Are you not entertained?

Some of you may not be watching “American Idol,” and who can blame you. I’m not, but Kate is, and every so often I wander through the room while she’s catching up with the recordings that are stacked like cordwood in our DVR. (I suspect her interest is flagging, too.) So maybe you saw this clip and maybe you didn’t — it’s the Black Eyed Peas stinking up the room with a live performance of whatever their new single is. Oh, right: “Rock That Body.” Wow. Original. What was the name of their last single? “Bodies That Rock?” Or was it “Rockin’ My Body?” I can never remember.

It’s a pretty good example of what too much pop music has come to — bands selected by labels based on how good they look in videos, then bound over to producers who smush them through the best technology and support staff money can buy, until they emerge, glossy and sexy and autotuned to a fare-thee-well, to put on huge arena shows with lasers and explosions and backup dancers and lots and lots of costume changes, all for $150, minimum, for a floor seat, and it all works really well until it doesn’t, and you can see it in that clip. Is anyone in sync? Is anyone even remotely close to …I guess it’s not “notes,” exactly, or “music,” so let me put it this way: Is anyone yelling the part they’re supposed to yell with any degree of precision? I can’t see it. Lots of busywork up there, with everyone marching around and waving their hands in the air and demanding that everyone else wave their hands in the air and rock that body! come on come on rock that body! come on come on rock! that! body!

It so happened that a couple of days later, I was in the gym, and whoever was in charge of the radio had tuned it to the urban-pop station, which is to say, it’s a little rougher than the sub-niche of pop that Taylor Swift rules, and there’s hip-hop in there but not the really hard-core stuff, just cut after cut after cut of Black Eyed Peas-style party music — that thumpy, looped club-style foundation, over which are pasted this or that autotuned singer, asking us to rock our bodies, or shake them, or shake them while rocking, whatever. After 15 minutes of this, I was ready to kill someone. After 25 I said to the gray head on the next machine, “I don’t care what anybody fucking says, the music we listened to when we were young was better than this. Not different. Better. BETTER.” He said that’s why God made iPods, but seriously, if I worked in a store that played this bilge all day I’d seriously consider pouring acid into my ears.

You think this is just another rant of a baby boomer, and maybe it is. Get me some Dentu-Creme. But I think what pushed me into the red zone today was this story in the NYT, about the Live Nation/Ticketmaster takeover of virtually the entire concert industry, and the new music-business model, which is to write off recorded-music sales in favor of a robust gouge at the ticket office, so that nine-figure “360-degree” deals with people like Madonna and Jay-Z can be financed.

Madonna played here on her last tour, a last-minute addition in what calls itself her hometown. I’m told Ford Field’s seating was discreetly draped, the better to mask all the unsold seats. (It’s tough to sell $200 tickets in a state with 17 percent unemployment, Madge. You should know that.) The show was marked by top-notch production values — in that there were many props and costume changes — and a robot-like performance by the star, who treated the concert stage as yet another two-hour cardio workout in a lifetime full of them. Even Britney Spears, that old train wreck, was getting $100 a head for her autotuna-palooza last year.

May I see the hands of any soul out there who thinks Britney Spears is actually singing during these shows? Or Madonna? You are spending hundreds of dollars on tickets and t-shirts for the chance to watch the big star on a Jumbotron. After taking Kate and her friend to the Miley Cyrus 3-D concert movie a couple years ago, I reflected that there should be a lot more of these things, because $30 for the three of us (plus popcorn) had saved us $75 a head to see her down at Cobo, and the seat was better, the parking was free and we got to go backstage! Plus, one of the Jonas Brothers threw his drumstick at the camera, and we all flinched! Cool.

There aren’t many days I go to the gym and think, thank God I’m an old bag, but friends, I saw Elton John blow the roof off of St. John Arena, and I was so close I could almost pluck those big sunglasses off his face, and it cost me ten bucks. There were cynics and money-grubbers in the business then, too, but we got out with the shirts on our back.

These days, I’m shopping for tickets to “Tosca,” which is playing at the Detroit Opera House the weekend of our anniversary. TIckets are steep — pushing $100 for the main floor — but you’re paying for a lot when you see an opera. What I don’t understand is the $9.75-per “convenience charge” tacked on by Ticketmaster. And guess what they’re charging for me to print the ticket on my own printer? Two-fifty each. As Tosca herself might say: Siediti e ruotare.

Some bloggage:

Thanks, Sarah Palin, for all you do to make this country a better place! States warn of ‘Obamacare’ scams: In Illinois, a telemarketer recently sold an elderly woman a fraudulent health insurance plan that supposedly protected her against “death panels,” the state insurance director says.

The things you find when you check your pingbacks: Coozledad, again.

And as I have too much to do tomorrow, it’s off to bed with me.

Posted at 1:16 am in Popculch |

41 responses to “Are you not entertained?”

  1. Dexter said on April 26, 2010 at 2:00 am

    The first big screen experience I had was when we took out young daughter to see Backstreet Boys at Deer Creek which is now Verizon Wireless Music Theater. I spent most of that show in the parent’s shelter reading a paperback book. No kidding.
    39 years ago I paid about $4 to stand right beside the stage and watch Joe Walsh and the James Gang, and 22 years ago I only had to pay about $14 to see Elton John at the Palace of Auburn Hills. I quit going when tickets reached $50…that was my cut-off point. Now that’s what it costs to see a baseball game, and it’s no secret that the rash of 3-D movies coming out is the direct result of the success of ‘Avatar’ —in the last month at least 4 major studio movies have switched production from 2-D to 3D to cash in. IMAX 3-D? $19.50 per seat in New York City. I wouldn’t bitch a bit if wages and salaries went up in reasonable ascension with sports , movie, and concert tix. Ha! So enjoy modern life, all you professionals with fantastic employers who reward you with raises and promotions…enjoy the popcorn!

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  2. beb said on April 26, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Rant on, Nancy, Rant on!

    Wasn’t LiveNation an attempt to break the monopoly held by TicketMaster? “Convenience Fee”? I suppose buying tickets on-line is convenience, when it;s not the only way to get tickets. Printing fee? I suppose next they’ll start offering tickets with and without chairs!

    I’m always amused by the thought that the greatest female singer of my generation, Janis Joplin, would never make it today because she was … She’s been called ugly but she really wasn’t. She was plain faced, non-glamourous, but we weren’t buying tickets or albums to look at her face but to hear her voice, which was awesome. We didn’t expect her to dance AND sing at the same time. And we would never have accepted her lipsynching.

    Of course the irony is that one of my favorite current women singers, Pink, sings and dances and does videos denoucing celebrities in their itty-bitty clothes while running around on stage in itty-bitty clothes…. BUT — she can sing, has a really great voice and knows how to use it.

    That for a singer today it’s more important to look good on stage then to have actual talent is galling.

    And to finish up my rant, Nickelodeon has been trying to market one of their actresses, Miranda Cosgrove as a Miley style celebrity and it is so annoying because 1, she can barely act, and 2, her can barely sing. And 3, what’s a man my age doing watching Nickelodeon?

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  3. coozledad said on April 26, 2010 at 9:28 am

    I saw Yes on the “Tormato” tour. On the way there, the idiot driving the van ran a red light and we got T-boned by a Buick Century. The guy in the car behind us said he saw my head shatter the passenger side window. When I came to, the highway patrolman was checking the interior of the van to make sure there were no dead. He ignored the bong and the green cloud and barked, “Just get this fucker out of the damn intersection.”
    Twelve dollars to see Jon Anderson in green footie pajamas playing a miniature harp. That will never happen again.
    I got to see The Who courtesy our drummer’s boyfriend who’d just bought a funeral limousine with the proceeds from his disco club. When we pulled into the parking lot, I heard a guy yell “Look! it’s Freddy Mercury!” It wasn’t Freddy, of course, but a damn good simulacrum of his ‘stache.

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  4. john c said on April 26, 2010 at 9:32 am

    The music stuff put me in mind of a Detroit memory. I was getting gas at the corner of Alter and Jefferson, which for those who don’t know is where the D meets the Pointes. Really, though, the Pointes start a few blocks up, where the greenery begins. Anyway, I pulled up to the pump, and sitting there with its back hatch open was a minivan that was at least 15 years old. Some form of old school funk was blasting out of the speakers, and the old man with the nozzle in his hand was rocking back and forth to it. It was good music, and as I began to gas up my car I said something that probably came out incredibly white. He nodded, and we kept pumping. I thought that maybe this guy, who looked to be in his 60s, was taking a stand against the crap that passes for so much of the music these days. He wasn’t just playing it loud. He had his damn hatch back open and was playing it REALLY LOUD! Then he stopped pumping, put the nozzle back in the pump, climbed in through the hatch, pulled it closed behind him and crawled up to the front seat. The hatch was, of course, the only door that still worked.

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  5. Detroit Opera House said on April 26, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Hi Nancy!

    We’re excited that you’re planning on coming to Tosca! If you haven’t already purchased tickets, (or maybe this is for future reference) you can always purchase tickets with fewer fees in person at our box office or from our website, This can help you avoid some Ticketmaster fees.

    Hope this helps – looking forward to seeing you then!

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  6. Jeff Borden said on April 26, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Your rant underscores why I’ve been embracing good, old-fashioned, garage-style rock played by folks who actually know how to write songs, play instruments and sing.

    I’d rather see a kickass, old-school rock band like New Jersey’s The Doughboys –launched in the late 1960’s and still busting ass in the bars– than one of the pre-fabricated spectacles that pass for a concert these days.

    The dial of my satellite radio rarely leaves Little Steven’s Underground Garage, though I’m likely to lunge for the tuner when the pompous, world-weary likes of Andrew Looge or Kim Fowley start dropping names like snowflakes. Otherwise, it’s a primo outlet for the best new music of today combined with garage-style rock from the past. The channel also favors a lot of woman-driven music, whether it’s the great rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson, or all-female rock outfits like Norway’s Cocktail Slippers.

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  7. crinoidgirl said on April 26, 2010 at 9:55 am

    Wow! An opera house is commenting!

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  8. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 26, 2010 at 10:26 am

    For Nancy!

    And somebody give the marketing director of the Detroit Opera House a raise — color me impressed. Nice catch, whomever thou art!

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  9. LAMary said on April 26, 2010 at 10:31 am

    American Idol is really bad this year. Like, really really bad. They’re trying for something less silly than previous years I think and it’s not working.

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  10. Julie Robinson said on April 26, 2010 at 11:13 am

    I never went to any rock concerts growing up and still haven’t, unless you count Carole King solo on piano at the IU Auditorium. I did go to hundreds of plays & musicals, band & orchestra concerts, dance & ballet performances. Pop music just doesn’t do much for me and I cheerfully ignore my car radio and pop in CDs. But it saddens me that what kids are being exposed to is such crap. How will they know the good stuff after a steady diet of dreck? So really, your rant didn’t go far enough for me.

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  11. Sue said on April 26, 2010 at 11:23 am

    There are big production values and then there are big production values. I wish I could have seen a Pink Floyd concert in the 70’s, with the floating pigs and surroundsound-style tolling clocks and building a wall that shut out the audience (these guys started out as architectural students, after all). There was an actual reason for all the stuff that was going on around you, from what I understand.
    A few years back we went to a Jethro Tull concert – their light show consisted of three guys in miners’ helmets dancing across the stage, once. Good laugh by all and the music critic didn’t understand it in his review the next day.
    And beb, you’re right, Pink’s the real deal in a way that what’s her name Lady Gaga never will be.

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  12. Deborah said on April 26, 2010 at 11:48 am

    When Kurt Cobain killed himself, that was the day the music died for me. I wasn’t that much of Cobain fan but I thought it was the best thing around at the time. Since then, there’s nothing that really appeals to me. When I listen, which I don’t even do much anymore, I just listen to the old stuff, or classical, maybe some jazz. The only concerts I’ve been to lately are Dylan’s and U2, but that’s because my husband is a big fan, not me so much.

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  13. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 26, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Pink is a very good singer from the times I’ve heard her actually doing a song; there was some awards show on not long ago (Grammys? Why was I watching? Who knows . . .) where I was really feeling my age — not because of my general indfference or distaste for the music, but because Pink descended from the rafters on some kind of Cirque du Soliel trapeze wearing, effectively, nothing, and my main two thoughts were a) that’s a very fit young woman, and b) my, I sure hope she doesn’t fall.

    Testosterone, where have you gone?

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  14. beb said on April 26, 2010 at 12:17 pm


    ax the gravatar at 5. Looks like a swastika.

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  15. MichaelG said on April 26, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Y’all and your WFS amuse me, given where I live. It’s spring and the hookers are on the corner again. Music? There isn’t any. Just that soul killing rap shit pouring at full volume out of home windows and throbbing car windows. Nancy covers my reaction to the stuff pretty well.

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  16. Scout said on April 26, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    I refuse to buy anything from TicketBastards. If they are the only way I can get to a show, I’m not going.

    I just saw Deva Premal, Miten and Krishna Das a few weeks ago at Mesa (AZ) Arts Center. $30 a ticket. No TicketBastard involvement. That’s my speed these days.

    I’m another Boomer who ages herself every time she opens her mouth to ask, “You call this shit MUSIC?” There is some good new stuff out… M. Ward, Ida Maria, Imogen Heap, Vienna Teng, to name a few. BTW, Pandora is great for finding new music in the genre of your choice.

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  17. LAMary said on April 26, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Does the Detroit Opera do a lot of Wagner?

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  18. Little Bird said on April 26, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    I have to agree with Deborah. The stuff that passes for music today is just boring. Or annoying. I love 80’s stuff mostly (stop cringing, it wasn’t ALL bad), though I think the Beatles were the ones who pretty much said everything that needed saying, and said it best, most of the time.

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  19. LAMary said on April 26, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    Michael, you’ve got soul killing rap. I’ve got soul killing reggaeton attacking me from the basketball court behind my house.

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  20. Peter said on April 26, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Deb, the day Cobain died I had a client meeting. One of the last people to enter the conference room was a young man who was very distraught; the CEO said that he looked like someone died. The young guy said, yes, Kurt Cobain just died, and the CEO said “Oh my God! Cobain? Was he in Admin or Sales?”

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  21. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 26, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    roflmao . . .

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  22. MichaelG said on April 26, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    My speed: When I was in Phoenix last Dec I got dragged to a Glenn Yarbrough concert. Guy looked like he was on a 60 minute pass from life support.

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  23. Dave said on April 26, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Michael G, would that have been much like the remnants of The Who at the Super Bowl?

    Oh, and Peter, the Cobain story, that’s classic.

    I just turned 60 (OMG) and I can’t listen to any of that stuff and, sadly, I’m mostly worn out on the old stuff. I’d get satellite radio if I had a longer commute but I’m not going to have any commute much longer, so don’t see any good reason to spend the money.

    And to think my parents thought what I was listening to was crap.

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  24. Jeff Borden said on April 26, 2010 at 5:57 pm


    You can purchase tuners that include satellite radio connections, or you can purchase a kit that will allow you to use the unit from the car to play through your current stereo, assuming you have an empty input jack. It’s up to about $12.00 per month, but that’s a ton of music and the vast majority of the channels contain zero commercials.

    I’m 59 and have tried really hard to avoid becoming like the musically smug characters in “The Big Chill.” There’s a scene when the Jeff Goldblum character is chiding the Kevin Kline character as he is putting on yet another Motown LP.

    “Do you have any music from this century?”
    “There is no other music.”

    Arrrrgggghhhh. I hate, hate, hate that line. There is plenty of great, great music out there in every genre. You won’t hear it from commercial radio, but it’s there if you look for it.

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  25. paddyo' said on April 26, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    I agree that we Boomers need to get over it about the current crap, appreciate the current good, and remember how our parents freaked out at what we listened to 30-40 years ago. That’s what the music of the moment is for, in’nit? Parental torture? I like “World Cafe” on WXPN in Philly (syndicated across NPR land) for keeping semi-abreast of today’s better new stuff.

    Meanwhile . . .
    Michael G @ 22:
    Baby, the rain must fall . . .

    And Michael G @ 15, and the rest of you from one of the weekend threads:

    Wayyy out here on the west edge of the Plains, Denver doesn’t have much that passes for “the hood” or “urban,” but folks hereabouts still harbor an unhealthy “WFS” fear of . . . Colfax Avenue (old U.S. 40), longest street in America, and once known as the Mile High City’s boulevard of choice for pimps, ho’s and petty miscreants.

    The gentrifying ‘Fax still has edgy pockets, but not much approaching its old self, and mild at that by comparison to elsewhere. Those intrepid deterers of street crime, the Guardian Angels, even vacated their old storefront on the edge of downtown a few years ago and moved their red berets 15 blocks farther east and a block off Colfax.

    About 3-1/2 years ago I moved into half a duplex a couple of miles beyond that. Just two doors down from Colfax (the other doors being the Tires 4 Less store on the corner and the other half of my 60-something brick duplex), I’ve had zero encounters with crime, threats, fear, etc. But my neighbor, who’s moving home to Austin, TX, can’t get a real-estate nibble on his immaculate half of the duplex to save his life.

    It ain’t the market, either. Too “urban,” apparently? Maybe those low-lifes who shop at the “Dollar Tree” store that went into the vacant Rite-Aid across Colfax instead of the hoped-for Whole Foods or Sunflower Market?

    Ah, well — that’s the ‘Fax.

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  26. MarkH said on April 26, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Glenn Yarbrough is still alive?! Then we MUST be on the eve of destruction….

    EDIT: well THAT was stupid. Barry McGuire. Statement still holds even if the artist was wrong.

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  27. Rana said on April 26, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    and it all works really well until it doesn’t

    I think that this is one of the things that I’ve come to really appreciate about Lady Gaga. True, she dresses like a performance out in the world, but one thing that her songs are is singable – as the legions of quite good amateur a cappella performances of her work on YouTube demonstrates.

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  28. basset said on April 26, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    I saw Yes on… the Topographic Oceans tour, the Relayer tour, the Tormato tour, the revolving-stage tour, and that embarrassment they took out last winter where they were basically their own tribute band.

    Couldn’t name you a single Lady Gaga number, or Cobain either for that matter, but I have all four sides of “Topographic Oceans” on my iPod.

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  29. LAMary said on April 26, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    PaddyO, are you in Park Hill? East of there?

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  30. Deborah said on April 26, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    Peter, not as funny as your story about your client meeting, but I had a similar experience when Michael Jackson died, my boss was sneaking looks at his crackberry during a client meeting when he suddenly blurted out that MJ had just died. We all gasped in unison, even the clients.

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  31. Deborah said on April 26, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Basset, give Cobain’s sweet piece called “In the Pines” (or “Where did You Sleep Last Night”) a listen. I think you’d like it. It’s a traditional American folk song that Cobain did a fantastic rendition of.

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  32. basset said on April 26, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    I’m familiar with the song – based on what little I know about Cobain, though, I can’t see how his version could be anything close to genuine.

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  33. Deborah said on April 26, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    basset, to me it’s not whether he did an authentic rendition or not, but his interpretation is riveting.

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  34. basset said on April 26, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    could be. I just don’t see how it’d work, though – he just seems so whiny.

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  35. MichaelG said on April 26, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Flash back to that Polish jet crash. Joe and any others who might be interested. Here’s a video of a CAT III autoland at San Francisco. I think I might be a tad nervous. Scroll down.

    Actually, youtube has a bunch of them.

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  36. KLG said on April 26, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    Late to this party, but while I was in college at a big state university in the South:
    Elton John, $10.
    Linda Ronstadt, $10.
    Bonnie Raitt, Free in the park.
    Chicago, $15.
    Grand Funk Railroad (the Michigan Connection!), about $15 plus a week of deafness.
    John Prine, at least 20 times for a cover charge of maybe $4.
    David Allen Coe, ditto.
    Then later, R.E.M. for a pittance, many times.
    B-52s, ditto.
    Widespread Panic, ditto.
    And multitudes of party/cover bands that were damn good, too.

    My 18-year-old son doesn’t believe me that Life Was Good(!) back in the day, when the drinking age was at a fit-and-proper 18. Some of what he listens to seems pretty good, too. We tend to forget stuff like “I’ve got a brand-new pair of roller skates…” But he has yet to see anything like Bonnie Raitt for free. And probably never will. Alas.

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  37. Denice B. said on April 27, 2010 at 12:49 am

    Best concert I ever went to? Has to be Neil Young at Detroit’s Fox Theater where he did his acoustic ‘Harvest Moon’ Tour in 1992. Just Neil, a guitar,a keyboard, a harmonica and an old fashioned pump organ. 2 hours of intimate musical entertainment. I don’t remember the cost. I want to say $50. or so. Saw Elton John at the Olympia for about $15 bucks. Dark Side of The Moon Tour- Freaking Awesome!!! Also at the Olympia–Home of the Red Wings and the Mighty Gordie Howe. Saw Neil a few other times. He would Never win American Idol. That’s why I love him even even more. Us old geezers gotta stick together. I do enjoy some of my daughter’s music–I like ‘Linkin Park’ and I’m fond of ‘Green Day’s American Idiot’. So I don’t entirely live in the 70’s…

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  38. Dexter said on April 27, 2010 at 1:43 am

    DeniceB. : Billie Joe showed up at the premiere of “American Idiot” the other day and treated his fans…

    “On Thursday night, winners of MTV’s “American Idiot” contest were not only treated to a great show — but a surprise mini concert by Green Day, who took the stage to play “American Idiot” and “Basket Case.” So, all in all, it was a pretty great night.”

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  39. John said on April 27, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Santana with Sugarloaf as the lead-in act for $12 (festival seating). We drove 2 hours with two cases of ponies of which we stuffed into our pants and jackets to sneak in.

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  40. basset said on April 27, 2010 at 8:08 am

    the Rolling Stones and the Crusaders for $8.50 at Assembly Hall in Bloomington… that was back before Indianapolis had a big indoor arena, so we got the shows that would have come there. like Jethro Tull and the Who on consecutive weekends.

    Santana played to one side of Assembly Hall with Pure Prairie League opening, that was a strange bill and an even stranger setup… the Hall has really steep seats, when the stage was set up toward one side there were no seats on the floor and anyone standing onstage faced straight into a cinder-block wall. couldn’t see the audience without looking up maybe thirty degrees.

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  41. Cathy said on April 30, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    I put the Elton John concert at St. John arena at about 1973. I joined you there, Nancy. My first concert. Second was Todd Rundgren at the Ohio Theatre.

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