At the risk of sounding like a grump, I’m going to relate a story that, sadly, happens all too often at concerts these days. Before that happens, here’s a bit about the concert.
It was wonderful. The Doobie Brothers extended their 50th Anniversary Tour and dropped into the Hard Rock Live last Thursday. Sadly, founding Doobie Tom Johnston is recovering from back issues and has had to miss some dates. The rest of the band, including Doobie principals like founder Patrick Simmons, Michael McDonald and John McFee, went above and beyond to make up for his absence.
They tapped into music from a lot of their great albums in the ’70s, from both the before- and after-McDonald years. The vocals were spot on, and Simmons and McFee’s guitars more than covered for Johnston’s missing six strings. McDonald’s piano and organ complemented the guitars and Michael Russo’s incredible saxophone solos added the icing on the cake, so to speak.
At one point in the show, Simmons suggested that there were going to be some surprises thrown into the set list; right after that, Simmons and McFee came out with acoustic guitars and gave the rest of the band a break with the instrumental deep cut “Slack Key Soquel Rag.” That song led right into one of my favorites, “South City Midnight Lady.”
All the classics were included in the concert — but the surprises didn’t end. Halfway through the set, the band pulled out (for the first time on the tour) the Marvin Gaye arrangement of “Heard it Through the Grapevine” that had the crowd dancing in their seats. And during the encore, after the expected closer “Listen To The Music,” Simmons asked the crowd, “Do you want to hear one more?” The Doobies broke into the Steely Dan classic “Pretzel Logic” before finally calling it a night.
Sadly, there are people who just don’t have any clue about concert etiquette. They are so blatantly ignorant that one wonders why they go to concerts at all. Take, for example, the person sitting in front of us at the Hard Rock that night. She was so enthralled by the music that she spent nearly the entire show on her device, scrolling through her Facebook feed and watching various reels. This went on for at least a full hour of the concert. She seemed oblivious to the live music happening in front of her, more interested in a pursuit that can happen any time and any place — especially in a seat that didn’t cost $165.
What Facebook Frances didn’t realize (because, after all, what else could possibly matter) was that the light emitted from her device was affecting the enjoyment of other concert attendees. One of the affected was my wife, Sarah. After the extended period of scrolling and swiping and fidgeting with her light-emitting device, Sarah leaned over and asked Facebook Frances to turn off her device. Even her concert companions didn’t seem upset to see Frances head to the exits in a huff.
It’s easy to understand why some artists are banning the use of cell phones at their shows. Some are going so far as to eject people who use their devices — and some require attendees to lock their phones in secure bags that can’t be opened while they’re in the venue.
I can’t blame these artists. Live music is best experienced by being there, immersed in the sounds and sights of the music and stage show. But so many these days seem to think it’s better to experience concerts on their device screens. Even back in 2002, Tom Petty complained about some concert audiences in his song, “Money Becomes King.” Tom sang, “They sat in Golden Circles/The waiters brought them wine/They talked through all the music/And to John paid little mind.”
As a working pro musician, I’m more than aware of the existence of those who have no freaking clue as to how to behave in the presence of live music. But when concert tickets cost upwards of hundreds or thousands of dollars, why is it that people will spend that kind of dough to just fiddle with their phones?