The Stakes of Live Performance

In a world showered with readily accessible recorded content, the cost and inconvenience of a live show leave many audiences at home. We often forget that live shows open a far greater threshold for surprise and magnetic energy than the recorded medium. Why? Because something might go wrong. The risk of failure is much greater on stage than in a recording. You cannot edit a live performance. If something breaks, thousands of people will be there to see it. As a live audience participant, you share in an exclusive opportunity to witness this single autonomous performance – never to be experienced the same way again. The pride in exclusivity, tension behind the stakes at hand, and energy through sharing it all with others make live performance more engaging, valuable, and expensive. More often than not, it’s worth it. And it may be the only thing that can keep the arts lucrative. But that’s another story.

2 thoughts on “The Stakes of Live Performance

  1. what if you share a recorded performance with someone; watch it together? are you making the case for relational aesthetics or the more trite idea of “the experience”?

    • Seeing a property fire on the news and watching a house burn down in person have two radically different levels of engagement and emotional response. The idea of “the experience” may be trite, but it’s very difficult to ignore the sensory immediacy and power of live events. You can’t feel the heavy thumping base of a concert from your laptop speakers. A recording of an accident is far less shocking after the fact than seeing it happen in person.

      Community engagement with material, whether recorded or live, brings magnetic energy to the table. And if the recorded content is crafted well enough, it, too, can have stakes (that may even rival any live experience).

      But will all recordings, you’re missing the full sensory spectrum – smell, taste, touch. And it’s nearly impossible to forget that what you’re watching already happened. You are not exclusive to experiencing the event at hand and you play no role at all in how the event is shaped. You are only as involved in mind and conversation; you are not physically involved (though perhaps physically reacting).

      The stakes of living something firsthand rather than through a lens. Traveling instead of reading travel books. Smelling the roses.

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