Given unlimited funds, I would be following U2 around on their latest tour. But I’m 51 years old, my husband would question my sanity and I’ve got kids to drive to school. It’s not really an option. But now there’s Periscope and Meerkat.
I’ve virtually been to four U2 shows in a week — two in Vancouver and two in San Jose. After I’ve got my kids tucked in, I settle down on the couch to see Bono and the boys on their Innocence+Experience tour.
Tuesday night, I joined a stream by a guy named Mike who had a great spot near the stage. Hundreds of us thanked him and watched the show on our phones as he held up his phone, zoomed in on The Edge and gave us all a great view. It’s almost as good as being there.
Here’s how it works: when the show starts around 8 p.m., I start pecking around on Periscope to see if anyone has a live stream going. I also monitor U2 fan sites on Twitter for stream recommendations. On opening night, a guy in Vancouver streamed the whole show, with 2,000 people watching by the end. His connection dropped seconds before The Edge took one step too many and fell off the stage.
These apps are a game changer — live video as it happens. People around the world are joining in and celebrating this new technology. It lets us all be where we’d most like to be at that very moment.
During my Periscope searches, I’ve seen streams of Neil Diamond shows, hockey games and East Coast TV streams, presumably for the benefit of time-zone delayed West Coast viewers.
These apps can be glitchy. The shows in Vancouver had clear uninterrupted streams and I only jumped around a couple times, looking to follow streamers with the best view. The next stop on the tour — two nights in San Jose, connections were lost over and over and I had to keep searching. I missed entire songs.
I’m not sure what is in it for the streamers, they probably don’t care that they have hundreds of followers now on Twitter and Periscope. But all of us fans at home on the couch send them love by tapping the corner of our screen, which sends a stream of hearts to thank them. There’s also a chat stream that alternates between annoying comments about the show and kind words of gratitude to the broadcaster.
People in Russia send their thanks, viewers in New York tell others watching which concerts on the tour they’ll be at. People complain about the choice of songs. People say Bono looks old (he looks great at 55!). And lots of viewers promise that they’ll Periscope the shows in their town to return the favor.
I wonder what’s in it for the bands. Both nights in San Jose Bono tried to get an onstage Meerkat stream going, but presumably due to technical difficulties at the venue, it hasn’t worked. I haven’t managed to see that official U2-approved stream.
Both Meerkat and Periscope are works in progress. Will concert promoters try to block cell signals so people can’t stream the video? Will there be paid options?
I hope the free market reigns. Video streaming won’t kill concert ticket sales. There really is nothing like the feeling of being a participant in the crowd, especially when it’s a band you love and appreciate and you are surrounded by others who’ve made the sacrifice of time and money that it takes to get to a show.
I will still go to shows when I can — when it’s not on a school night, and when musicians I love perform in my city.
But for now, these new apps are almost as good as being there — all I’m missing is the 12-hour general admission lineup to get a viewing spot by the rail and the $100-plus ticket prices.
- Christie Ritter
May 20, 2015