Live music is music at its rawest, music at its most pure. It is undoubtedly the ultimate test of the artist, for over the course of an hour and a half you discover if the artist can sing and can play their instruments as well as their record company would have you believe. It is also one of the most under-supported entertainment pastimes available, which in our eyes is a complete travesty.
CD’s and MP3’s may be great ways to listen to music, but they suffer from two major flaws. Yes, they sound great, but they always sound the same.
The music is filtered, purified, almost sanitized. In contrast, live music gives you variety, for no two shows ever sound the same no matter how much the musicians try. A CD never gives you an improvised 15 minute guitar solo, or an acoustic remix of your favorite track.
Secondly, only live music gives you all the other sensory inputs that together make ‘listening live’ so richly rewarding. The interaction with the band, the lights, the sweat, the clamminess of the atmosphere, the flat beer half knocked over your t-shirt, the plastic cups. You wouldn’t watch a play on TV rather than go see it in the theatre, so why listen to a CD again when you can see the band live?
Live music is designed so you really start to feel the music. You may listen to a CD, but you feel live music. The whole enjoyment is heightened. Dancing around your room like a lunatic, bouncing off the sofas is never quite the same as head banging in the mosh pit, surrounded by sweaty teens. Tapping your foot along to the Bang & Olufsen CD player, can never compete with hanging at the back of the arena, air guitaring your heart out, as you watch your favorite artist rip into one of their headline tracks.
A live concert can also fundamentally chance your perceptions of a group. Take Starsailor for instance. This band is huge in the UK. Their debut album quickly racked up a million in sales. The “soulful indie sounds” of “Love Is Here” won them critical acclaim and commercial success while the single “Alcoholic” reached no. 10 in the chart. Their music was squarely in my strike zone; thoughtful, piano backed, Coldplay-like guitar based rock, but for some reason I just wasn’t that much of a fan. That all completely changed when I saw them play live last month. Tracks that previously sounded too simple, plain and discordant suddenly came together, the live setting helping the music to sound ‘more real’. Front man James Walsh’s voice, undoubtedly a great rock voice, but which was over produced on the album, perfectly meshed with the band. When heard live, 2 + 2 > 5 as this editor finally understood the hype.
So when you’re planning a night out this term, give some thought to seeing a live band. Boston is large enough for many of the big touring acts to include on their schedule, so your choice is certainly not limited.
Ask around your section, as the chances are a band you’ve never heard of is probably huge across the pond in Europe or the UK.