January 23rd, 2018

Eye on the Esplanade: Live entertainment is going strong

By Medicine Hat News on December 1, 2017.

As an arts presenter I have to admit, there is no better feeling than standing at the back of a theatre to watch an artist perform to an energetic, engaged audience. Regardless of whether there are 25 or 2,500 people at the show, that feeling never gets old.

Back in the early 2000s there were many studies done and articles written foretelling the demise of the live event. With the rise of the internet and improvement in home theatre affordability, the fear was that people would draw into their shells and enjoy what were traditionally live experiences from within the comfort of their own home. Thankfully, that prediction has not come to fruition. In fact, the live event industry has grown dramatically over the past 15 years.

With the growth of streaming services such as Spotify, artists can no longer depend on album sales to make their living. The resurgence of touring has become incredibly important to the artist, not only as a way to connect with fans, but as their primary source of income. Touring productions have gone in two different directions in the past few years.

Some tours are becoming more elaborate and spectacular in order to win over fans. Tours such as the recent Roger Waters production feature performers on a stage tricked out with sophisticated visual components: High-definition video screens, a floating orb equipped with a camera, a collapsible replica of the iconic Battersea Power Station pictured on the cover of Pink Floyd’s “Animals.” These shows leave the audience member energized, amazed and wanting more.

The flip side is that we are also seeing more artists looking to perform in smaller, more intimate venues. While these shows often fetch a higher ticket price for all seats, there is something very magical and intimate about watching a performer such as Melissa Etheridge or the late Chris Cornell perform only a few feet away. When you can make eye contact and a connection with an artist who is there to entertain, the show takes on a whole new level of meaning.

We are also seeing large franchises develop new products to capitalize on smaller emerging markets. We are seeing it with the Cirque du Soleil production Crystal that is coming to the Canalta Centre in May. This show was specifically designed and developed to play smaller centres that do not often get this level of spectacle. We are seeing large Broadway musicals such as “The Illusionists” trim down their production to fit into smaller theatres, and even arenas, as they are playing the Enmax Centre in Lethbridge in April.

It’s certainly an exciting time to be a presenter in this industry as the options and possibilities are virtually limitless. It’s good to see that the prognosticators got it wrong!

Trampas Brown is in charge of theatre operations, programming and facilities at the Esplanade.

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