Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chasing Time

Following the usual well-publicised disasters on the current Guns N' Roses European tour, including leaving the stage after only a handful of songs when fans threw bottles at the band in Dublin, the band's outstanding UK comeback show at the O2 Arena in London on October 13 highlighted yet another fickle habit of the British public: invalidating their own reason to complain, then feeling they're entitled to complain anyway.

There's no denying, even for the most ardent fan of the band, that leader Axl Rose's continued disrespectful attitude towards fans regarding the time of his arrival on stage and subsequent end time of the show is the biggest problem with trying to see the band play live. And those who attend the shows, although for the most part in no way condoning his behaviour, accept that there is the very likely possibility that the show will finish after local public transport has ceased for the night, and there may be a substantial waiting period between the end of the support act's set and GN'R's.

Venues try their best to accommodate the situation, in the O2's case including publishing a three-page document outlining the additional contingency travel arrangements they had put in place for the benefit of ticket holders should the show inevitably over-run the planned schedule. There's not much more they can do beyond contractually obligating Axl to arrive on time and play to the show times they've outlined. On the surface that would seem like the most prudent option, but in reality I think it's almost a certainty Rose would never sign such an agreement and would simply play a venue where he isn't so restricted.

What it basically comes down to, from the fans point of view, is common sense. As most things tend to. The band will start late and end late. That is the only assumption it is safe working with when planning attendance at a show. With that in mind, you either buy a ticket knowing that's going to happen and plan accordingly, or you don't go. By attending, knowing full well it's going to be a late night, you have absolutely no right to complain when it turns out to actually be a late night.

There's an argument put forward by the most accepting fans along the lines "if you're worried about getting home you're in the wrong place", which is obviously nonsense; it doesn't matter how much you love the band, you still don't want to be wandering the streets until 5am when you can get a train home again. In actual fact if you're worried about getting home, sort yourself out a back-up plan that doesn't rely on leaving early for the last train, or don't come. It's a hard decision to have to make if you do want to see the band, but the only way the band will learn is if no one shows up for the show, so turning up anyway and then complaining about it is ridiculous.

But this is just another example of so many people's attitudes to this kind of thing. When artists like Madonna charge over £100 for tickets people complain, but the concert still sells out. As far as Madonna and her people are concerned, they can get away with charging £100 for a ticket. So next time she's going to do exactly the same thing.

It would seem that England in 2010 can't bear to vote with their feet. Apparently nothing in entertainment is unacceptable, because we're all going to turn up anyway. We might moan about it on the radio or the internet afterwards, but only after the damage has been done and the people responsible have not only gotten away with exploiting the paying public's good will, they've done it with the belief they'll be able to do it again because as far as they can tell we were all happy to show up.

This generally only happens with large-scale events, and the large contingent of people who aren't really fans but want to be able to say "I was there" whenever the subject of any major event is raised doesn't help matters. This was evident last night when thousands of people in the capacity crowd barely got involved in the show at all apart from during radio hits 'Sweet Child O' Mine' and 'Paradise City'. Enjoyment of the new material versus the old material aside, if there are people there who don't even know the other songs from the album those two singles come from, or even the other singles, then those are the people who are in the wrong place. But they can now say "I was there" and feel they have the right to complain about Axl's behaviour. They're a bigger problem than the fans who do that. At least the fans turned up because they wanted to see their favourite band. At least their reason for putting up with it was valid.

We want it both ways all the time and have lost sight of the fact that we simply can't have it. All the complainers are achieving nothing now. We will all win if we don't buy the tickets to these things. But once we've bought them, we lost long before the show even took place.