After 63 days without live music, a concert in an empty theatre restored my soul
It would be, to my surprise, the last time I would see live music for some time. A strange set of circumstances for someone who sees hundreds of gigs a year and is more often found at a venue listening to music than at home.
A 2017 music psychology study found a connection between habitual music engagement and subjective wellbeing. Basically going to gigs makes you happy. I didn’t need a psychologist to tell me that, I know I am at my best when I am in the middle of a heaving crowd watching one of my favourite bands play. Seeing Gang of Youths play the Enmore will, forever, be one of the greatest moments of my life.
Hell, I even enjoy going to gigs I don’t really like. There is something about the exchange of energy between the performer and the audience that feeds my soul, something about the unity of a crowd all moving as one, singing the lyrics back to the artist that fills the very core of my being.
Sixty-three days without it has been hard. Like many I have suffered periods of depression and anxiety, I haven’t felt myself for weeks. I have countered it with listening to recorded music, which I love, but it isn’t the same. I have watched countless gigs streamed from artists’ lounge rooms with varying degrees of success. I have even revisited clips on my phone from shows that I have loved. None of it has touched the place that a live gig can.
So when the Sydney Opera House invited me to cover the very first live-streamed event from the hallowed Joan Sutherland Theatre stage with Australia’s astonishingly talented Emma Pask, I leapt at the opportunity.
On Saturday night, I put on a smart jacket, I sprayed some cologne, I brushed my hair and I sat in the 1,507 theatre alone (but for the crew who were making it happen). Was it the same as being at a live gig with thousands of others? Absolutely not. Did it fill my soul? Absolutely. It felt like something that had been snatched from my hands had been given back to me and I cherished it. Pask was extraordinary, her energy gave me energy and, I hope, I was able to give her some back.
The lock down has been a sword through the heart of the live entertainment industry, decimating the income of thousands of people. But it has also been a knife through the heart of the people that make the industry hum; the fans.
Apart from the well reported disadvantages of being socially isolated, the lack of live performance in our lives removes the connection between music engagement and wellbeing.
As social distancing measures slowly lift and we begin the slow walk back to normality I, for one, am eagerly awaiting the moment we can dance together again.