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Posted at 02:25 PM ET, 12/07/2011

Carl Bernstein presages decades of Constitution Hall kvetching


As Carl Bernstein can attest, attending a concert at Constitution Hall doesn’t sound as good as it looks. (Bill O'Leary - THE WASHINGTON POST)
Over on Click Track, David Malitz has the story of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee Donovan performing at Constitution Hall in 1967, and how some wannabe pop music writer named Carl Bernstein was there with his notebook:

“As the music began, 12 uniformed ‘security guards’ hired by the management began systematically pacing through the aisles, shining their flashlights in patrons’ eyes, under seats, on the walls.
...
“Donovan, who appeared to be a bit confused by the police and the necessity for starting the concert late, also had to contend with an atrocious sound system and lighting more appropriate to a police interrogation room than a concert hall.”

One of the two men who would help take down Richard Nixon after Watergate spent 12 of the review’s 14 paragraphs complaining about the venue! He was ahead of his time.

With a capacity of 3,700, the stately hall provides a mid-size venue for bands on the rise, but its echo-producing dimensions and hard surfaces create acoustic nightmares for sound engineers and music reviewers. Read on for Post reviews of acoustically challenged Constitution Hall shows, from Miles Davis to Mariah Carey:

The Leaden Little River Band

By Harry Sumrall, Sept. 28, 1979

“To their credit, the Little River Band’s show was slick and professionally packaged, with skillful lighting and a sound system which more than compensated for the hall’s miserable acoustics. But the group had nothing to say musically and their performance seemed pointless. After hearing the seven-piece group from Australia, it is tempting to suggest that rock ‘n’ roll is down ‘n’ out Down Under.”

MENUDO; Oooh! It’s Puerto Rico’s Cuddly Crooners & Their Adoring Teen-Age Throngs

By Alma Guillermoprieto, Sept. 24, 1984

“The prerecorded music track thumped a not-too-hard rock beat. They boys gyrated to a choreography that called for at least one pelvic thrust per beat. The audience screamed some more, drowning out the muddy acoustics of Constitution Hall.”

Miles Davis, Sharing the Glory

By Mike Joyce, Aug. 30, 1990

“Due to the hall’s notoriously poor acoustics, Erin and drummer Ricky Wellman never achieved a crisply focused sound as the septet moved through the kind of kinetic funk-fusion and languid blues found on Davis’s recent albums ‘Amandla’ and ‘Tutu,’ as well as the pop lyricism that characterized ‘You’re Under Arrest.’”

Minimal Maxwell at Constitution Hall Sweet-Voiced Singer’s Low-Cal Concert

By Teresa Wiltz, Sept. 7, 2001

“Poor acoustics didn’t help, with a muffled microphone drowning out the power of his supple vocals in the up-tempo numbers like ‘Now/At the Party’ and ‘Temporary Nite.’ ”

The Strokes

By Chris Richards, April 28, 2006

“The performance was heavy with cuts from the new album, ‘First Impressions of Earth’ — a collection of tunes that aren’t nearly as sharp (or as fun) as the quintet’s earlier material. The band managed, however, to breathe some fire into them onstage, no thanks to the notoriously dreadful acoustics of Constitution Hall. Ripping through ‘Heart in a Cage,’ Casablancas’s already moody bellow was muddled into an incomprehensible murk. ‘Ze-huuhhhh-eeees-innus-ayyy,’ he seemed to sing into the cavernous void. (Translation: ‘The heart beats in its cage.’)”

Carey is downsized but not out

By Chris Richards, Jan. 29, 2010

“It wasn’t always so easy to hear Carey, however. On her less acrobatic vocal runs, the singer’s words got lost amid the haze of the backing tracks, the voices of her backup singers and the cavernous acoustics that threaten to turn every show at Constitution Hall into sonic miso soup.”

By  |  02:25 PM ET, 12/07/2011

Categories:  Music

 
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