Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Some thoughts on graffiti. And live music.

I quite like graffiti. That does not mean the mindless tagging that appears everywhere. Nor does it mean I appreciate that nonsense that is scrawled on the inside of door in public toilets. I fail to understand the need to leave your mark in the least artistic way possible. However, I do appreciate a nicely executed bit of street art. Okay, it’s not all up to Banksy standard but still, it can be pleasing. 

Around here in Vigo you get a fair amount of political graffiti, which is something you don’t see around Oldham, where we have our house in the UK. “EL CAPITALISMO MATA”, declares one scrawl at the entrance to one of the alleyways that take you from one main street to another. In response to that declaration about capitalism killing, someone has added “EL SOCIALISMO DA TRABAJO Y DIGNIDAD” - Socialism gives work and dignity. In another place some street philosopher tells us “JESÚS ERA COMUNISTA”. I bet that would go down well with the Christian fundamentalists in the USA. Such writings may not be very artistically executed but they are a step up from “Mike loves Suzie”.

As a rule, when we are here on Vigo we like to take in a classical music concert. This time, however, we must be between concert dates. We just missed one orchestra and there is nothing more until the end of the month. Too bad.

In the years we have been coming to Galicia we have taken in pop music concerts as well, most notably Springsteen in Santiago and Leonard Cohen in Vigo’s Castrelos Park. I even went to see an old Spanish favourite of mine, Juan Manuel Serrat.

But I have to confess to not being up to date with more recent pop stars, Spanish or English.

I read something recently about young pop musicians playing big venues, the big stadiums, before they are truly ready to do so. This is because they acquire a fan base via social media rather than from playing in small venues such as pubs and clubs. They might perform well musically but they have not learnt to work a crowd, especially not the huge crowds you get in the huge arenas. It’s a point of view.

At the same time, there are articles like this one about the problems of ageing artists on tour. Jem Aswad, senior music editor of the trade publication Variety, says: “People think it’s easy to be a rock star. But try to hold the attention of 18,000 people, and perform really well, for two and a half hours every night. It’s an incredibly tough thing to sustain.”

 Aswad calls older rock stars “the cornerstone of the concert industry”. He adds: “It’s a very real problem the industry is facing over the next ten years if more of them go out.”

Because, of course, none of them are getting any younger. But the industry wants those of us who grew up with those ageing stars to keep on going to the concerts. Especially since the audience who attends shows by older stars has the deepest pockets, raising profits for everyone. “It’s a demographic that has some of the highest per capita income,” one commentator says. “If the rockers are ageing out, their customers are leaving the marketplace.” At the same time, many of the old war horses have proven themselves incredibly hearty, as well as eager.

 “These artists live to perform,” says another. “You can sell, or download, millions of records, but that’s no substitute for 20,000 people loving every move you make. Very few people get to experience anything that powerful.”

Personally I have seen several of these “ageing stars” live in the last few years: Tom Petty, before he burned himself out, Paul Simon, James Taylor. And, yes, I did buy T-shirts. Like the stars who still get a buzz from performing live, we fans also get a buzz from seeing them.

We are the fortunate generation and plan on continuing to be so for a while yet.

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