U2 vs. Pressgang Mutiny

Okay, so the one "versus" the other is a bit misleading. What this is really about is big vs. small, or spectacle vs. intimate.
Last Saturday we stopped by a local watering hole for a glass of OCB and to see a band that calls itself Pressgang Mutiny - a band name that in and of itself makes you want to check it out really. Three guys, no instruments, doing a cappella versions of sea shanties (chantey, chanty). They were great. Not sure how they knew what note to start on - no reference, not even a pitch pipe.
What was really inspiring though was that just three voices were literally stopping people in the street. It was a nice afternoon, so the pub's garage door style front window was open, and passers-by were stopping to listen and to peer in. There was a look on the faces like "Wow, what a fabulous sound." And the guys made it look effortless. In fact I'm not sure I've ever seen a band that moved so little. Two of them kept their hands fastidiously at their sides, and one stood with his arms crossed throughout. Didn't matter. They didn't need any physical histrionics to create a very arresting presentation. Then a fourth singer joined them who was a little more dynamic and added some energy in the higher end, and things really took off. Just one of those lovely little summer afternoon happenings that make the time of year so special.
Two days later we ambled off to see U2 at the local hockey arena. We were in the nosebleed section, one row removed from the last row in the building. This show was LOUD, but that's my only complaint. What really interested me though was how much more effort it took to create he same effect as the Pressgang Mutiny guys when presenting on such a huge stage. The U2 show is a technological marvel, with the band members moving around inside a giant scrim, images projected over them, a stage stretching from one end to the other that they moved along together and separately. Bono is a great singer, the band is impeccable and they have a few decades of familiar material to draw from to create their set list. Still, much of the effort of the show is expended trying to create an intimate atmosphere in the giant cavern. Springsteen - and Great Big Sea too - manage this without all the fancy bells and whistles, relying on sheer showmanship and charisma (and great chops too). U2 seems to feel they need a lot more mediation to draw the crowd in, even though they share certain musical staples with the likes of GBS and Springsteen: anthemic sing-a-long bits, virtuosic soloing, great dynamic arrangements, wonderful musicianship and very powerful lead singing.
Anyway, two completely different theatrical experiences in three days, both completely absorbing. Feels pretty special to have seen them both.
Oh, and the other big difference? Tip jar vs. um, a fairly pricey ticket.
PS I would be remiss if I didn't mention Adam Clayton, who is so solid and an amazingly imposing presence; Larry Mullen Jr, a brutally powerful, precise drummer; and the preternaturally gifted The Edge, who does things on the guitar (while singing harmonies too!) that seem impossible to hackers like myself. Exceptionally gifted band.
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