On performing

June 9th, 2010 by earl

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?

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(I realize that this is a false dichotomy, but be quiet).

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One Response to “On performing”

  1. Syphax Says:

    The second band. I remember seeing Dream Theater for the first time, a band I have always really enjoyed. However, when they played it just sounded like somebody put a Dream Theater CD in the PA and pressed play. The guys just stood around. James (the singer) was the main exception, he’s the only thing that kept it all from falling flat.

    On the other hand, one of the best and most entertaining bands I’ve seen live was The Hold Steady, and their stage presence turned the whole venue into a huge party. I don’t even remember if they were tight or sloppy, it didn’t seem to matter too much.

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