Who is a gig for? Who is meant to be entertained by the experience? It's a genuine question, because this summer I've been getting irritated by the number of stories I've read about artists appearing to presume that thousands of people have gathered for their convenience, rather than to have a good time, as provided by said artist.
There was Justin Bieber taking to the stage long past the bedtime of most of his audience at the O2, Wiley tweeting his way round the festival circuit expressing his disgust at being in Somerset and then Cumbria. This weekend, we had Beyoncé taking the stage half an hour late at the V Festival, and Plan B cutting short his slot supporting Eminem at Slane Castle in Ireland, because "we don't really wanna be here," and telling the crowd: "You should feel ashamed. No fucking mosh pit."
I'm sorry? Can we just check who was getting paid to go to Slane Castle, and who was paying to get in? I can feel the Victorian factory foreman inside me raising his voice: You signed the contract, now bloody honour it. After all you're getting paid for it. Even if the entire crowd at Slane Castle was ignoring Plan B – which, let's hazard a guess, it probably wasn't – he was still committed to the arduous task of a brief support slot. So long as he wasn't suffering ill health or in immediate receipt of terrible news affecting his state of mind, he should have fulfilled his contractual obligations. Ditto Wiley. Ditto Beyoncé. Ditto Bieber. Ditto every primadonna who has forgotten that once you step foot on a stage, you're an entertainer: you have as much in common with Danny La Rue as with Dylan.
Reading on mobile? Click here to watchThen there's the sheer presumption of complaining about the crowd's failure to mosh. Only a fool would disagree with the idea that the reaction of a crowd can make a profound difference to a gig: a wildly responsive crowd can tip a gig from good to great; a wholly unresponsive crowd can tip it from good to grim. But when you're a big star, playing to a crowd of tens of thousands, many of whom may well have been imbibing for many hours already, then the artist is holding all the cards. Is it just possible that the Slane Castle crowd might simply have been unimpressed with Plan B? I don't know: I wasn't there, but even if Plan B had been playing a blinder, did the crowd really have a duty to form a moshpit just because he wanted one? Of course not.
What these artists are doing is abdicating their own responsibility for events. By taking the stage late, by telling the world they don't want to be at a festival, by leaving the stage early, they are announcing that it is not their responsibility to satisfy you, the ticket holder; instead it is your responsibility to indulge them, these heroes of the microphone. Unless you are willing to show them they are the most important person in the world, you are unworthy to recieve their benificence. You'd think they were doing something rather more important than singing pop songs, wouldn't you?
I mentioned Bob Dylan earlier. In the face of the constant genuflection before him, Dylan offered his own assessment of what he did for a living. It's one some younger stars might ponder. As Dylan said in 1965: "I think of myself as a song-and-dance man." He may not have meant it. But there's the truth about being a pop star.
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image: © Adam Sundana