Last week we attended the screening of Goldfrapp’s Tales of Us film. Executive produced by Alison Goldfrapp and written and directed by her partner Lisa Gunning, you get the drift…a series of shorts to accompany tracks from last year’s very good album of the same name. Mostly monochrome, some colour, some flesh, some countryside, all expensive looking.
What I was more interested in was the second part of the evening, which was billed as an “exclusive” live performance broadcast from a studio (AIR in London, I think,) where “exclusive” must mean “limited to everyone who was interested enough to buy a ticket.” I was curious how this would work, what the aesthetic of a live music performance would be in this format. Having watched quite a few live (or as-live) theatre broadcasts now, I know that can be hit or miss.
The band was indeed arrayed in a studio with some foliage; there were multiple camera angles, which made the first game trying to figure out where the cameras were (none appeared in any shot;) the second game was wondering how the music sounded so good and flawless. Fair enough, broadcasting from a recording studio probably affords opportunities and avoids pitfalls of theatrical live performance, but it just sounded uncannily great.
So the next game was watching Alison’s mouth for signs of lip-synching, of which there were none, which led to the conclusion that she must have a Sinatra-like control of dynamics and phrasing. However, when she spoke to the “audience,” i.e. all of us exclusively sitting in cinemas throghout the UK, and moved the mike-stand around, it rattled; when she put down a glass (far off-mike), we clearly heard it clunk, there was also a lot of fiddling with in-ear monitors. I did begin to wonder if all these things were there to stress how live the experience was. It was certainly weird to have the singer address a (small) cinema audience as if we were in the room. There was no apparent audience in the studio.
People didn’t know whether, or when to clap. At the NT Live theatre broadcasts, it has been stressed that the actors can hear and will react to audience noise (although, coming from upward of 200 cinemas, that must be a weird feed.) As a result, the presentation was neither fish nor flesh, which I think may have been acknowledged by visually rendering the piece Thea uniquely as a one camera shoot of Alison alone at the microphone in front of a very seventies-TOTP back projection.
So, although it was entertaining and well shot (with the aforementioned excellent sound) and had a fair bit of guitar porn (Charlie Jones’ plexiglass Precision bass for one,) as a live experience it ultimately seemed to be a brave experiment that didn’t quite work.
Much praise to the Picturehouse chain and Edinburgh’s recently lovingly-refurbished Cameo cinema for trying it out though. I’ll be curious to see if any other musicians try out this way of presenting a live show and I’m certainly more enthusiastic at the prospect of seeing Goldfrapp (really) in Glasgow next month.