Middle-Aged Wasteland

November 15, 2012

Special effects from the Who concert (top) made more special by the limitations of my iPhone camera. And (directly above) the non-iconic backside of the Barclays Center just before opening day.

It gets worse.  Not only did I write kind words about Barclays Center, the rust-coated basketball arena that is the first building to go up in the much despised Atlantic Yards complex, but I actually went to a show there.  Last night.

I’d never seen the Who in concert.  If I was ever going to see them, I should have done so 40 years ago, when I cared, when Baba O’Riley was the best song ever.  But I never did.  A couple of years ago, Ed and I watched the band’s halftime performance during the Superbowl and it was so sad.  An elderly Pete Townshend still windmilling.  An over-the-hill Roger Daltrey still preening.  Both of them singing  anthems of  youth without conviction, no longer able to hit the high notes.

But someone bought Ed tickets to see the Who. So we went.  They were performing the album Quadrophenia (1973) in its entirety, an album I’d always liked.  And the show was better than expected largely because of the visuals.  I realize that I haven’t been to an arena rock concert in decades and that the visual component has really taken off.  The Who used four screens, one a large backdrop and the others overhead and shaped like cameos, to show historical footage of England in the post-war years, of Mods and Rockers, of the ocean, and of the Who themselves much, much younger (and in the cases of Keith Moon and John Entwistle, still alive). They had the good sense to use documentary footage to transform a rock opera about youth culture being sung by men in their late sixties (for an audience that was equally gray) into a meditation on the passage of time.

The other thing is that Barclays Center turns out to be a decent place to see a show.   They had crossing guards out front helping concert goers to navigate Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues.  The arena staff was competent and welcoming.  The brisket sandwich I had from the arena branch of Fatty’Cue was tasty.  And it was an easy subway ride home.

Which brings me to my latest Metropolis column, my review of the arena’s architecture in the context of the overall Atlantic Yards project.  The thrust of the article was that, while the arena is much better than anticipated, the project as a whole is still utterly misbegotten.  My suggestion was that SHoP, the  architects responsible for the  look of Barclays apply their talents to redoing the project’s masterplan.  Seems like a logical move to me.  But I couldn’t get any response from SHoP to my questions about whether this was in the realm of possibility.  However, a Nets website that picked up on my review of the arena said this:

Jacobs asks if SHoP can get its hands on the master plan for the rest of the site. In fact, it has and is working on re-shaping the original master plan laid out by Frank Gehry.

To which I can only respond: Hmmmm.