Tuesday, 1 October 2013

September 2013 - Popular Music

Tori Amos
  • Little Earthquakes
  • Talula (UK single, part 2)
  • Garlands (from The Beekeeper DVD)
  • Audience bootlegs - Seattle 6 May 1992, Seattle 29 August 1992, Seattle 20 March 1994, Seattle 17 July 1996 (late show), Seattle 3 May 1998, Seattle 11 September 1998, Seattle 7 October 1999, Seattle 9 November 2001, Seattle 10 December 2002, Seattle 8 September 2005, Seattle 10 July 2009
Kate Bush - Aerial
Something for Kate - Leave Your Soul to Science

I honestly didn't realise until I consulted the spreadsheet just how little pop music I'd listened to during the month, with one glaring exception.  I knew about the 'exception' of course, I just hadn't realised it was exceptional.

I had barely touched live Tori Amos recordings for over a year and a half. So why the sudden explosion in activity? The main trigger, I think (and this is a sign of how my brain works) is that my collection became relatively organised again.  In the first half of 2012 I suffered a computer crash, and while I don't think anything was lost in the process, things did become rather messy and it has taken until now to sort out the Tori Amos bootlegs to my satisfaction - not just the way they were before, but organised in a better system that should make it much easier to find a home for stray material.

The other trigger, arguably, was having travelled earlier this year. This at least partly explains my inclination to go back to an idea I'd had before - choose a city and listen to recordings from there - and actually implement it.  The other explanation for that tactic is that I think it will provide a more varied listening experience.  Last time that I was working through these recordings, I was following a particular tour (first 1999, then 2001).  While that is quite an enlightening approach, enabling me to hear how songs evolved over the course of a tour, it also risks becoming monotonous even with Tori's great skill at varying the setlist from night to night.  With my new approach, some songs do still turn up quite frequently but they are more likely to be in different guises.  Sure, I've heard Precious Things 9 times in 11 shows, but there would have been at least 5 quite distinct versions of the song within that list.

The choice of Seattle as my first destination was influenced by a few factors. I quite like the city, it has a reputation of being a city that Tori likes and where she gives some memorable performances, and it's a regular stop on her tours without the number of shows there over the years being completely overwhelming (unlike, say, New York).  When I started researching for recordings I didn't already possess, it was pleasantly surprising to find how many Seattle shows are available - by my count, 15 out of 18 shows over the years are in the vaults, most of them in complete form.

To me that seems a pretty remarkable testament to the dedication of fans to sharing and remembering the concert experience. I don't know how it compares to other performers, but I'd like to think it's a pretty good hit rate.

However, the other thing I'm aware of is that even with a performer who has a dedicated, obsessive fan base, the hit rate per tour is showing signs of decreasing.  People are abandoning the full concert bootleg in favour of displaying individual songs on Youtube. I can understand this trend, even while I personally am disheartened by it.  We live in the age of the playlist. My commitment to enjoying the architecture of a larger listening experience is becoming peculiar.  People aren't interested in following the course of an hour-long album unshuffled, never mind a 2-hour concert.

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