The Changing Face of Performance and it’s Next Act

Following the Secret Cinema’s successful rebirth of Back to the Future last month in Hackney, I got thinking to myself, what could be done with music and the format of a gig to make it more of an immersive experience? A quick bit of research proved that the Secret Cinema themselves had too considered this idea, inviting Laura Marling in 2012 to bring to life her ‘Grand Eagle Ball’. This only served to beg the question more, why hadn’t more artists attempt the same concept? A show in which the songs are brought to life in the 4D surround, as opposed to staring at a stage?

It is of course easier to bring cinema to life, the visuals have already been provided; music however requires a bit more imagination, everyone’s mind interprets a song in a different way, you only have to look at the cultural divides caused by genres to see that (cheeky plug for my previous article…), and time and time again we are told by artists to ‘make our own assumptions of a record’, but why not show us what you, the performer, want us to see? is that not why the record exists in the first place? whether it is through interpretive dance or even a medieval reenactment, show us what you think we should be seeing!

Several artists have had a go over the years to varying degrees of success, Pink Floyd built The Wall, Laura Marling as mentioned provided a tour of a house, Bjork’s Biophilia is widely recognised as a masterpiece, R Kelly’s ‘Trapped in the closet’…well he tried.

On the opening of their Reflektor tour cycle Arcade Fire instructed fans that there was a dress code in place for the shows, providing the feeling of being inside the performance, each audience member a stage prop. Simple things like this may sound insignificant on paper but they are what make an experience, they offer ‘I was there’ moments to tell your grandkids.

Readers of a certain generation will remember the excitement and stories about that the Red Hot Chili Peppers releasing the ‘Californication’ video as an actual video game (some of us are still waiting). Of course it never happened, but just the glimpse of the possibility inside that video caught the attention of a massive audience.

At the time of writing Kate Bush has just begun her record-breaking residency at London’s Eventim Apollo, and if anyone in the history of music has had the ability to change performance, to create something truly enchanting and other-worldly, it is Kate Bush.

Rumours have ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous (performing The Ninth Wave in a water tank, anyone?) but performance does not have to be akin to Spinal Tap to add theatre and a new twist, of the tiny details that have been revealed in the aftermath of the first shows, we now know that Bush has twisted her extensive catalogue into a theatrical performance, more like a play than a band gig. A subtle, but refreshing twist.

So what else could be done? How else can we reinvent the gig wheel?

Lady Gaga is a bundle of nervous energy waiting to explode, albeit far less in recent times; Muse like to do things differently (remember the spaceships), Biffy Clyro have proved themselves to be fans of drama…but what can be done beyond the stage?

Possible candidates for the ‘exploring albums physically’ concept could be Kolekto favourites Bastille, a band not afraid of cinema as demonstrated in the videos for each of their singles, and frontman Dan Smith’s self-proclaimed love for all things David Lynch, the legendary director and occasional musician. How good would it be for (thinking theoretically) David Lynch, Bastille and The Secret Cinema to collaborate on something truly spectacular? I could be tempted to form a campaign.

Alt-J release their long awaited follow up to An Awesome Wave later this month, and if there is any band caught between radio and experimentalism capable of creating a unique spectacle it is Alt-J. With the three singles released so far demonstrating a wide scope of styles and a massive show at London’s o2 Arena at the beginning of next year, it could be a perfect opportunity for the band to let their imaginations run wild, raise the bar for performance and stake a claim for headline spots at next year’s festivals.

With the range of media outlets now available, accessibility to technology unparalleled and demand for ‘something different’ at an all time high, the opportunity for bands and artists to collaborate and create their own universes has never been so exciting. In the 70s, Prog did all it could do create experiences but could only go so far, Disco had it’s dance movement, and in the modern era we have all the tools available on our desktop to do as we please. When a group of kids can make a music video using a GoPro and Youtube, there is no reason why music cannot branch out and use all the tools at it’s disposal.