Thursday, November 29, 2007

An Upstage Battle

Ever been to a concert where the opening act totally mopped the floor with the headliner? If you've been to enough concerts, chances are pretty good that you caught an up and coming band obligated to a supporting role before Pitchfork gave their album an 8.7. Or maybe the headliners were sick, worried about taxes, or too fucked up to perform. Or maybe, just maybe, the opening band was just a better band, plain and simple.

I guess you could say I've been thinking about this very topic since the Range Life staff witnessed an upstaging with our very eyes on Monday night (refer to the previous post for details). But just in case you were wondering, here are a a couple of others that I have seen. Feel free to share your own experiences in our comments section.

Headlining Artist: Beck
Opening/Upstaging Artist: The Flaming Lips

Five years ago, Beck toured across the country with the Flaming Lips, stopping in Lawrence, Kansas for a night. Now, I know that long-time Flaming Lips fans will see this and think, "Why did they ever open for Beck? Should it have been the other way around?" Yeah, probably. But you have to remember, the name Beck sells more tickets, or at least it did in 2002. I know, I know, the Flaming Lips have solidified themselves into the psyche of many Americans thanks to their live shows, but its not like everyone just woke up one day and knew the Flaming Lips were a fucking blast to see live. Many of us had to catch them opening for other bands. Then we had to tell our friends.

The Flaming Lips' live show was pretty much the same as it is now, minus Wayne in his bubble and no UFO. The costumed dancers were there, confetti and balloons were in the air (see above picture), and a giant video screen played clips of kickass Japanese women - yeah yeah! The Lawrence show was on the second leg of the tour, and by most accounts - even Beck's own admission that night - Beck's shows (which featured the Flaming Lips as his backing band, no less) became rowdier and more fun, which tells me he knew deep down that he had to compete with them, if only for the sake of his audience. Early stops on the tour saw Beck playing more off Mutations to fit with the Sea Change mood. That all ended way before they made it to Lawrence. To be fair, Beck's set was pretty awesome, just not as awesome as the Flaming Lips.

Headlining Artist: BRMC
Opening/Upstaging Artist: The Rapture

About six months before my old roommate and I drove to Columbia, Missouri to catch this show, the Rapture played Lawrence opening for the Shins. By all accounts, the Rapture owned the Shins that night. Most people I talked to started to hate on the Shins after that. I wasn't there, so I cannot say for sure whether or not the Shins sucked that night. Instead, I took it as a sign that the Rapture were just fucking amazing live. I was not too far off.

In concert, the Rapture were less glamorous than I imagined. Their music, too, was also a little less glamorous, and a little more raw. But I liked that. The show was at the Blue Note, a venue that's a little grimy, so the dirtier sound fit the aesthetic. Despite not sounding as pristine, the band hit every right note. Their excitement and enthusiasm carried over into the crowd, who danced along to every beat. When Luke Jenner invited people on stage, I jumped (quite literally) at the chance, pulling up other young college age kids along with me. After the song, and back on the floor, things only escalated from there. I danced with everyone. Men, women, it didn't matter. I was too far gone, floating in a constant heaven with hundreds of my new best friends.

BRMC took the stage and played a few new acoustic numbers, not a good way to start if you're trying to keep an audience full of young, horny twenty-somethings entertained. I watched their whole set, and they were alright, but I don't think I've listened to them since.


Comely said...

I have an even better one. It sadly isn't my story, but that of my dad. My dad when to go see R.E.M., and was front row for it. There happened to be a band with one hit who where on the verge of releasing their second album. This band just so happened to be Radiohead. My dad tells me of the amazement he had when Fake Plastic Trees was played.

Femme Fatale said...

Well shit, Comely. I can't top that. In fact, I don't think I even want to post MY list now. Damn.

Oh well...

April 8, 2002 – Elbow opens for Pete Yorn. Yes, this is an oldie. I wasn’t ever really that into Pete Yorn to begin with, and when I heard Elbow for the first time, I was in heaven. What are those guys up to now…?

April 9, 2004 – Grandaddy opens for Saves the Day. They played an amazing version of “He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s the Pilot” that nearly took up their entire set. Wow.

June 6, 2006 – Broken Social Scene opens for Death Cab for Cutie at Bleeding Kansas Festival (This one pissed me off so much I didn’t go. Nobody puts BSS in the corner.)

May 12, 2007 – The Rapture opens for Shiny Toy Guns. I wasn’t sure I should have stuck around on this sinking ship, but the Rapture played an incredible show that made me forgive them for Pieces of People We Love. I think the point of this is that the Rapture should NEVER open for anyone. Not that I stuck around for STG…

I know there are better ones that I’m forgetting.

I think we need to do a post about KICKASS openers, because I can think of a ton that were really really amazing, but not necessarily better than the headliners.

The Moon said...

I would have to agree... I don't think The Rapture should open for any one either... unless maybe it was an equally impressive dance/rock band like !!!, LCD, The Faint, etc.

Oh, and...

The Narrator opening for Chin Up Chin Up @ The Replay Lounge on March 14th 2007