Live vs. Recorded Music

I’m listening to the Stars on CBC’s Concert’s on Demand, from a show at Metropolis over a year ago. They are a great band, and I enjoy much of the one album I own In our Bedroom After the War. So why am I not totally rocking out from this streaming experience? Well, cuz live performances are full of little distracting things.

First off, I know how the music can go, so the deviations in vocal lines, and the thinning of the instrumental lines are not adding to the intensity of the experience. Similarly, live performances, even from a pro group, are not as tight as what can be produced in studio. Not every song is going to be a together as we might be used to.

And then there are there are the recording particularities–the performance venue acoustics, the crowd noises and the messy mixing that is so hard to avoid in live performances.

As I sit the library working on homework, this recording of a live show isn’t as enjoyable as the album versions had been. But I bet that had I been at the show, all of these little differences would not have been a problem. Lots of performers know how a live crowd can get into music that would never work if listened to off site. There are genres of music that really work live but only work live. What’s the big difference? I figure it is mostly due to immersion.

Consider your last show and all the effort to help you focus on the art being performed. The lights are turned down, except for the stage, to help you ignore the people around you, the sound is turned up so you can’t avoid the audio, and so that it masks the aural cues of other again. Add to that the information gleaned from watching the music being made, and you’ve got quite a lot to help you keep tuned into what is going on. But that’s not all: when you go to a show you’ve prepared yourself for the experience. You’ve signed up to play along and get into it for considerable amount of time, and for most people, or at least most Canadians, you also have to respect for those sharing the concert experience by staying inline with acceptable concert behaviour. With all of these external and internal reasons to be into the music of a live show, deviations in performance are not nearly so disturbing. In fact, for the most part, they are easily explained by the information that doesn’t make it into the audio archive.

Of course, with a little time, we can adapt to a lot of the weirdness. By Midnight Coward, I’ve been successfully carried away by this compromised copy of the show.

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