Folly Theater Remedies the Sad State of American Popular Music

Pop music is the aural wallpaper of our life and times. From the Broadway show tunes to Top 40 hits which monopolized American listening for the first half of the 20th century, it was primarily a temporal art form – background sounds for our daily doings. Rock and roll changed all that by simultaneously mirroring and shaping the current zeitgeist, broadening its scope and in its best incarnations ‑ providing depth, meaning and cultural relevance. It emerged in the mid-1950s, reached its zenith in the 1960s and 1970s and began a decline in the 1980s which continues to this day.

The advent of the Cyber era with its unholy grafting of video to audio has exchanged that meaning and relevance for vacuous disposable entertainment. Today’s concert reviews focus as much on costumes, dancers, visual effects and pyrotechnics as they do on musical/lyrical content. We’ve witnessed a “golden age” deteriorate into a gilded one. We’ve lost a great deal.

Thankfully all isn’t totally lost. The transitory impact of the big screen/bad sound quality of the arena event is mitigated by the existence of a few artists and venues devoted to the intimacy and deep emotional connections which provide memorable listening experiences. In Kansas City foremost among them is the historic Folly Theater which has been doing it for 114 years. If you’ve not experienced the intimacy and acoustical purity of this local landmark you’ve deprived yourself of the satisfaction that truly great performances uniquely provide, person to person relationships between artist and audience that impact the listeners’ perceptions of reality.

Bill Shapiro

Bill Shapiro is the creator and host of "Cyprus Avenue" which premiered on KCUR-FM in October of 1978. The weekly radio show has aired on over 50 stations in the United States. He is the author of "The CD Rock and Roll Library," 1988, and "The Rock and Roll Review" 1991, both published by Andrews & McMeel. Bill is a native of Kansas City, Missouri, and a tax and estate planner since 1962. He received his law degree from the University of Michigan.

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