For the first time in five years, musical legend Bob Dylan is back on tour: with sold out dates all over the UK including four shows in the London Palladium, demand to see the Nobel Prize-winning artist is as high as ever. Touring the UK from 19th October, Dylan has made the shows his own from piano solos to Frank Sinatra covers to, of course- no phones!
Dylan’s official website claims “our eyes open a little more, and our senses are slightly sharper when we lose the technological crutch we’ve grown accustomed to” in the absence of cameras or modern technology in the venue, making for a more intimate show. The phone-free policy works by partnering with Yondr, the company behind pouches that ‘lock’ phones and smartwatches during the show and are unlocked by staff as you exit- while guests keep their mobiles with them, any recording or photography is prohibited. Since 2014, Yondr has worked with over 1,000 venues, schools, and workplaces to limit phone usage, yet the startup has not been without controversy. While some believe the idea enhances experiences and helps students to focus, others argue it places a lack of trust in consumers and comes off as pretentious.
At the Palladium, most of the audience commended the pouches, a West London attendee remarking “I don’t see anything wrong with them! It definitely helps to capture everyone’s attention better.”- the technology cutoff certainly had an impact during the show as audiences were silent, hanging onto every note Dylan’s guitarists (Bob Britt and Doug Lancio) played until the very last moment. On the other hand, a select few expressed disappointments with Yondr’s involvement: “It’s a good idea in theory, but I wished I could have taken even a few photos of the venue to remember the night. They lock up your phone as soon as you enter the building… knowing what time it is and trying to find other people in the venue was difficult too!”, another audience member says.
Despite much debate and mixed reviews, the company has experienced success with their distinctive design: according to Schools For Excellence, a survey conducted by Yondr found 83% of schools identified improved student engagement whilst using the pouches. As well as this, Yondr host their own music festival ‘Over Yondr’, embracing the off-the-grid lifestyle that comes with the suspension of modern technology. The event, held annually in New York, features up-and-coming artists such as Topaz Jones and shows the boundaries their product can push.
Following rave reviews in publications including the Washington Post, it seems Yondr’s phone pouches aren’t going anywhere: other acts from Guns N’ Roses to Justin Timberlake have incorporated Yondr in an attempt to ‘reconnect’ the audience and bring us back to a time of appreciation. In a social media-dominated world, the company aims to “provide a haven to engage with what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with”, and Dylan’s encapsulating concert is proof bright lights and futuristic setting aren’t the fundamentals of a show- but perhaps the sheer delight audiences share after an intimate performance can hold enough memories to last a lifetime of pictures.
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