Angelina Boyd says:
Given my lack of stature at 1.58m, I'm not one to say this very often. But in terms of shows, let it be said: "bigger IS better".
I've been fortunate to catch the Foo Fighters up close and personal at Auckland Town Hall as well as the Big Day Out arena show, so I feel qualified to comment. Granted, I only caught the last two songs at the Town Hall in 1998, as it took most of the show to convince the guys on the door to let a penniless uni student in. But it was enough to discover that yes, there is such a thing as too close and intimate.
I didn't need to see Grohl crooning gently into a mic in front of me so close I could see his hair follicles. Rock stars are supposed to be unobtainable, not real people with large pores that need blotting paper after a long set. I'm paying to see them strut, full noise, the full cacophony of sound behind them. I want to see the posturing on top of amplifiers just as much as I want to hear the 50,000 people singing beautifully in unison back to that outstretched mic.
Take, for example, The Rolling Stones at Mt Smart Stadium last November - potentially my all-time favourite band. Watching Mick Jagger doing that freaky dancing from a distance, I can imagine he still has the air of that lithe 23-year-old he once was - but seeing it all up close and personal would be too much like Weekend At Bernies. No one needs to be close enough to see the Stones surreptitiously puffing on their ventilators. Let's keep that dream alive. I want to feel giddy after a show. I want the fireworks and the big screens and room to move, not an oversold venue at maximum capacity with poor ventilation. Everyone gets a bit gross and other people flinging sweaty hair into my mouth isn't a good time. How am I supposed to scream along to my favourite tunes when that happens?
I mean to be fair, if Michael Hutchence were alive still, and INXS played a tiny venue to a select few, I'd pay to get in close to see if, in fact, he was a real person. But then you listen to INXS' live album Live Baby Live, recorded in 1991 at London's Wembley Stadium. The hum of the instruments starting up over a ridiculously large PA, the 74,000 screaming fans - that's goosebump territory. And that's my jam.
Angelina Boyd is the host of Hauraki mornings from 10am.
Lydia Jenkin says:
Stadium gigs can be very impressive. And I mean very impressive. Fireworks, lasers, moving stage parts, catwalks, the buzz of thousands of other fans around you. But unless you are fantastically rich, most often you're going to see all that from several hundred metres away, your favourite star a small speck in the distance. And all those bells and whistles are there to make up for the fact that it's very hard to feel connected to a performer you can't really see.
Big stadium performances can definitely have a certain novelty "wow" factor, but they also often lack the soul you might find in a performance at the Kings Arms or Powerstation, that feeling of musical magic you can get when seeing fingers and arms flying fast up close, or changing facial expressions as performers find themselves lost in the song.
Some of the best performances I've ever experienced have been at the Wine Cellar, which gets crowded with around 80 people in it, and plays host to everything from rollicking folk-rock with 10 people on stage to solo art-pop sets. The feeling of camaraderie you feel with the whole audience, the opportunity for genuine interaction between the performer and crowd, the witty stage banter, the way everyone can be silenced so that you can hear every breath, and every note - all of those are lost in an arena.
I don't have to be able to see every pore and hair follicle (nor do I want to) to enjoy the intimacy of a small venue, but the opportunity to feel close to your heroes, to recognise them as rounded, imperfect people is something most music fans would gladly give up the confetti cannons and giant inflatable props for.
Don't you always feel envious when someone tells you about that time they saw Jeff Buckley serenading a cafe, or Louis Armstrong at a small jazz club? How about that time Crowded House played at Leigh Sawmill? Or Kanye West at the St James? What about Radiohead playing in a small Los Angeles theatre? And then there's the legendary Destiny's Child gig at Galatos - there can't be many out there who'd turn down the chance to see Beyonce up close, right?