The Arrogance Of ‘The Artiste’

Dorian Lynskey (music writer for the Guardian) cheers on the rude, bite-the-hand-that-feeds ‘artiste’:

Ten days ago a concert-goer at the Cedar Cultural Centre in Minneapolis made the mistake of shouting out a sarcastic request for the Knack’s 1979 hit My Sharona towards the end of a show by Georgia indie-rocker Bradford Cox’s Atlas Sound project. For his sins he was rewarded with a dissonant, hour-long, “death trance” version during which Cox free-associated spoken-word lyrics about “the death of folk music, the passing of time, and the ends of our lives”, invited the heckler to remove his clothes, and repeatedly shouted: “This is what happens when you make requests.”

Fantastic! I hope everyone who attended asked for their money back?

Some fans fled the venue, aghast. One reviewer fretted: “Atlas Sound at the Cedar was unforgettable, definitely, but it’s disappointing that it was for strange reasons.”

By the sound of it, the only disappointing thing about Sharonagate is that anybody would be disappointed by it.

Oh? Really?

With concert revenues increasingly expected to make up for lost record sales, there’s enormous economic pressure on musicians to cuddle up to their fans, perform those classic albums in full, justify the expense of a babysitter – in short, play nice. You could attend 1,000 shows and at least 999 performers would give people the songs they paid to hear.

Fancy that! How ever does the music business make money doing that?

As Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers, not exempting his own band from the complaint, sighed recently: “I miss the total disregard for an audience.”

I bet the audience doesn’t miss it…

Before he began his ascent of Mount Sharona, Cox mockingly told the heckler: “I am a performer. I must play what you want to hear,” and the show offered an unexpected reminder that there is still a difference between art and entertainment.

Ah, definitely one for Pseud’s Corner…

When online discussions polarised between those who considered it a regrettable meltdown and those who thought it the stuff of legend, Cox responded: “If it’s frightening to people, then those people seriously need to look at the mediocrity they subscribe to.”

What a prima donna! Didn’t this sort of thing go out of fashion with Yoko Ono?

Give-the-people-what-they-want realpolitik is now so established that the merest peep of stroppy artistic integrity gets slapped down with snark.

You mean…you think audiences should sit in respectful, hushed silence? The artiste must experience no comebacks, no criticism, no backtalk?

As the pressure grows on creative people to be genial, unpretentious populists who answer every request with a cheerful yes, I’m increasingly fond of those cussed individuals who reply instead with a loud, belligerent no.

Well, tell you what, Dorian old chum, next time you wander down to the staff canteen at ‘Guardian’ HQ and pay for a nice Caesar salad, what will your reaction be if the cashier takes your money then whips it away, replaces it with an old shoe covered in gravy and refuses to return your money, instead Tweeting all her cashier friend about how awful it is that she’s expected to serve what people want to eat?

I’m betting it won’t be applause.

4 comments for “The Arrogance Of ‘The Artiste’

  1. March 24, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Don’t put culinary ideas in to Heston Bloominsilly’s head. He’s capable of whipping up a wall paper risotto with fillet of handbag if given the slightest hint that it’s art.

    • March 25, 2012 at 7:32 am

      Good point! He’s not been on our screens much lately…

  2. Jack Savage
    March 24, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    I remember leaving a Bob Dylan concert with a feeling of bemused amusement some years ago.
    It was Bob Dylan, but not as I knew it.
    The “Artiste” is free to play what he likes…and the critics are free to say what they like and the audience…and ,more importantly , the potential audience are free to vote with their feet.
    Dissing the audience will only end in tears!

  3. March 25, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    I read something recently [was it from you?] about what people go to concerts for. They want a certain amount of the music they have come to know and love and just a bit of something new.

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