If I had to sum up my thoughts on last night’s Mastodon gig at the O2 Islington Academy in less than 5 words, they would be “It is not cool”. Allow me to elaborate.
When Iron Maiden, touring to promote their (admittedly excellent) album A Matter of Life and Death they played the whole album, note for note, in its entirety from the beginning of the gig. That was not cool. However, in the fullness of time we forgave the Maiden their misdemeanor as, as they rightly put it, they had earned the right, after 2 and a half decades, to play their prized and critically acclaimed new album from start to finish live, should they so wish. Or to put it another way “we are Iron Maiden, and we can do what we want, so f*ck off!”. Fair enough as they did conclude the gig with some time honoured classics, but it still spoilt my enjoyment of the gig.
When The Mars Volta did the same thing, on their debut tour, celebrating their debut album, it was also not cool. But in fullness of time we learned to forgive them as, at that point it was the only material that they had ever recorded. They could have jumbled up the order a bit to make things a bit more exciting, but Deloused in the Comatorium was a concept album which threads a narrative, so playing it out of order would have seemed a little strange. Fair enough, and the quivering afros did enhance the entertainment value somewhat.
When Metallica chose to perform their seminal album Master Of Puppets (1986) while on tour in 2008, this was cool. This album had earned its right to be performed in its entirety live. I would have killed to have seen that.
When, last night, Mastodon decided it would be appropriate to perform their (admittedly excellent) album Crack in the Skye in its entirety (I can only assume as I left half way through track 6) IT WAS NOT COOL! It still is NOT COOL. Neither band nor album had earned that right, and they had plenty of other astounding musical ditties to choose from.
You see, live music is all about spontaneity. If I want to listen to an album I can stick it on my iPod anytime and listen to it. I can even jumble up the order so I don’t know what’s coming next. I don’t need to spend 15 quid to breath in other people’s sweat and queue at the bar for overpriced beer – I just put my headphones on. Unpredictability cannot, and should not be taken for granted. Part of the mystique of the live experience hoping, nay praying that they play your most prized track, watching the clock thinking closing time is drawing uncomfortably near. Will it come as part of the encore? Will there be explosions or and extended space jam (thank you for this many times Queens of the Stone Age)? Sculpting a set list is a different discpline than putting together an album’s running order. Knowing the setlist of AC/DC’s phenomenal gig at the O2 arena earlier this year actually detracted from my enjoyment of it, despite the fact that they always play the same stuff.
Hear me now Mastodon (or should that be Mastodon’t), it is NOT cool!
I can only thank Valient Thorr, last night’s support, for an electrifying and highly amusing performance in which the songs were in a random order and from multiple albums. Your beards are truly inspirational. Valient Thorr, that IS cool.