published: June 17, 2012
So where does Radiohead and the concert industry go from here?
Everyone knows the facts now: One young member, Scott Johnson, of the Radiohead camp tragically dead, three injured, 40k fans turned back in a strange mixture of grief and disappointment. What seems like one of the worst days in Radiohead’s history (arguably it is its worst) was merely 30-60 minutes from being unfathomable. What tiny consolation to be found is the fact that more weren’t killed. Everyone by now has run the thoughts through their heads – what if this had collapsed during the soundcheck or what if this had collapsed during the concert with a general admission crowd jam packed merely feet from the stage? Weather wasn’t a factor. No one saw it coming. There was no warning. That’s a dangerous combination of ignorance from a situation that demands maximum safety. What’s worse is, this situation isn’t new.
So where does Radiohead go from here? History shows us whether it be Pearl Jam, the Rolling Stones, The Who, etc., that the bands are very emotionally impacted. How can they not be? Simply because they write and perform songs better than 99.9999% of the general public doesn’t remove them from the bubble of emotional attachment we all feel towards the tragic loss of those close around us. With the emotion and feeling interjected by Thom Yorke into Radiohead’s music we assume that translates to an even larger amount of grief (and probably, unnecessary but inevitable self-blame) towards this incident. No one believes this to be the band’s fault. We’re certain they were made to believe the stage setup would be 100% safe. What we do hope is that they can take this and foster change.
Which of the following will happen?
A delay in touring? I doubt it, quite frankly. The next show is less than two weeks in Rome, followed by over a dozen dates in July. I see a stoppage of the tour an extremely remote possibility. A scaled down stage set makes far more sense – cancelling shows does not. Lets dispel with the scaffolding and the big floating plasma TV’s – just bring the amps, the guitars, drums and move on from there. I see little or no benefit in disappointing what would be upwards of a half million fans over the next month or two. I can’t imagine Scott Johnson would want Radiohead to stop. I can’t imagine a stoppage would pay homage to their lost friend. It would be a greater acknowledgment of emotion to play onward with a change to the stage set or dedicate a song to Mr. Johnson and his family than to halt the shows. Music is healing.
Safer stage sets. And soon.
How about reduced stage sets for future shows – and not just for Radiohead? How many more stage collapses does this world require? Do we really need the enormity of a stage that propels itself halfway to the clouds? It’s beautiful yes, but is it necessary by any means? Absolutely not. Wouldn’t a more realistic and helpful trade-off be to reduce ticket prices, or the price of t-shirts and dispel with the expensive scaffolding or hanging fixtures? Do we need 16 large TV screens dangling dangerously above Jonny Greenwood’s head to enhance our enjoyment of ‘Karma Police’? I say no we don’t. We have this unspoken contest between U2, Radiohead, Coldplay and the dozens of other large acts that turn the stage into miniature cities. For Christ sakes half the audience are staring at their cell phones during the show anyway or trying to take a blurry photo from 350 feet away. Maybe that hologram idea doesn’t sound so stupid after all. I don’t recall anyone being killed by a tumbling hologram of 2Pac.
The influence of Radiohead
Radiohead’s influence? The reaction of the band to this incident and its decisions on touring, stage sets, etc., will be followed closely. Radiohead – along with U2, Madonna, Lady Gaga and Coldplay are among the most influential live acts in the world for the music industry. Radiohead has an opportunity to certainly steer the future with their influence in the days and weeks ahead. A change is not an over-reaction. We’re not going on a blind rabbit hunt looking for weapons of mass destruction here. We have evidence this time! (see collapsed stage photo above). We’re advocating more safety via reduced stage design. My last $5 dollars says Radiohead makes some changes, respectully. Wouldn’t you feel strange going out onto an open stage right now if you were Thom Yorke with 30 tons of metal, big TV’s and equipment hanging above you and your bands’ (and fans) heads? This is one of the most influential bands in the world and their innovative ability to transform rock music the past 20 years now needs to shift gears temporarily and change the infrastructure of the live show industry and its stage setup. What are we waiting for? Do we need a piece of scaffolding to fall down and kill Bono, Jonny Greenwood or Madonna to make a change? Let’s push for it now. Who would possibly look Radiohead in the eye and stop them from change?