Everyone’s had that “wow” moment. A dazzling set piece, a single heartfelt song, spectacular lighting effects, or the whole entire show – anyone who has ever experienced live entertainment has had at least one of these moments, no matter what side of the stage you were on.
My first was the weirdest and probably most memorable – no live performer, no stage lights, but it stuck with me: Toronto, Canada, 1980-something. The planetarium had just installed a brand new 16-speaker surround sound system and a 4-metre long, state-of-the-art electromechanical Zeiss-Jean Planetarium Projector Type 23/6. Now showing was Laser Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon. One night, mum packed us up and drove the two hours to the city to see it. I was only a handful of years old, totally new to technology, scared of the dark and probably the only person there with their mother and completely stone sober.
As the room lights dimmed, I felt a zing of excitement. Heartbeat…clock ticking…cash register…voices…helicopter…the cacophonous intro of Speak To Me was creeping out of the surround sound system, taunting mefrom every direction. Suddenly, the monster projector rose to life in the centre of the room like a giant robotic space-ant. I was terrified – but in a thrilling kind of way. Breathe. Yes, suddenly I could. Images began scribbling across the domed ceiling and they were mesmerising. I knew the music so well, I had been in this theatre before, but I had never experienced either the way I did that night. Visually. Physically. Emotionally. I was blown away.
Only recently, Australian audiences got their chance to be blown away by a spectacular production while witnessing an original Beatle play The Beatles. Paul McCartney’s ‘Got Back’ tour, according to the Herald Sun, “…combines epic and influential pop and rock, and stateof- the art production with every trick, treat, bell, whistle and sky rocket.” McCartney’s music – from The Beatles, to Wings, to his solo work – now spans across three generations of music-loving concert goers who all got to feel that moment together.
Social media feeds were jammed with resonating moments – experiences needing to be captured or shared with friends and family who couldn’t be there each night of the performance. Audience members smiling, hugging, swaying and singing. Snippets of the powerful horn section visible on the LED screens, lasers darting across the audience, an impressive array of lights sweeping across the stage and stadium, pyrotechnics and even some calm and simply beautiful moments featuring close-ups of Paul on the screens, his expression in song drawing each person into their own private moment with the artist. It was all very well-crafted and visually beautiful. What you were hearing seemed intrinsically connected with what was happening on stage around the music. And not just in a technically precise timecode sort of way. It just…fit.