What is the purpose of a concert? Why do performers play concerts and go on tour? Is it simply to sell albums? To create fans? How many people go to concerts to see a band or an artist that they are not fans of? I suspect that most people don’t. Perhaps, a few might go see a band they aren’t fans of if the band is playing at a bar or club that a person just happens to be at. That said, I doubt there are many people are willing to pay $30, $50, $100 or more for someone they aren’t fans of. So, if most people go to concerts to see bands or artists they already like, what is the point? The audience gets to hear songs performed live, which is almost always a better way to hear music. Is that enough? For me, I like to go to concerts because I do like to hear music in its pure form but I also like to see whether or not my interest in a given artist grows, stays the same or lessens.
This leads me to last Sunday. I drove to the nearby city of Milwaukee to see Brandon Flowers perform. The Killers is one of my favorite bands and, in fact, my like for that band increased each and every time I have seen them in concert. Yet, I wasn’t sure what I would think of Brandon solo. I have his albums, but the first one didn’t grab me at all for a long time whereas the second one caught more of my attention. Would seeing him live make me appreciate his solo work better? In this case, it absolutely did despite the physical discomfort I had from being hot (the venue did not have air conditioning!) and having no space from the general admission set-up. From the very first song, Brandon was 110% the entire time. Right away, Brandon was all smiles as he sang his heart out. It was clear that he was loving each and every minute and hoping to connect with his audience. He used all of the space on the stage to move around and to try to make eye contact with his fans. The fans were encouraged to join in frequently by singing parts of songs for and with him. I really appreciated the introductions to various songs. Sometimes, he told stories of how he came up with songs and other times asked the crowd questions. Of course, one thing that really enhanced the show was the rest of the band there supporting him. He had a horn player, a sax player, two backing vocalists, a drummer and multiple guitarists. Each and every one of them worked their asses off while still allowing Brandon the spotlight. So, did the show make me a bigger fan of Brandon’s music? Very much so!
After the show, my friend and I decided to see if we could see Brandon come out the stage door. Not only did I think it would be cool to see Brandon (Duh!) but as a student of fandom, I always like to observe fans in action! How would the fans be with Brandon? How would Brandon be with the fans? Overall, from what I witnessed, it was the calmest, coolest unofficial meet and greet I have ever witnessed.
After the show, about 30-40 people stood or sat near the stage door of the Rave in Milwaukee waiting to catch a glimpse of Brandon, to get a precious autograph or a coveted photograph. Everyone seemed really calm and chill. Finally, after about a half hour, there was movement by the stage door and by the tour bus. Everyone, who had been waiting, got up and moved towards the bus. No one rushed to the area. No one ran or screamed. Brandon opted to stand in-between the bus and the wall of the walkway up to the venue. While some might question this move, as he seemed to be stuck in a small place, it also meant that the fans waiting for an interaction had to form a line of sorts. He could not easily be surrounded this way. Smart. At that moment, one of the guys with Brandon explained how this was going to work. He said that everyone would get their turn but that as soon as one was finished, s/he should exit behind the bus to keep the line moving. Directions like this always help, in my opinion. Fans then know what will happen and also knew that everyone was going to get a chance. There was NO need to push, shove or get in the front. It was not like when a celebrity shows up and only does two or three autographs or two or three pictures. When the “meet and greet” is so limited, then fans will fight for their chance, their opportunity. It creates more of a frenzied atmosphere. Competition grows between the fans standing there to such a high level that bad, mean, selfish behavior shows up. Anyway, I was so glad that we all knew the score while we waited for our turn. In fairness, another thing that helped is that the fans who had waited were so calm. Brandon and his people knew that they could get the directions out and would be heard and followed. Thus, the fans were well-behaved and the directions were clear ensuring that the good behavior would remain the entire time. I believe that both fans and artist should be applauded for this!
How was my interaction with Brandon? Fabulous! The guy in front of me took a long time. He tried to talk to Brandon first for a few minutes before asking for an autograph. Then, it was clear that Brandon thought he was done after the autograph as he started to look at me. Then, the guy passed his phone to me asking if I would take a picture for him. I did but I also commented that Brandon was demonstrating the patience of a saint. (For the record, in those kind of situations, I will never ask for a photo AND an autograph. I would only ask for one. I want to be respectful of the celebrity’s time and also be respectful of the other fans.) Finally, the guy in front of me moved on and Brandon reached his hand out to shake my hand. Well then! That move was unexpected but not unappreciated as he has a very nice handshake. My friend was ready with my cell phone to take the picture so I tried to quickly get in position for the photo. Brandon put his arm around me and I him in return. The picture turned out pretty well, I think!
The entire night from the show to the meet and greet was fabulous! More than that, it did make me a bigger fan of Brandon and his music. Did the concert do what it was supposed to do? I absolutely think so. He has a show in Chicago on September 11th. Now, I really, really want to go!! Anyone want to join me?