Archive for category 6. That’s entertainment

Love, love me do…

I received an email from my friend Dan from some foreign Qantas lounge while he was en route to the mysterious Orient. Dan was mortified that only hours after departing our shores and desperate for news of his homeland, he cranked up his laptop and pointed it to New Zealand News websites only to be inundated with breaking news about some Love me dowoman from a reality TV show who had fallen out of love, or fallen in love and it was someone else who fell out, or something. Whatever had happened, Dan was outraged that when he wanted updates on the dairy prices, the crime statistics and the latest earthquake in Christchurch (a pleasant 4.7), what dominated the website was the outcome of the Bachelor TV reality show.

I thought Dan was just grumpy from air travel stress and just needed a gin and an eye mask, but when I turned on the 6:00pm TV News I understood what he meant. I don’t mind it being on the News, but this is the story that you expect as a bit of light relief at the end of a News bulletin, right alongside “and now, a horse with a two metre foreskin….” Instead, this Bachelor story led the News and the newsreader seemed so genuinely solemn about it. What is it about that Peter guy who often reads the News? He weirdly seems to brighten up with a grin to read particularly gruesome piece of News involving death and destruction. It’s almost as emojiif emoji symbols are part of the cue card system and that someone in the background keeps amusing himself by putting up a happy face instead of a frowny face.

I have seen this Bachelor Show, but only in bite-size bits, as I channel surf looking for either a decent movie, Sherlock Holmes or David Mitchell, Lee Mack and Rob Brydon on Would I lie to you. The little I have seen always brings out the responses like “oh you have got to be joking’; ‘this cannot be for real’; ‘who would humiliate themselves like that?’ ‘What a bunch of airhead skanks’; ‘Who would ever date that silly cow after seeing this?’ or simply ‘What a plonker.’

Not all of these comments were directed at just one episode. I see less than five seconds of each show at a time as I channel surf and the comments are therefore spread out over many shows. So it is a well balanced and consistent reaction based on a valid representation of the entire series.

I know every generation since Socrates has despaired for the next generation and still here we are. Socrates wrote “The children now love luxury. They have contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” 2400 years later, here we are again. Replace ‘chatter’ with ‘twitter’ and I couldn’t have put it better myself, Socrates, old son.

But, and it is a capital BUT, now we have reality TV shows that old Socrates didn’t have to consider. Ok maybe a bit of cooking or house reno reality is tolerable, but when it comes to the intimacy of dating from the ‘getting to know’ a complete stranger to expressing feelings of deep love and commitment? Well doing all that on TV, and in open competition with a harem of other airheads, that is really something else again. That is just cringy. But, what do I care? When I was a lad, we conducted all our embarrassing dating disasters in privacy, with generally no more than one witness whose version of events could always be disputed (nahhh it was me who dumped her, mate).

So let these children worry about it being re-played in HD at inappropriate times in years to come by their children’s friends. I just smiled knowingly and thought of this is as the just the folly of youth. Until I opened the local paper today when I, as usual, scanned the cartoon on the Editorial page. Today’s cartoon featured Donald Trump, not the best cartoon I have seen but, as fate would have it, the slightly exaggerated sweep of his hair directed my eye to a letter-to-the-editor beside it. It was written by a Betty Ferguson of South Dunedin. Her caption in her letter to the editor read “That’s no way to treat a lovely lady“. This was Betty’s response to the outcome of the Bachelor. I just chuckled in mirth as dear old Betty went into bat for the badly-treated ‘Fleur’. She claimed that Fleur Verhoeven, the blue eyed blonde, was ‘inspirational’ while ‘that dark haired (do you really mean dark-skinned Betty old dear?) Naz Khanjani should have been asked to depart from the contest for her behaviour.”  And on and on until finally claiming that she was proud of Fleur and wished her every success in the  futureI googled and found a photo of Betty Ferguson in the local paper; she is a sweet, little white-haired 92 year old who makes Anzac posies

As I discovered, the Bachelor drama was all about victory having been snatched from Fleur after the prize-giving. The carefully crafted insinuation by the Bachelor producers’ PR team was that the ‘ex’ (that dark-haired woman!) had humped the groom right after the engagement party. This minor indiscretion caused the groom to question his commitment and call off the wedding. That was a smart move by the Bachelor’s producers and PR team. They get all that drama and publicity for the next season’s show without the cost of filming and airing it. 

But oh Betty, you sweet, caring (but possibly slightly bigoted?) little old lady; all swept up in a reality TV show that you thought was actually real. “Badly-treated” was actually “badly-acted”. So it’s not just the young generation who have totally lost the plot. Betty, you have brightened up what was starting to look like a dull day.
SocratesAnd so, Socrates my old cobber, what pearls of philosophy do you have about this Bachelor reality TV show?

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Fleetwood Mac: we love you man.

It almost seemed that the Stadium was built for this night.

Almost 50 years after Fleetwood Mac was formed and forty years after the “Rumours”  era that really launched them, we could have been forgiven for expecting that this was just another ‘final last gasp tour’ that seems to typify music-legend visits to this part of the world.

But it was hard to reconcile that these people who were absolutely rocking the stadium were now in their late sixties and early seventies. For a few hours we felt that our cropped grey scalps were again shoulder length locks blowing in the summer of breeze ’77. Once again we were wearing denim jacket and denim jeans flaring over tasseled suede boots.

But this performance also clearly demonstrated the difference in the experience of a band against that of a solo artist. Lindsey Buckingham expressed it when he talked about their music being the exposure of themselves; an invitation to their fans to understand them, both individually and collectively, in a very personal way. These band members were living the rock and roll lifestyle which came with its two ugly sisters, sex and drugs. During the seventies the McVie’s had been married and divorced; Lindsay and Stevie had been long-term partners and had split up and Mick Fleetwood who was married to Jenny Boyd, sister of Pattie, divorced, remarried and re-divorced and, during the reconciliation period, had a two year affair with Stevie; yet still the music played on. It was during this period of acrimony that their greatest album and greatest hits were written and performed. This was the aptly named “Rumours” album.

Lindsay Buckingham wrote his iconic “Go your own way”.

If I could, maybe I’d give you my world
How can I, when you won’t take it from me
You can go your own way
Go your own way
You can call it another lonely day
You can go your own way
Go your own way

An unmistakable message to Stevie that resonated with a massive audience. Stevie responded straight back at him with one of her greatest songs, Dreams:

Now here you go again
You say you want your freedom
Well, who am I to keep you down?
It’s only right that you should
Play the way you feel it
But listen carefully to the sound
Of your loneliness

Like a heartbeat.. drives you mad
In the stillness of remembering what you had
And what you lost…
And what you had…
And what you lost

Thunder only happens when it’s raining
Players only love you when they’re playing
Say… Women… they will come and they will go
When the rain washes you clean… you’ll know, you’ll know

Now here I go again, I see the crystal visions
I keep my visions to myself
It’s only me
Who wants to wrap around your dreams and…
Have you any dreams you’d like to sell?
Dreams of loneliness…

Like a heartbeat… drives you mad…
In the stillness of remembering what you had…
And what you lost…
And what you had…
And what you lost

Christy McVie, reflecting on her emotions following her separation from John, wrote her equally successful “Don’t stop (thinking about tomorrow)” and on the same Rumours album she wrote “You make lovin’ fun’ openly declaring her affair with the band’s lighting director.

And, while drugs were no stranger in this group, Stevie developed a massive cocaine habit, later confessing to be the worst drug addict in the group. She wrote a song, Gold dust woman, on the Rumours album, which is assumed by fans to be about her cocaine addiction. Christy McVie said she had no idea what Stevie was writing about and Buckingham assumed it included some acrimony directed towards him. But Stevie said she just could not remember what she was writing about.

Rock on gold dust woman.
Take your silver spoon, dig your grave …….
Lousy lovers pick their prey,
but they never cry out loud.
Did she make you cry, make you break down,
shatter your illusion of love…….
she’s a dragon, gold dust woman.

You can make up your own mind about what she was saying, but it seems to demonstrate the old saying that if you can remember everything about the seventies, you probably weren’t there. So when we watched and listened to Fleetwood Mac last night, it was more than listening to a collection of old pop songs, we were sharing intimately the lives of five people, 3 men and two women, and their forty plus years of Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle. And ultimately the triumph of respect and deep love over acrimony. You just don’t get all that human drama with a solo artist.

Despite the reality that this concert was the second last venue of a fourteen month global tour, this was no tired old group going through the motions to prop up the retirement fund. This group was seriously good, amazingly energetic and engagingly open. They did not sing to us, they embraced us with their music and their lyrics and, for a few hours, they made us feel that we really were part of this rock and roll life of theirs. They seemed to genuinely project that the journey they began together in the seventies was as organic today as it was forty years ago. That they were reconciled and reunited in 2014 for this world tour, makes the words of the Rumours song ‘Chain’, which was the only record on the album jointly credited to all five of them, very prophetic:

I can still hear you saying
You would never break the chain. 
Chain, keep us together
Running in the shadows

But the underlying feeling that came out of the concert was not that they were glorifying the excesses of a rock and roll life nor regretting their choices; but rather that they were rejoicing in the fact that they had overcome all the personal dramas that are amplified in such a lifestyle; that they had overcome the acrimonious reactions to rejection and betrayal and have emerged as a group full of love and respect for each other. And so it was appropriate that they ended the concert with Christy McVie singing the beautiful “Songbird.”

And the songbirds are singing, like they know the score.
And I love you, I love you, I love you, like never before.

This event at our stadium was the penultimate episode of an epic 50 year rock and roll reality show and it was a privilege to be part of it. Rock on Fleetwood Mac. We love you man.


gosh we larfed…

I went to Alan Davies stand-up comedy show the other night. Yes it was funny, really funny. Not just for me, everyone around me was chuckling and laughing aloud throughout the show. A couple of hours of humour does the old soul a lot of good and so was well worth the price of entry. Certainly more soul-uplifting than a night on the tiles.

It is only after I had returned to the sobriety of the outside world and tried to retell the jokes that made us all laugh so much, I recognised that there were no jokes. Joke telling is domain of Ronnie Corbett, “There was an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scot in a bar………….” which may make me smile slightly, but certainly never laugh with tears rolling down my cheeks. Jokes may be clever, sometimes, witty, sometimes but they are always contrived. And that is where they lose that side-splitting response.

The telling moment was when Alan was relaying a story from his childhood about how his father, with whom he apparently had a loveless relationship, responded to Alan spending an extravagant 85p on a tennis ball. Alan said, “if he had calmly explained that ‘while I know, Alan, that you have done what you thought was the right thing, the shopkeeper has taken advantage of you’, then I probably would not have become a comedian.” It was the actual, marginally-psychotic, response of his father that made for an hilarious, eye-watering recount for about ten minutes. The difference between being a comedian and not was in having had very unhappy experiences as a child and a loveless relationship with a neurotic father.

And there was the difference between the hilarious Alan Davies and the mildly amusing Ronnie Corbett. Alan Davies was somehow turning the unhappy aspects of his childhood into a lucrative career, bringing joy and hilarity to about 1500 Dunedinites. My seat at this event cost $69.90.

At its entry-level it is called self-deprecating humour. There are theories about why we enjoy this. Anthropologist, Gil Greengross published a study in the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology in 2008 with the title: Dissing Oneself: The Sexual Attractiveness of Self-Deprecating Humour. This is based on a combination of two factors, a) that potential partners do not like you to brag, they like humility; but in being clever enough to find witty humour in your faults or misfortunes then you actually use a ‘minor’ fault or misfortune to demonstrate much more desirable attractions of intelligence and a sense of humour.

Another anthropologist, Kate Fox, says: “Pomposity and self-importance are outlawed. Serious matters can be spoken of seriously, but one must never take oneself too seriously… As long as everyone understands the rules, they are duly impressed both by one’s achievements and by one’s reluctance to trumpet them.”

It may be the reality, but the ‘why’ is confusing. Usually the law of natural selection would tell us the loudest-crowing cock gets the hens. But Sapiens breaks a lot of rules of nature. I must write about Yasal Harai’s book “Sapiens” sometime. But essentially Harari believes Sapiens has achieved its global dominance by creating cultural myths and beliefs to over-ride the laws of biology, for the purpose of achieving the unnatural mass co-operation; that is the reason for our global dominance. Not as heavy as it may sound at first, but I will go into in more detail another time.

But there is a big jump from impressing a potential partner to having an audience of hundreds or thousands of ticket-paying members tearing up in laughter at a sad or even tragic event. Alan started by building an empathy with the audience, mocking his issues of aging and getting moderately-seriously injured going through the traumas of child-rearing, (Such humour has its vaudeville roots in the good old custard pie in the face gag) before getting into the heavy stuff of recounting a loveless childhood with a neurotic father which is going a big emotional step further than being a little self-deprecating. This is not a forgivable character flaw, this is publicly exposing private, personal misfortune.

Mark Twain is quoted as saying “Humor is tragedy plus time.”  Thats a bit like people getting through a tragedy saying “One day we will look back on this and laugh.” Conversely someone may respond “too soon” when a joke is told about a recent tragic event. So when we are significantly separated from a tragedy by time, geography, social status etc., a tragic event can be seen as funny. But still the question is ‘why? Why does someone else’s misfortune bring tears of joy and laughter to us’. Why do we quite happily part out with $69.90 to hear about someone else’s misfortunes and weep with laughter rather than weep with sadness?

Psychologists write a lot of psychobabble about laughter and phiosophers write a lot of Philocrap. As I can read it the modern consensus is based on studying our primate relations. Modern researchers conducting experiments with chimpanzees believe that, unlike traditional explanations from observers such as Plato, Aristotle and Freud who thought it was all about humour, the modern opinion is that primal laughter evolved as a signaling device to highlight readiness for friendly interaction.”

When Robert R. Provine tried applying his training in neuroscience to laughter in the late 1980’s years ago, he began by dragging people into his laboratory at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, to watch episodes of “Saturday Night Live”. The people just didn’t laugh much at all.

So he went out into the streets and malls and recorded thousands of incidents where laughter was provoked. He found that 80 percent to 90 percent of them came after straight lines like “I know” or “I’ll see you later.” He also found that most speakers did more laughing than their listeners; that they used laughter just to break up their sentences. It is actually a largely involuntary process. “ Laughter is an honest social signal because it’s hard to fake,” Professor Provine says. “We’re dealing with something powerful, ancient and crude. It’s a kind of behavioral fossil showing the roots that all human beings, maybe all mammals, have in common.” 

images-3Professor Provine and associate Professor Panksepp determined from their studies that the first primate joke — that is, the first action to produce a laugh without physical contact — was the feigned tickle, the same kind of coo-chi-coo move parents make when they thrust their wiggling fingers at a baby. Professor Panksepp thinks the brain has ancient wiring to produce laughter so that young animals learn to play with one another. The laughter stimulates euphoria circuits in the brain and also reassures the other animals that they’re playing, not fighting.Professor Panksepp says. “Sophisticated social animals such as mammals need an emotionally positive mechanism to help create social brains and to weave organisms effectively into the social fabric.” Their conclusion is that laughter is a social lubricant and that who and what you laugh at reveals your spot in the social pecking order.

That did not quite fit with my feeling about why we were all laughing so hard as Alan Davies recounted the dramas and misfortunes he has experienced in life and his “Little Victories” (as the performance was entitled) over these misfortunes. This was no social lubricant with either Alan Davies or with any of the rest of the audience as I had no intention of socialising with any of them. Nor do I buy in to the Provine/ Pankskepp natural extension that mature Sapiens specimens are as simple minded as monkeys and babies who guffaw at pretend tickles. It may of course simply be that Sapiens has evolved as the most dominant species on the planet because essentially we are a cruel, nasty species which is genetically encoded to take enormous pleasure in others misforunes, but I do not wish to believe that as I am speaking of my own species. 

So I will propose my own theory. Because we have all suffered misfortune, we can empathise with the comedian who has suffered his own particular misfortune. But the comedian also has the strength and courage to stand before 1500 strangers and actually mock his own unhappy memories. So when we cheer him loudly at the end, we are cheering and celebrating his spirit in challenging his adversity, and in so doing, defeating the forces that conspire to break our human spirit. We applaud that he has the strength of character to publicly expose his misfortunes rather than allow them to eat him from the inside. We share in his triumph. We laugh with him, not at him. For in a mature Sapiens, laughter is the ultimate challenge to the forces of adversity and, as such, is the best medicine for the human spirit.






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He sees dead people…..

I was an interested, but not convinced, viewer of “Sensing Murder”, the television series where psychics claim to communicate with the victims of unsolved murders in New Zealand. Despite some skepticism, I was much more a fan of this show than any of the magician shows, even though the magician shows were far more entertaining and delightful than “Sensing Murder”. But even though you had no idea how a $10 note you saw torn up before your eyes turned up intact in the wallet of a random spectator, you still knew that it was just an illusion. Not even the magician denies it is just an illusory trick. Unexplainable, much more so than “Sensing Murder”, but still an accepted fake, a deceit of the senses.

“Sensing Murder” claims to be a genuine psychic experience, not an illusion. But it would still have been very easy to dismiss as fake. Yet, probably for that very reason, I could not so easily dismiss it as such (was I victim of a double bluff ? where the potential for faking it is so obvious that we don’t believe they would be so dumb, therefore it must be true). And this doubt made it made much more compelling viewing for me than David Copperfield which I knew, beyond doubt, to be fake. So when Kelvin Cruickshank and his amazing troupe of dead people rolled into town for a performance, I thought, why not?

I expected to be one oddball amongst a couple of dozen gypsies, but was quite stunned that, arriving 20 minutes before the start, I could hardly find a seat. Almost as far from the performance as I could be. There was also quite a range of ages and characteristics represented. It was a congregation that most churches would be very envious of, and even if they had those numbers, they surely would not be getting $65 in the collection box as Kelvin Cruickshank was (plus book sales). On the dot of seven KC (as he referred to himself) strode confidently into the room without a sign of the limp that his name promised.

He spent quite a bit of time warming up (or calming down) his audience before deciding that he could see enough dead people to make a decent show and then over a couple of hours he spoke on behalf of a dozen or so dead people to the appropriate people in the congregation. None of my lot turned up, but then they wouldn’t, would they? Just not their thing. There were tears and laughter among the chosen few as he passed on messages. He certainly appeared to be picking up some specifics that you would not expect; like the ‘dead man’ reminding his wife about his dentures in the glass and asking why? It turned out they hadn’t put his dentures back in his mouth when they buried him.

The lady next to me, not being shy, stuck up her hand to catch KC’s attention and insisted on being told about her family; a bit out-of-order but KC quickly told her that her mother was not a nice lady and then asked who the alcoholic was. That settled her down as she later said she had nursed an alcoholic brother who had since died and her mother had been such an unpleasant person that she had not even gone to her funeral. He also told her that her friend (beside her) had a spirit visitor called William (it was her father).

So where am I at the end of that. Any the wiser? Well my position is the same as it was when watching “Sensing Murder”. I don’t doubt these psychics can pick up messages and images, but the question I have is: ‘where from?” The answer of the psychics and the grief-stricken is that it comes from the souls of the dearly departed. That this pinpoint of energy, the soul,  manifests itself and other images in hologram form in the mind of the psychic and transfers written or verbal messages to the same psychic mind to be passed on. Who am I to say that is impossible? No one living through the last fifty years can rule anything out as impossible as the inconceivable has become reality in so many fields.

Is there a chance that he spikes the audience with stooges? Anything is possible, but I would almost bet the house that the lady with the bitch mother and alcoholic brother beside me was no stooge. I certainly don’t think a stooge-based show could be taken around NZ, to so many small, intimate towns, and sustained for too long before the secret was blown. And he has been going around the country for a few years now. 

But there is another source that also cannot be dismissed. The sceptics generally claim that the psychic simply throws out enough generalisations as bait until he/ she spots a reaction and builds from that with just some shrewd intuition until he/ she gets close enough to the truth, usually led by taking unsubtle leads from the emotional subject. I am sure a bit of that goes on at the lower end of the psychic business but, to give him his due, Kelvin Cruickshank was leading the conversations and certainly not taking cues from his audience. But one thing I do not underestimate is the huge amount of untapped capacity in the human brain. The often quoted “we only use 10% of our brain’s capability” is now generally accepted as a complete myth, nonetheless there do seem to be a variety of different ways that brains work to create different talents in individuals.

We know some peoples’ brains are left sphere dominant (language and logic) and others right sphere dominant (creative, intuitive, holistic). Some people are naturally mathematically wired up, even to the point where some have absolutely outstanding mental computing capabilities. Read about Arthur Benjamin as one example. Others are wired up for spatial understanding; there are numerous examples of outstanding child prodigies in music. Our brains can be variously wired to deliver unbelievable outcomes.

I do not think it unreasonable to think that different people with different brain-wiring that accentuates the right brain sphere to a level of intuition well beyond the cognisance of the average person. And I do not think it beyond the realm of possibility that at the highest end of the intuitive spectrum, one brain may be capable of actually reading images and messages from the energy waves sent out of another brain. That it is possible for some brains to communicate at a subliminal, non-verbal level. You may mock, but then you must conclude that he sees and talks to dead people.

So, you may ask, whose mind could he be reading in “Sensing Murder” when the victim was unknown to him and long since deceased? The answer is very simply the minds of the production staff who had so carefully researched the programme before he became involved and the police who are in attendance with the psychic process. All with their own information and theories.

I am not saying he is not a medium for the dearly departed. In the words of Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” I have myself witnessed events that have been pretty compelling as regards contact after death. I am certainly not denying the journey of the soul; again as I mentioned in an earlier blog, I refer you to Anita Moorjani’s compelling recounting of her near death experience.

But I am just wondering whether these travelling psychics are truly in contact with the dearly departed or whether they are in contact with the brains of the dearly grieving. If I was an exceptionally intuitively wired-up person who received images and messages into my brain that seemed to have very highly emotional resonance with grieving friends and relatives, and this was how I would earn my living, then I think I might also be presenting myself as a medium for the dearly departed rather than a mind-reader for general entertainment. It may well be that the psychic may have no more idea than I do where these images and words come from.

But if he helps people break out of the spiral of grief, then that is a positive thing and well worth the $65; I am even happy to donate my $65 to help others break out of that cruel spiral, for the natural cycle of life depends on saplings seeking the sunlight beyond the shadow of the fallen tree.


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Dunedin Stadium

Rockin’ Rod Stewart created another successful event at the Dunedin Stadium. The people came to Dunedin in their thousands. I did not attend myself, but from all observations they enjoyed a weekend break; filled our motels and hotels, dined out at our cafes and restaurants, took the opportunity to shop up for winter and to top it off Rod apparently lived right up to their expectations.

Well mostly. Again there were a few niggles about the suitability of our venue for concerts. Sound issues still persist. Even up close apparently Rod’s microphone was completely dominated by the rest of the bands’ microphones. From halfway down the pitch right to the back seats the visibility of the performer is pretty well non-existent and those in the two main stands have to keep looking sideways to watch the performance. Lets face it, it is a rugby stadium not a concert venue.

To declare my bias, while I enjoy a great concert as much as the next person, rugby is my primary interest in the Stadium, but I know we do need to make this stadium about more than rugby. The whole community is paying for it and so the whole community needs to be getting enjoyment from it.

And to be fair, it was pre-sold as a multi purpose venue, not just a rugby venue. The ongoing costs and losses incurred still irritate many in our community and I guess that is because they feel disenfranchised. They have a point when we continually hear these niggles about poor viewing and poor sound simply making the Stadium not suitable as a concert venue. So, if the venue is not ideal for concert-goers why did we secure three top acts this year? Well just look at the numbers for the promoters. Around 25,000 at Rod Stewart in Dunedin. He then went onto Auckland playing at Vector Arena with a capacity of 12,000. He did two performances there to get the same crowd as Dunedin in one concert. Before Dunedin he was in Australia he played at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre with a tiered seating capacity of 11,000 (plus additional standing capacity ) and even in Sydney, a city the size of the whole of NZ, he played at the Hope Estate outdoor amphitheatre in Hunter Valley with a maximum capacity of 20,000.

And our first mega concert at the Stadium, Elton John, flew in and out from Sydney to perform at Dunedin Stadium to a crowd of 35,500. But in Sydney he was performing at the Lyric Theatre which has a seating capacity of just 2,000. In 2012 Elton John opened the ‘state of the art’ Perth Arena to an audience of 15,000. It sold out and he did two performances. The Arena can hold over 50,000 for a sporting event, but as a true multi-purpose venue, the concert section of the arena, to ensure top quality sound, has a maximum capacity of 15,000.

With audiences of 30,000, Dunedin Stadium is certainly an attractive proposition for the promoters. But do we really have to compromise a concert experience to continually deliver those levels of numbers? The performer located at the end of the rugby pitch, 20,000 people viewing him from side-on progressively from a few metres away from the stage to over a hundred metres away, a few thousand seated progressively along a hundred + metre grass pitch and all at the same level, and Mitre 10 end stand which is well over 100 metres from the stage.

Dunedin always seems to have this ‘target’ of a 30,000+ audience which we seem to think we must deliver to get the acts here. We got there with Elton John, we will get there with Fleetwood Mac. But do we really need to make such a compromise in the concert experience to attract such acts to Dunedin when we compare the seating capacities of other venues they perform at in Auckland and Australia?

Imagine for example that we put the stage/ sound shell on the pitch facing the Speight’s Stand:

  • We have a seating capacity of 10,500 (similar to Auckland and Brisbane).
  • The performer is facing the audience.
  • The sound is directed straight to the audience.
  • The seating is tiered.
  • The proximity of the stand gives the audience a real intimacy with the performer.
  • Food and beverages are readily accessible at one of the hospitality lounges immediately behind the stand.

What a show that would be.

At $200 average per seat this is a revenue of over $2 million dollars for the night which is still not a bad night’s work. And if we can sell 20 or 30,000 seats then an extra show or two can be put on. Rod arrived in town on Thursday for the Saturday show. He could have easily put on a Friday/ Saturday performance.

Mega events are all well and good, but if you simply cannot deliver a mega experience then they  simply will not be sustainable. Add to the concert experience the other big niggle from this Rod Stewart concert, that many motels not only charged  premium rates in this low season period, but also put minimum stays of 2 and 3 nights, and people will soon be looking at the relative benefits of Auckland or Brisbane with more appropriately designed venues, more intimate experiences and more competitive accommodation.

I really think that if we want to make concert events a sustainable business for Dunedin, we need to think very carefully about the balance between audience numbers and experience delivery.

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