Monday, January 24, 2011

Consider the Source

Over the weekend the Manilow fan world was all abuzz about a negative concert review in the St. Petersburg Times. I guess what sparked the anger and desire to “circle the wagons” was the nature of the review and the way it was written. I hesitate to call it a review, except for the few song mentions, because it was more of a personal attack on Barry’s looks and catalog of songs. As angry as the fans were, I doubt this review will go down in the “putz” hall of fame because it wasn’t very well written and the reviewer didn’t take the time to establish any credibility or expertise in reviewing. I would guess that because of the review, the site got tons of hits and traffic (something any online newspaper values), even if it garnered some less than tasteful comments from the visitors.

Instead of blasting this guy for his words, I decided it might be helpful for all of us to see why and where he missed the mark. It’s true he didn’t like the music and that he had a personal opinion of the musician and his fans. But did he actually write something that can even be considered a “review”. To do this, I went to Google and did a search on “how to write a music review of a concert”. Since most of the results gave the same information, what follows is a synopsis of the top 5 elements of a GOOD review:

1. Keep your review in context with the style, or genre, of music performed at the concert. It’s perfectly clear that this reviewer did not understand any of these points in reference to Barry’s music. His concerts are composed of hits because that’s what his catalog of music includes, and it’s what the concert attendees expect. After 30 years of music, it’s impossible to include every song in the catalog or expect him to veer too much of course from the type of music his fans expect to hear.

2. Pay attention to the age range of the audience that the artist wants to reach. Barry’s music is not age specific, but it is the type of music that appeals to an older audience. You aren’t going to see him bust up a guitar or move across the stage like a teenager. He’s smart enough to know what he is good at and although he ventures into some different areas of music occasionally, he stays in the pop music realm because he knows his audience. You can understand every word to every song and it’s not artificially enhanced.

3. Note the versatility of the artist giving the concert. Barry is nothing if he isn’t versatile. He sings, performs, engages the audience, belts out power ballads, leads fun sing-a-longs, adds in those high energy songs, and makes you feel like you’re sitting in his living room at times. Versatile is his middle name.

4. Try to include the story behind the story. This reviewer never even mentioned why Barry was in Florida to do those concerts—to help the schools with musical instrument donations and raise funds for the Manilow Music Project. This, of all his omissions, was perhaps the worst.

5. Keep your review limited to a few songs that got your attention. While he did mention of few of the songs, he did not go into detail about why they got his attention or why he felt the need to mention them, except to make fun of their content. He did not display any kind of musical expertise related to the area of pop music, nor did he examine why the music has been so popular for so many years.

All of these “how to articles” also mentioned the audience. One of them said, “An adept concert reviewer may also comment on the audience. Was it a full house with standing room only or a sparsely attended event? Did the audience seem enthusiastic and involved or disappointed and disinterested?” It’s obvious by his review that he neglected to comment on the apparent excitement of the audience and an almost sold out venue.

As one fan pointed out, this review isn’t going to be remembered. What might happen, however, is the fans keep talking about it, giving it more attention than it deserves. Barry’s catalog of music speaks for itself. His tenacity as a performer speaks for itself. His long-term fan base speaks for itself. The fact that he packs arenas and venues after all these years speaks for itself. His career has spanned decades and that alone speaks for itself.

Here’s the question: why do we care what one bozo says? My mother used to say: consider the source. Judge the reviews you read, (fan or critic) by the above criteria to determine if it’s something you want to use to judge an album, music or concert by. It’s perfectly acceptable to not enjoy a performance. But if you can’t back up your opinion by anything other than personal attacks, it’s not worth the read. And, while I’m at it, it’s just as classless to take one person’s review, and slander a geographic group based on the simple fact that the reviewer lives there. Let’s not lower ourselves to his level and get personal.

I’ll wrap this up by posting the recap from one journalist discussing concert reviews: “The best concert reviews evaluate both content and performances, describing the songs and overall quality of the performance in specifics and overall.” I don’t see anything about commenting on a person’s age, looks, or personal characteristics.

Let’s move on (to Jacksonville, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale),

Texas Fan


you begin again.... said...

When I started my blog (and before I was totally comfortable w/ it!) I posted about critics too. This was about 3 years ago (!!!) and it sums up what you're thinking too.

Lori said...

Well said! I was at the show in Tampa and was totally confused by what this uniformed reviewer wrote about it. The show was amazing and we Barry gave 110%, as he always does. The man will obviously never get that it's all about the music :)

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