Writing a quality concert review comes down to paying attention, doing a little research in advance and listening objectively, even if the band doesn't play your favorite genre of music. Facts, fairness and capturing the energy of the show in words set your reviews apart from the rest.
Many concerts, especially for larger touring acts, are used to promote current albums. Listen to the newest album as well as some of the band's classic tracks in advance to get a feel for its music if you are not already familiar with it. Write down the names of the band members, spelling their names correctly, along with which instruments they play. While it seems basic, getting these facts correct helps prevent embarrassment; if you don't get the names correct, it lessens your credibility as a concert reviewer. Read fan sites to get examples of typical set lists for the tour to have an idea what songs you may expect at the show.
Once the show begins, take notes, jotting down each song played and key factors about it, such as an emotional moment when the singer breaks down during a ballad or a guitarist kicking over the cymbal stand. Advance listening of the songs helps you get the titles correct in your notes. If you still aren't sure, ask fans nearby for the name of the song as a last resort, and jot down key phrases in the lyrics so you can research them later. Write down how each song makes you feel as well as the energy of any solos performed by band members, or spoken messages the lead singer makes. Capture the atmosphere of the stage setup as well, noting whether it is sparse and basic, loaded with lasers or decked out in all black and white, including the band members' outfits.
Putting It All Together
Sum up the experience in the first sentence or two, writing the name of the band and its tour or concert name, whether any other acts played and where the concert took place. Add in whether the band played to a packed house and kept the crowd pleased and entertained, or if the venue was only half full but the crowd still appreciative. Jot down all the key elements you recall, especially the ones that moved you the most, then fill in the details for each. If the band played any rare songs or cover material that isn't typical in one of its shows, include this information as well if space allows.
If your goal is to write a concert review for publication, start by freelancing for local publications such as free weekly newspapers or a college newspaper. Some of these pay for publication while others do not, but they may help arrange a press pass for free entry to the concert. As you hone your reviewing skills, read concert reviews in larger publications, getting a feel for writing that excites and captures the spirit of the show. Reading good writing helps influence your own writing. The more reviews you write, the better the writing gets and the more opportunities that arise, such as potentially interviewing artists when they visit your town.
Kathy Adams is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer who traveled the world handling numerous duties for music artists. She writes travel and budgeting tips and destination guides for USA Today, Travelocity and ForRent, among others. She enjoys exploring foreign locales and hiking off the beaten path stateside, snapping pics of wildlife and nature instead of selfies.