Why Smart Glasses are the Future of Live Music
I’ve been to some great shows over the years.
The Charles Mingus Big Band and Al di Meola at Ronnie Scott’s. Chic, The Stones (no surprises there) three times, the great Colombian supergroup Ondatropica, Jupiter & Okwess International after they were run out of their native Mali by Islamists.
The incomparable Arijit Singh. Frank Ocean at Brixton Academy, Watch the Throne.
I’ve watched John Eliot Gardiner conduct Mozart, heard Vivaldi performed in La Serenissima and felt myself be rapturously reduced by Bach’s Mass in B Minor, as performed by a boys’ choir no less, as it took on a particularly revenant splendour in the surrounds of London’s Brompton Oratory.
Granted I turned down the chance to see Prince play his secret show at the Electric Ballroom in 2014 because I presumed that my friend who had gotten the intel had been misinformed. But other than that, if live music forms part of your cultural survival kit in any meaningful way, the above is the stuff of a pretty nice life.
The other night I went to see Coldplay on the third night of their Wembley residency. They are an exceptionally deft musical force, considerably more inventive and substantive than they are given credit for. They are almost as much disliked as they are popular, because they are able to make weighty emotions sound frivolous and consumable. This is no easy feat, is rarely appraised for its difficulty or considered seriously for its worth (which I think to be considerable), and while it is possible to take moral exception to it, most of the sniffy disdain the band accrue has nothing to do with this particular gift, but is merely sentimental or prejudicial. On the night of the show the band’s musicianship was clean, if shorn of wild excursioning, and the setlist imperiously hit-studded in such a way as made sequencing an afterthought (though they should have held ‘Adventure of a Lifetime’ for the encore).
But the spectacle itself went beyond anything any pop artist has ever staged, including the group’s forebears U2, from whom Coldplay inherited both their global superband mantle and their reputation for trying to push the limits of stadium rock staging. What Coldplay have built towards, refined…