At Playjazzblog, the author makes the point that audience discourtesy has grown in recent years, with which I would not argue. A few years ago, I witnessed two stragglers walk in on the last song of a David Binney set at Casa del Popolo, and proceed to talk through Binney's solo at the foot of the stage. Binney was compelled to chastise the dude, and everyone in the house held no grudge towards Binney's behaviour. That's an extreme case, and I would wager that that kind of blatant and oblivious disrespect would warrant a Jarrett-esque reaction from anyone. As someone who attempts to suppress his coughs (without noisily wrapped lozenges, I might add), puts his phone on silent and leaves his camera in its pouch, the other reason I am in no hurry to see Jarrett again is because of the "atmosphere he has created," as he said in Montreal last year. I find that atmosphere highly stressful - going into Jarrett's concert at Place des Arts, I was more concerned with whether someone would sneeze or take a photo than with the beauty of the music that would be taking place. His notoriety for his tantrums have possibly led to provocative audience behaviour ("let's see what Keith will do when I piss him off this way") instead of creating the sanctuary he so obviously needs. Bruce Hornsby is equally picky, and on certain bootlegs you can hear him take down people with cutting humour, interjecting "Tell 'em what they missed!" to latecomers before returning to his verse on a dime.
On the flipside, how much artist disrespect should audiences put up with? With Lauryn Hill having performed here on Sunday, I see an interesting parallel to Keith Jarrett. I was not at that show so I'm only going off the previous reviews I have read and the flurry of activity on my Facebook feed. Like Jarrett, Hill's behaviour of late is as much a part of the spectacle as her music: would she show up? How late would she be? Would she be on her game or not? She only graced the Metropolis stage at 1 am, and delivered a set that was reportedly mixed at best, with some glimpses of her magical talent buried under ham-fisted rock arrangements. That fear is why I didn't buy a ticket to see one of the best soul singers of our generation. Miseducation is an inarguably fantastic album, but Hill has not been firing on all cylinders since. (What happened to that whole neo-soul crew anyway? Maxwell took ten years to resurface, D'Angelo is who-the-hell-knows-where...) But Metropolis was full. At what point will audiences back away? I suppose when they buy tickets to this show and somehow still expect "Walk on the Wild Side."
It's a balancing act to be sure. Perhaps it's because I'm an artist at a level where I don't have the luxury of being dictatorial to my audience, but I tend to err on the side of being welcoming, or at least trying to. I've had my fair share of nights where the talking crowd is overwhelming and intrudes on the bandstand. But I've never made a big deal of it on the mic, nor have I stormed off stage. If Jarrett decided to remain in his home studio and put out gems like Jasmine, I might be more compelled to put down my dough to witness his mastery live, warts, risk and all. But considering the vast majority of his output since 1983 has been recorded live, I'll stick with the documents of audiences that venerate Jarrett and allow him to create, and allow me to listen in privacy, free of coughs and camera flashes.