read them all, and, if it’s okay with you, we’ll even post some of them on our blog. Contributors who have their stories featured will receive a free Strymon t-shirt!
We look forward to hearing about your all-time favorite concerts!