Tiny, blurry rock ‘n roll

beck072205.jpgTonight I went to see Beck at the Gibson Amphitheatre at Universal, formerly known as the Universal Amphitheatre. Universal Citywalk is only a few blocks from where I live, but once you head up that hill, you’re transported to a crowded neon world where everyone’s a tourist. To get over to the “Gibson Amp” (as some lady from KROQ called it), you have to walk the strip of theme park craziness. It wasn’t the best way to start the night.

When we walked into the amphitheatre, I realized that a) our seats were about thirty rows further back than I thought, and b) I had no interest at all in the opening band. Le Tigre came out next. They had lots of energy, but they were so small and far away, I didn’t get that into it. When they played F.Y.R., they said “Let’s do it karaoke style,” and put the lyrics up on the big screens so the audience could sing along. From the back of the audience, I couldn’t read the words even if I squinted.

At first I thought it was the distance from the stage that was bugging me, and then I blamed the hot day for stealing all my energy. But by the end of the night I realized the problem:

I couldn’t see anyone’s face. I’ve been to a several rock shows lately, but they’ve all been in much smaller venues. Watching bands from ten feet away (or less) is a completely different experience from the one I had tonight. Maybe I’ve spoiled myself with too many small shows, but now when I hear someone sing, I want to know the exact expression they’re making. I want to know if they’re bonding with a bandmate, or staring at someone in the audience, or smiling awkwardly because they screwed up a lyric. Beck sounded great, but even on the big screens, I could barely see his face. The photo above shows him at actual size (to the best of my memory) from where I was sitting.

I had been looking forward to this show since I bought the tickets two months ago, but I think I got my expectations up a little too high. Did anyone else go and have better seats? If you were dancing on stage with Beck at the end, I’m, like, totally jealous.

3 Replies to “Tiny, blurry rock ‘n roll”

  1. I wasn’t at the Beck concert but I had the exact same experience at a Marilyn Manson concert at the Greek Theater. I might as well have watched a Manson video on my computer screen and saved myself the ticketmaster gouging. The show looked and sounded fine but it was too far away to be engaging. Contrast this to the first Manson concert I went too where we were standing within spitting range (for better or worse) and the Greek concert was a great big disappointment.

  2. I’m with you 100%. The only big-venue exception I’ll make any more is at the Hollywood Bowl, since it’s as much about the experience of being in that beautiful setting as it is going to actually *see* the artist play. And, after sitting in expensive, lousy seats to (almost) see Joao Gilberto and k.d. lang, my new policy on the Bowl is ONLY cheap, nosebleed seats. Unless, of course, one of you delightful people has a box you want to invite me to…

  3. I’m with Colleen. I really don’t care much for the big venues. I have good vision, but even from way back I can’t see the expressions of dancing singers and musicians on stage. I have made exceptions for the Hollywood Bowl because I like being outdoors.

    Last night, I went to a concert at the Orange County Fair’s Pacific Amphitheater with Maldita Vecindad (from Mexico), Aterciopelados (from Colombia), and Inspector (also from Mexico). Even though I wasn’t way up close I still had a great time because: I still had a good view; I’ve seen the expressions of Rocco from Maldita from up close enough to deal with being further back; the screens showed the musicians up close several times; and the crowd was extremely lively and engaging.

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