Barry Gordon: Bands need their USP

Conchita Wurst  winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2014. Pic: Comp
Conchita Wurst winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2014. Pic: Comp
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Austrian singer Tom Neuwirth’s Eurovision song-winning bearded lady character, Conchita Wurst, has reminded me of what’s distinctly lacking in music performance at the moment - a sense of the visual and the theatrical.

Gimmick or not, it’s got people talking. And had it not been televised to the world, seen instead on a local stage somewhere, you’d have still remembered it the day after, whether it appealed to your sensibilities or not.

Sure, beards aren’t exactly new in and around live Edinburgh music, but it’s not exactly challenging or memorable when that gristle belongs to a folk singer or a member of an indie band.

Simply put: if you’re going to cough up a tenner or so to see a band perform, surely you want to see something ‘happen’ as well?

The stiff, stood-like-tin-soldiers look for instance just doesn’t cut it any more. Performing in the clothes you put on that morning isn’t very attractive, either. Yet while projected images are at least an attempt to entertain, it ought to be pretty low down on your list.

Some bands’ members might think differently, but convincing your band-mates that wearing similarly garish costumes, breathing fire, or adding cage dancers to your stage act isn’t exactly easy in a democracy.

Being a reviewer, though, I get to see a lot of bands/artists I wouldn’t otherwise check out. Those that leave a lasting impression are often the ones who make a conscious attempt to bring their stage show to life.

Hawkwind, for example, with their gigantic Chinese dragon-esque puppets and costumed dancing girls was a difficult image to forget. So, too, were Elvis Costello’s spinning songbook/ hammer of songs, and Neil Young’s paintings-while-I-play idea.

No doubt the word ‘budget’ applies where less well-known musicians are concerned. However, any musician/band worth their salt should be creative enough to come up with something.