Diary 2010-05-27 - Recent concerts

Posted on May 27, 2010

The two concerts I attended most recently were A Silent Film at the Aula Magna and Grizzly Bear at the Coliseu.

I enjoyed both shows very much and there were a few pleasant similarities between them (for me, at least): I didn’t know the bands all that well, but having come across their songs I decided that it would be good to check them out live and so I bought the tickets without exactly being a huge fan of either; I really liked both bands live on stage (and this is by far my favourite way of getting to know new bands and new music) even though they are quite different from each other; the music they both make is, as I’d hoped, quite good and, at the very least, quite promising; both bands’ vibe was excellent and they put on a terrific show, made the concert-goers feel really good and made everyone really get into it.

But there’s one thing that was very much different between them. One thing that is a major aspect of any concert and that, unfortunately, goes wrong on the majority of shows I attend (on a trend that is getting steadily worse from year to year): sound quality and especially sound volume.

On the A Silent Film show the volume was so loud that nobody there could possibly enjoy all the nuances of the music they were playing. It was physically impossible to really get into the music. I left with a ringing in my ears and the feeling that had I seen them in their rehearsal room I would have enjoyed their music a whole lot more (and not because I’d be closer to the band, but simply due to the fact that the sound would have been much better than what we got at the Aula Magna).
This is a real shame, as the band (once again) is really good on stage and they do put on a very good show, not to mention the fact that Robert Stevenson has some pretty impressive vocal stunts, which I could not, for the life of me, appreciate in the middle of that wall of –not sound, but noise.
I think it’s a shame that the sound engineers seem to conspire to sabotage them (and almost everyone else, for that matter) by squeezing every possible decibel out of the speakers. But guess what: raw power is not what it’s all about and too much loudness is actually detrimental to our ability to enjoy the music!

Now the Grizzly Bear show was another matter altogether.
The band was just as good on stage (in their own, very different style, of course), they were into it and into the crowd, just like A Silent Film were, but they had surprisingly good sound. And I say “surprisingly” because I’ve been to my fair share of shows on that venue and the sound quality usually sucks in a huge way. But not so this time.
The sound was not so loud as to give us pain in the ears, so we actually got to listen to and really enjoy the music. Granted, there could have been some adjustments made to the sound setup of the softer, wind instruments (flute, sax, clarinet,) but then I think that room is not all that great in terms of acoustics and the fact is that other than that small detail, everything else was very well set up. I could hear all the subtle vocal harmonies really clearly, I could hear the lute as clear as is if was being played right there before me on an empty and silent room, but I could still listen to and feel the powerful guitar, bass and drum sounds.
This is not consensual, as some of the people that were with me complained that the vibration they felt coming from the drums and the bass notes on the keyboards were too much for them, but for me, it was an almost perfect sound setup. Something I don’t experience all that often any more.
I left the venue with my ears clean, without any ringing in them and totally won over to the band’s music. But also very pleased with the overall show. I definitely had a good time. And I feel really sorry that the ringing in my ears didn’t allow me to get away from the A Silent Film show with such satisfaction. They surely deserved it.