Going to concerts when you can’t see

I haven’t been inspired to blog much lately for some reason, but I’m hoping a few things happening in September will change that.
I mentioned in my last post that I went to a Beyoncé concert with my friends, and at times it was a very visual experience because of the type of artist she is and the type of show she puts on.
Beth
asked if I would consider writing more about my experience of going to concerts as a person who is blind. It’s not something I’ve really thought about in great detail to be honest. Sometimes it takes somebody to ask you a question to make you really think about it. Although I haven’t been listening to as much music as usual recently, and am not finding opportunities to hear live music, I’ve given Beth’s idea some thought.

I have been obsessed with music for as long as I can remember. I was always really interested in different instruments and different sounds, and how things sounded when they were recorded. I got a tape recorder when I was almost three years old, and I took it everywhere. It was hardly surprising then that when I went to my first live concert to see Bon Jovi at the age of ten, I loved every minute of the whole experience. From the anticipation of going when I got the tickets, to traveling to the venue and walking in with the crowds of people. Finding seats or a good spot to stand, depending on the venue, and recognising most of the songs by the first few notes.
There’s nothing better than discovering a band, listening to a particular album over and over again, and finally hearing them play music you enjoy live. I can see bands perform many times if I really like them, and each time will be different.

It might seem strange because I can’t see, but my seats or where I stand at a gig can really impact on how much I enjoy it. If I go to a rock concert in a venue, I prefer to be standing among the crowd, no matter how busy it is. The closer to the front I can get the better! I’ve stood at four out of five Springsteen gigs, and my least favourite was when I had seats in Croke Park a few months ago. Visually, the seats couldn’t have been better, which was great for my sighted friend who could describe everything to me, but I felt so far away from the stage and the rock N roll atmosphere.

If I attend a musical performance in a theatre, I love sitting near the front because I don’t have to hear people talking all around me. This is particularly good when a few of the musicians I like often play a song unplugged during a gig, or when some of their funny banter can be said off-mic, but I can still hear it. Sometimes the fact that I need the disabled area when I bring the guide dog means that I can’t sit in these prefered areas. People who can see might not really understand why I can be so fussy about where I sit, but others just find it entertaining. Once while I was making my way to my seat in the front row of a theatre gig, a friend who always loved to make blind related jokes loudly called out, “Jen it doesn’t matter how close you get to that stage. You still won’t see a thing!!”

Going to a gig and getting there early to watch the special guest or support act who plays before can be a great way of finding new music. Mostly for me, it’s all about the sound, but sometimes, and more recently for some reason, I find myself becoming more curious about how performances look, or how a stage is set up. I don’t perform on stage myself, so have no real concept of how things look or how instruments might be set up. Sometimes I’ll ask friends questions about that, but usually I just wonder myself and concentrate more on what I’m hearing. Beyoncé’s concert was very different though, and I was very glad to have friends beside me who almost automatically provide audio description. I’m not a fan of pop music that usually involves manufactured bands and lots of singers and dancers on stage who really do nothing. I prefer everybody on stage to sing and play to be heard, not to make the performance look good. If I’m listening to instrumental performers or a trad session for example, I’ll just concentrate on the music. But sometimes if a singer is singing a particular way, I’ll find myself wondering what they look like. It’s no secret that I’ve seen Glen Hansard perform so many times, and although I know what to expect, I’m sometimes curious. He’s one of the most emotional and passionate performers I’ve ever heard. He could be singing quietly and then erupt, and I can’t help thinking how crazy his facial impressions must look!

While I’ll always be curious at times about how things look, for me, a performance is 99% about the music. I consider myself lucky, because when I’m listening, I’m not distracted by what is going on around me. I’m not watching other people. I’m not looking at the stage through the screen on my phone while videoing it. If I’m really interested in something, I’ll hardly speak to the person I’m with until it’s over. It’s one of the only times I can really understand what the phrase living in the moment is like, because I try to do that as much as I can. If the performer is engaging and passionate enough about what they are doing, they’ll make me do that.

So although having eyes that work would come in useful to get around, or when I miss out on a good gig because I have nobody to go with, or nobody likes the same music as me (which often happens), it’s all about the ears when it comes to live music. At the end of the day, I think that’s what the performers would want to hear. Good ears and good music are a perfect combination.

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3 thoughts on “Going to concerts when you can’t see

  1. And I agree with one of the last lines of your post, but I would replace the word “performers” with the word “musicians”: At the end of the day, I think that’s what the musicians would want to hear. I’m just afraid that some acts are more concerned with how they look than how they sound…some performers would rather you tell them afterwards that they looked good. Sigh.

    _____

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