Wish you Were Here, as we all know, is a Pink Floyd LP that was released in 1975. The name contained a very British in-joke. This phrase comes on postcards sold in British beach resorts - where, since the weather was so often bad, the wish was ambiguous to say the least.
But more and more, my feeling is - I wish you weren't here. Concerts are becoming disagreeable, among other reasons on account of the cellphones and other wonder gadgets being raised to immortalize what is happening on the stage. If you're not a basketball player, forget seeing the show.
Many musicians wonder about audience participation. Are these people a part of the event, or are they mutants who can enjoy the show and record it at the same time? Some also keep up conversations, drink, and no doubt dream up startups to finance their hobby.
Is it to score points? With the devaluation of the concept of recordings, live performance has come to occupy center stage in the pop experience. You want to be able to prove that you were there when a cool group made their visit to Spain. "I was there, and I can prove it!"
Having lost their reverential respect for the artist, the fans fiddle with their work at their whim.
Another notion: excuse my language, but it is a case of "empowerment" of the public. Having lost their reverential respect for the artist, the fans fiddle with their work at their whim. They share their music, modify their recordings, create their own videos... A simple YouTube search reveals a bewildering mass of truly lousy recordings. You end up cursing the page's creators for not having included a technical scale to discriminate among what is uploaded.
I see that some groups are attempting to strike a reasonable deal with the spectator. As with professional photographers, they ask that gadgets be used only during one part of the concert. Lots of people seem to enjoy ignoring this request.
Among the stars, I have found a number of reactions. Neil Young tells me that he sympathizes with the guerrillas of YouTube: "It's the equivalent of the old-time FM, the best way to broadcast a new song, or a forgotten one."
At the other extreme, Prince flatly prohibits smartphones and the like; his Dobermans have even expelled famous people during his late-night performances in small venues. It is a matter not so much of audiovisual quality, as of the latest battle in Prince's recent war against that internet. Yes, that weird war that does not stop him from accepting a million dollars for giving an exclusive concert for the enemy, embodied in the conglomerate Samsung.
Jack White, Black Crowes and Wilco veto the use of cameras in their performances. I suppose the interdiction grows weaker the bigger the enclosure, or the further they stray from their natural habitat. I treasure a wonderful anecdote from 1979. The acoustic piano duo of Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock were performing in... Las Ventas bullring, Madrid. Don't ask why. Strange things happened in those days.
Part of the big crowd that came to the bullring grew pissed off. These were the days of jazz-rock, and it was thought that Hancock and Corea would automatically be playing in electric (like the opening act, the group Iceberg). One spectator in particular expressed his vehement disconformity, thunderously and tirelessly. However, when Chick and Herbie bid farewell, the same deep-throated asshole insisted on calling for an encore. So what is it, you hate them or you want them to go on playing? His priceless answer: "Of course I hate them, I can't tell you how they bore me. But I want them to suffer, I want the sons of bitches to go on working."
Perhaps it is just another ritual of the gadget era. It used to be lighters, now it's lit-up iPhones. At a big concert, the bearers of little screens look like crowds of extras in a Nuremberg rally fantasy, in a videoclip of the later Queen era. I suppose we ought to respect them. They have paid to get in and play this role.