David Lamkins picked up his first guitar a long time ago. As best he can recall the year was 1967: the year of the Summer of Love. Four decades later David has conjured up an amalgam of folk, rock and jazz solo guitar music for the occasional intimate Portland audience.
location: Portland, OR USA

Facets: attitude, motivation, opinion, performance, @musings info

Sequenced Live Music

There's just something that bothers me about a live performance that uses a recorded or sequenced backing track. This goes way back for me. When I was learning to play guitar, there were no resources except my ears and eyes. I'd watch early music videos and televised "live" performances and realize that the music I heard didn't match what I was seeing on screen. The Smothers Brothers show was a revelation: at least the folk performers didn't lip-sync. The 1980s were, for me, another dark age for live music, with the one-finger keyboard players with their sequencers. Dammit, I worked hard to learn my instrument and these "musicians" were "performing" pre-programmed compositions.

Now, I don't have a problem with good studio work, whether it involves multitracking, synthesizers, sequencing, samples, reamplification, or whatever. The rules are are different for studio work, and many a fine recording has been made using lots of technology. But when you take the show on the road, either find some performers who can play the material you recorded, or strip down the arrangements to fit the performers you do have.

Pop performers seem to be the worst abusers of live sequencers. I watched a Garbage performance and was amazed and dismayed at the number of instrumental parts that were not played by any person on the stage. At what point does a performance cease to be live and become karaoke instead? Need some sound effects for an intro? Sure, go ahead. Need backing vocals or a keyboard solo? Hire a musician! Don't slave the drummer to a click track so the "band" can sync to the recording. Maybe bands have so little regard for their audience that they don't mind the deception. As an audience member, I feel cheated by going to a live performance and hearing a recording instead.

Maybe I worry too much about stuff like this. I guess if I cared more for the singer's clothes, or choreography, or tits, or whatever, I wouldn't be so bothered. But c'mon, how about some truth in advertising? If it's not actually a live performance, then call it something else.

May 10 2004 02:42:48 GMT