It's tough when you restrict yourself to artists performing classic albums in their entirety. Few bands that would be considered 'fork canon are old enough to have a "classic," and still be around to play it.
shame on Pitchfork for the pitiful, embarrassing lineup they put together for Friday.
When bands re-create albums, audience might as well stay home
By M. David Nichols | Chicago Tribune reporter
July 17, 2008
When the Pitchfork Music Festival kicks off Friday, the bushy-bearded hipster masses will descend on Union Park to celebrate their kinship, or at least self-satisfied superiority, in their love of the new, the obscure, the experimental. So why is a kernel of Boomer-esque nostalgia rotting at the core of this Gen X-Y-Z happening?
I'm speaking of the trend toward artists delivering track-by-track performances of seminal albums. This year Public Enemy will perform "It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back," Sebadoh will do "Bubble and Scrape," and Mission of Burma will play "Vs." This follows last year's full-album concerts of RZA's "Liquid Swords," Slint doing "Spiderland," and indie elder statesmen (and woman) Sonic Youth blasting through their 1988 breakthrough, "Daydream Nation."
What's going on here? It's not entirely a Pitchfork phenomenon. Other bands, from Pink Floyd to Brian Wilson to the late Arthur Lee of Love fame, have performed entire albums in concert. But Chicago is strangely a focus for both staging and artists. In addition to Pitchfork's plans, Liz Phair recently played her poison-pen kiss-off to early '90s Wicker Park, "Exile in Guyville," in full here and on both coasts.
Now the Billy Corgan project masquerading as the Smashing Pumpkins is making plans to rock the band's still mind-blowing debut, "Gish," from Jimmy Chamberlin's adrenaline-fueled drum intro on "I Am One" through to the psychedelic come-down bummer of "I'm Going Crazy."
As much as this format might benefit an artist with Corgan's penchant for self-indulgence, the whole idea reeks of artistic stagnation (if not outright desperation; would the Pumpkins of the '90s be playing Horseshoe Casino in Hammond next month?).
But who to blame? Concertgoers. This is essentially a marketing gimmick, and like most successful ones it simply identified and fulfilled what people already want.
It's sad because the main joy of witnessing live music is being surprised, hearing songs you might know by heart reinterpreted, shaded or recontextualized. Dylan, forever the standard-bearer of authenticity, made his legend in no small part by refusing to treat his music as something trapped in amber. He's probably never played a song the same way twice. This can be trying for an audience, sure, but the results are also often thrilling. Albums are static documents; a live concert is an event. Some albums, most that receive this live run-through treatment, are perfect. But every now and again, a live performance is more than perfect.
As concert ticket prices spiral ever higher, audiences—even the discerning Pitchfork crowd—increasingly want to know, exactly, what they're getting. We want to hear the songs we know, and God save the artist who dares challenge his audience. But this isn't your living room, folks. This is live rock 'n' roll.
My generation (X) and the ones on its heels won't need Branson, Mo.; it's coming to a festival near you.