Last Saturday, I watched as French pop/rock band Phoenix dazzled the crowd at a sold-out Hollywood Bowl show (check out the slideshow here, btw). It was a glorious spectacle of the band's more than decade-long career, wherein they played almost all their hit songs, one after another.
The audience lapped it up; most were transfixed by the light show (which utilized not only the stage but the shape of the Hollywood Bowl), the setlist (most of the songs were from Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, their most accessible album yet), and the dramatic gimmicks.
Which brings us to how the age of social media has changed the live concert experience. These days, it's not enough that Phoenix gave an unforgettable performance–for most big bands, that's just to be expected. (And they did, don't get me wrong. It was an amazing show.)
But because everyone will be Twittering/Facebooking and YouTubing video and footage of concerts, bands (much like reality TV stars) have to play up to the audience so much more.
Does this mean that the live experience is more calculated? Yes. Does it mean it's better? Usually.
Does it spoil the concert experience to have 10,000 people holding their phones up to record the whole experience so they can't just tell their friends about it, they can SHOW THE WHOLE WORLD THEY WERE THERE? Er, yes.
After the jump, could be a list of how you can masterfully direct your concert to fare well on the Internet (as illustrated by Phoenix + are a ton of YouTube videos).
1. Play all your hit songs–with the biggest hit first to make sure audiences know what they're getting into from the beginning.
Phoenix's set list was amazing; it started with “Lisztomania” and ended with “1901.” See for yourself:
Long Distance Call
Love Like a Sunset
Everything is Everything
In the crowd:
Love for Granted
La Fille Aux Chevaux Clairs
Back on stage:
If I Ever Feel Better
Back in the crowd:
2. Jump into the crowd a lot, even when you're at the freakin Hollywood Bowl
Twice, frontman Thomas Mars leapt into the crowd to serenade the audience … in the audience. The first time, he hung out by the audience close to the stage, near the orchestra. (In this video, you can even see Grizzly Bear singer Edward Droste). He sang three love songs without the band, then went back onstage to play with a bigger light show.
For Phoenix's finale, Mars ran straight into the crowd of the Hollywood Bowl, trailed by his glowing-red microphone cord. He then sang most of “1901” from the midst of hundreds of fans all holding out their camera phones to record the moment.
3. Invite fans onto the stage!
After partying with the plebes in the audience, Phoenix fans then thronged onstage to join the crowd…it was total pandemonium. It's not new, obviously–GirlTalk does this at every show–but does it ever get old? Nope, everyone still thinks it's the shit when it happens.
3. Make sure your special guests are really special.
It's not enough to get the best of the current stock of Pitchfork buzz bands to open for you (thanks, Grizzly Bear and Girls!). Keep in mind that those bands have to pull their weight too–and Grizzly Bear did just that by bringing out Canadian superstar Feist to sing back up vocals on their songs “”Service Bell” and “Two Weeks.”
Of course, the crowd went nuts. Did it matter that they weren't very good altogether and Feist's backup vocals fell kind of flat? Of course not. I got to tell all my friends I saw Feist singing with Grizzly Bear at the Phoenix show, and now I'm showing all of you on YouTube. Of course it was great.