live rock music

I’ve been going to concerts since I was eight years old. I’ve seen a ton of different acts from pop stars to hard rock and country. I absolutely love live music, and likely always will. But as far back as high school, I can remember having debates with friends about what made for a good performance. Obviously, a lot of that is subjective, but for me, it comes down to the actual live music.

Live Music

I’m definitely mostly and strongest of a fan of rock and hard rock. My favorite bands in heaviest rotation being those like Van Halen, Metallica, Foo Fighters, Stone Temple Pilots, Led Zeppelin and others of similar music. They’re all the typical rock groups consisting miimally of a singer, guitar player, drummer, and bass player minimally. This type of music tends to translate really well to a live environment — but only if the musicians can really play, and are physically and mentally still able to. Sadly, but inevitably, all those bands have lost members, and they all played at less than 100% — usually due to drugs and alcohol.

But that’s OK. Live music should be imperfect. Preferably, the mistakes and warts of the live performance aren’t because a guy’s a week away from rehab, but at least the guitar is plugged into an amplifier. But don’t get me wrong, I want a good and accurate performance. It doesn’t have to be a carbon copy of the album, but it should represent the recorded material well and fairly accurately.

The Show is Secondary

For me, the rest of the show is secondary — a distant secondary that can only exist if the live music is pure, true and authentic. Sure, the lights, the screens, and the pyrotechnics are wonderful polish. But it’s got to be supporting the music, rather than being the reason you’re paying exorbitant prices for tickets and parking to see a band.

Different Music Genres

Obviously, as a straight rock and roll fan, and being what I have the biggest sample of live performances, that’s where this article is focused. My arguments are less valiant and educated as we look at other genres — dance, electronica, hip hop, etc. all are much harder, if not impossible to replicate live, when a lot of them are based on samples, electronic equipment, etc. Other genres too rely more too about dancing, choreography, etc. My music preferences don’t necessarily focus on those performance elements. But even someone like Michael Jackson was able to meld live musicians with dance. I guess for me it still falls back on the music first. Everything else is a bonus or polish. If the dancing affects the singer or others’ ability to perform, it’s not a good addition in my book.

Change in Technology

The electronic equipment is another thing worth noting. Both the technology surround recording and performing music has evolved vastly since the inception the electrified and amplified instruments. Recording in a studio used to be much like the way a band would tour the music. All the musicians would be in the same room, or at least in the same building. Now, many musicians have their own room or studio in their homes, where they do their part and then send files to their bandmates. During and after COVID has made this even more common. I’d argue you lose some of the energy, spontaneity, and a lot of the community you’d get from recording together.

Agreeing with Eddie Trunk

Quite awhile back, I found radio personality, Eddie Trunk who’s been in and around the music industry for decades in different ways, shapes, and forms. He does a daily rock talk show on SiriusXM, and interviews a ton of musicians, producers, etc. While slightly older than me, he’s got a similar opinion and take on live music. He’s always beat the drum for rock and hard rock music, and really advocates for the live show being purely live. When the performers are no longer able to do that for whatever reason, it’s time to retire, and let the catalog albums and previous live tours stand untarnished.

A ton of the bands I’ve grown up with have started to age out, retire and/or sadly, pass away. He’s of the same opinion I’ve always had that the music should be live — not a recorded track that is a glorified lip sync on stage. With technology as it is, this has gotten easier to fake, but I’m really of the same opinion as Trunk — play it live while you can, even if that means tuning the music a step down or whatever for the later in life tours, but when it can’t be a good approximation of the original source material without enhancements, it’s time.

Conclusion

This whole article is purely opinion — a product of the music I’ve enjoyed (and [badly] played/mimicked) over the years. My personal preferences in music and the way I sample/listen to it are mine and mine alone. I’m sure there are others that agree, and others who see the live performance in different ways. Feel free to comment below, whether you agree or disagree.

live rock music

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