Should More Gigs Be Livestreamed?

I’ve always been a fan of live-streaming events. Can’t afford a show once you wrap in travel, food, accommodation and ticket? Go on. Just take my money already.

Sure, an audience of one sucks in a different air. Foreign and remote, it’s insulated from the molecules bothered by the performers onscreen. That magic is missing, along with that indescribable wonder that only exists in a room where people’s heartbeats synchronise in response.

But still you, the audience, in your one-ness, get something. Even on your sofa, in your pants, eating crisps (theoretically). It’s better than nothing. And in many cases, remarkably.

So if you’re willing to pay for it? Everyone’s a winner.

You probably get the sense now that it didn’t take too much to get me watching a Biffy Clyro livestream on Saturday night. The band were marking the release of their album ‘A Celebration Of Endings’ with a live (ish) performance of the full album (plus soundcheck songs to warm up) resulting in a powerful ‘gig’ that delivered on all fronts.

So why did it work? Well, a mix of fantastic production values, a great venue and a one-off feel definitely helped. For those who aren’t Biffy-aware, they’re an insanely tight rock band – a 3-piece (mostly) who delight in challenging time signatures. So it helped that punters knew in advance their £15 ticket price wasn’t going towards an outfit that would likely come shambling onstage late, with out-of-tune guitars, half-forgotten lyrics and a barely concealed simmering hatred between personnel born out of years of touring, as each member refused to acknowledge the other’s existence…

The mix of music and visuals worked brilliantly, with the designers filling up the empty crowd space with a selection of mannequins, light bulbs, alternative areas for the band to walk around and – most memorably – what can only be described as a big perspex box with fluorescent lights which they all climbed inside to belt out a couple of songs.

Being able to take over The Barrowlands for the filming, one of the most atmospheric venues in the UK was a sound choice – and a gamble. It’s iconic largely because of the crowd that’s been filling it year after year. ‘Playing the Barras’ has been a rite of passage for thousands of bands over the years. And how do you recreate that famed Glasgow atmosphere when you’re lacking the sea of skulls that are responsible for generating that atmosphere in the first place?

For Biffy, the gamble paid off. But is it the future in a post-COVID world?

For certain bands, definitely. It should be at least a part of the story. But can it be as good as a live show? I’d argue the two aren’t comparable in any meaningful way. Much like live-streamed theatre, it’s a entirely different thing. But, done the Biffy way, it’s indisputably A Very Good Thing.