Hewlett: Stay for the show? Oh, if it weren't for that deadline . . .

JASON HEWLETT / Kamloops Daily News
February 16, 2013 01:00 AM

For the record, the world of reviewing concerts isn't as glamorous as one might think.

Yes, we critics tend to get in for free. Granted, the seats are, for the most part, quite good. And Kamloops is becoming a more frequent stop for bigger and better acts on the concert circuit.

Since the start of the year Nelly Furtado, The Tragically Hip, Eric Church and The Tenors have graced us with their presence. That's four big shows in less than eight weeks. Well played, Kamloops; well played.

I've reviewed two of those events - Furtado and The Tenors. Both put on a good show. And the audience, which numbered in the thousands each, had a really good time clapping, cheering and shouting out phrases like "I love you" to the performers.

Well, they did for Nelly anyway. The Tenors crowd was a titch more refined.

Looking back, it would have been wise to review The Tragically Hip and Eric Church as well. But the debate about what concerts to cover, and if there's any value in covering them at all, has raged at The Daily News since long before I took over the arts beat.

Here's the crux of the problem, if it's even worth calling it that. Reviewing a play, movie, book, CD or TV series makes sense because the reader has the opportunity to see, read or hear what's being reviewed for him or herself.

Not so with a concert. By the time the review hits the show is over by a good 10 or more hours. There's no chance anyone will see it again. The same holds true for posting to the web.

There's the argument that a concert review captures the look, feel and entertainment value for those who can't make it themselves.

And it's for that reason that critics like me attend and try our best to provide as accurate a re-creation as we can.

Having done this for a year now, here's what I've found has worked against me - deadlines.

No matter how good the show, and how much fun I'm having, the review needs to be on the page by a certain time. During the pre-website days, this often created a major hurdle for my predecessor, as there was no laptop to work off.

He had to go to the concert, take notes like mad, leave early, run back to The Daily News and write the review before deadline.

Boo hoo, you say? Well, most concerts don't begin until 8 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. And that's the opening act. Say they perform for an hour.

Then it's 9 p.m. or 9:30 p.m. Deadline is usually 10:30 p.m. or 11 p.m. at the latest. Do the math. You're not getting the full concert experience. In fact, you're usually getting the first three or four songs and that's it.

Modern technology has made things better. The Daily News has a laptop - cue Beethoven's Ode To Joy, Die

Hard version - which has allowed me to stay longer and write as the show unfolds.

It's not ideal, mind you, because there's still the deadline to meet. But I catch most of the show and, I think at least, capture more of the experience.

Sometimes the people around me don't appreciate the laptop. I guess the tick-tick-tick of my typing is a little disruptive. So I've given up the review seats in favour of working from the promenade.

I plop the computer down on a garbage bin or work from an unused table. No one seems to mind - in fact people will come over, say hello and talk about how good the show is, which makes for great review fodder - and I often get a decent view of the stage and the crowd.

This allows me to describe the fans' reaction in better detail.

No, I don't catch the whole show, but I get more of it.

If this column sounds like I'm complaining, that's not the case. I have a good time reviewing concerts and plays.

I just wanted to give people a better idea of what goes into covering a show, and why it probably doesn't read like we've captured the whole thing.

Getting paid to review concerts is fun, but it's not all fun and games.

Jason Hewlett is the arts reporter for The Daily News.


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