It feels like almost every week, there are conflicting opinions about if it’s safe to go to a concert. With new coronavirus variants popping up, it can be scary to think of going to a live show — especially if it’s indoors and at a large venue. But for many, with access to rapid tests and vaccines, attending concerts is back on.
Many artists are starting to tour again this year and some are already on the road, with varying COVID-19 precautions, if any at all.
Harry Styles, who is currently on tour for his second album Fine Line, recently fell into controversy when performing a water trick donned “the whale” by fans.
“As always, the well-being of my fans, band, and crew, is my top priority,” Styles tweeted, announcing the Love On Tour in July of this year.
Styles’ whale trick is a staple of his live shows, where he drinks water then spits it out, giving fans a performance akin to Shamu. While endearing at worst and impressive at best, many online expressed their disappointment and disgust that he would do such a thing while the pandemic is still raging. The clip of Styles’ trick spread online, and he or his camp have yet to make a statement about the incident.
This situation with Styles feels paradoxical considering, well, he’s on track to do a 40-show tour right now.
To add insult to injury, at his Las Vegas show, a fan tweeted that she tested positive after being in one of the two floor pits, while masked. While it’s a reach to correlate Styles’ whale trick with making this specific fan test positive, it’s not shocking that an infection occurred within a crowd of people, essentially shoulder to shoulder in an indoor venue.
Styles choosing to do the trick on top of touring during a pandemic is the icing on the already toppling-over cake. Yes, fans could be held accountable for choosing to buy tickets during a pandemic, but they would have no tickets to buy if artists simply took more time to sit out.
My sympathy toward artists who seemingly don’t need the money from touring runs very thin. While everyone wants to “get back to normal,” it is important to remember that artists have a responsibility to keep their crew and fans safe. It’s not like Styles is an indie singer who needs this tour to get his big break, or to be able to pay rent.
And it’s not only Styles disregarding that we’re still in a pandemic. He’s one of the smaller offenders compared to country singer Eric Clapton who refuses to play venues that require the COVID-19 vaccine. Regardless of people’s opinions on vaccines, my line is drawn when you start putting your fans’ lives on the line just so they can see you sing and play guitar. No artist is worth an illness or, in tragic cases, death.
It’s irresponsible for Styles, Clapton and every other artist — especially majorly successful ones — to be touring right now. Because they have the power and influence over their legions of fans, most of the onus should be on them to make the right decision. To be touring right now, even with precautions, is selfish — especially in parts of the country with vaccine hesitancy. It’s a slap in the face to talk about safety while traversing a country with a meager vaccination rate compared to other wealthy countries.
If artists are determined to tour, they should be playing smaller venues at limited capacity. While it would not be the same, it would be safer. Fans could social distance and still get to enjoy seeing their favorite artist live.
We all miss concerts. We all miss the normalcy of 2019 and before, when you weren’t scared you’ll get a virus that shakes up your life, potentially leaving you with chronic health problems after the fact. But the overall safety of society is more important than touring right now.