We are all the audience (and we are all Neil Young)

Every once in a while, at the beginning of a day (almost never later in the day, it seems), I run across passage in saved notes. Courtesy my favorite magazine, the passage is what Neil Young says to Jonathan Demme as they chat on Skype and edit a concert video together. They disagree about whether to include a crowd shot. What you get is not only a musician’s amusing rant, but a reminder of how, famous or not, we are all the audience, the performer (the observed) and kind of silly.

Yeah, but generally we hate the fucking audience. They disturb the whole thing. (On the laptop screen, Young waves his arms back and forth in the air, in the manner of an enthusiastic concertgoer.) They’ve got people who do that. They have people who wave their hands back and forth in the background. That’s what they do. It doesn’t matter what the music is. It’s a way to make a living, I guess. (Demme looks up at the clock and exchanges a glance with an assistant.) I remember we did a tour, and they had these cranes out in the audience, flying around, casting cones of light down on the audience, so that everyone in the audience had these halos on their heads. I walked out onstage and said to myself, “This is fucked up. I might not even play. This is so wrong.” All night long I was thinking, Why do I have to see people? I’ve never seen them before. I hate looking at them.

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