A subject has been coming up a bit lately, and I think it warrants a weblog post. It is the issue of balancing a visually engaging, energetic presentation with playing the songs well. Both are important.
(Note: the following is fairly genre-dependent, subjective and ill-informed.)
When you go see a band live, you expect to be entertained. There are two major parts to this. The first is the quality of the musical performance. The second is the quality of the, for lack of a better term (as I’m too lazy to think of one), act. Let’s examine these.
A band exists to make music (unless it’s a band of, say, transient clowns). It seems to follow that the musical performance is the most important and critical part of the show, with the act coming in a moderately distant second. But is this true?
Suppose you go to see a band you’ve never heard. We’ll call them Slime Folly. They come up on stage and make music seemingly flawlessly. While they are making such music, they are standing, looking devastated, staring at some piece of masking tape on the floor left over from some show three nights ago.
They are followed with another band called Flying Monotony. They proceed to rock the crap out of the stage as they play. Their energy washes over the crowd and everyone is, at a minimum, bouncing to the beat and grinning stupidly. While they are giving this performance, they screw some stuff up. Their harmonies are occasionally cringe-worthy, the guitar player poops a few chords, the drummer spills his beer and so forth.
Which is more enjoyable? Which would you rather see live?