LIve Performance Ethics

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by rickbass, Jun 4, 2001.

  1. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    One of my usual "weekend gig" rants -

    Sat. night, we split the bill with another band who played first. Throughout their set, they would occasionally launch into a chorus or a refrain, and suddenly, there seemed to be female backup singers. They were using pre-recorded voices from some of their studio work.

    It sounded good, but it bothered me as an ardent supporter of LIVE music where a human controls the modulation, pitch, rhythm, et al. I also thought it could be a slippery slope.

    I'd be interested to hear any reactions from anyone, live performer or not, pro/amateur.
  2. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    I went to a Victor Wooten concert a few days ago and, as you know, Vic uses samples. In Vic's case, it's just a way to get all recorded parts at the same time. You know the vocal section in "U can't hold no groove". He also had some samples of Martin Luther King speeches during his rendition of "Amazing Grace". I found that the samples enhanced the quality of the performance. All the musicians still played their instruments. I think the key is that the recorded samples have to be pripheral things that enhance the song, but won't break the song if they're not there.

  3. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Wheel - That's one of things I thought about. Hearing Pink Floyd live came immediately to mind.

    But, in a concert setting, somehow, I separate that from the club level. On the mega concert level, your rep is established and everyone knows you can deliver the goods. Even Steve Lawson creates and controls his loops.

    It doesn't seem as competetive a situation as playing up the street from 4 or 5 other bands competing for the cover charge.

    To me, the club level is more like street fighting. You are only allowed to use your fists. I'm not dismissing your good input at all. That's my analogy, anyhow.
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I hate this too! I remember, quite a while ago, there was a band in the UK getting good reviews called "Jesus Jones" and they were playing locally, so I went along with my girlfriend.

    So the bassplayer irritated me a bit as he kept jumping around and seemed to be more interested in posing than anything else. I watched more carefully and realised that what he was apparently "playing" bore no relation to the actual notes coming out and then when he got tired from all the jumping about he actually st

    opped playing at all and the bassline continued. I looked around and noticed that the keyboard player was just playing with one finger - but there were all these complex keyboard parts coming out! So I said to my girlfriend that they were miming and she didn't believe it but eventually I pointed out what was going on and she asked if it mattered?

    I was really annoyed about it, but the crowd were really into the band and it was so loud that you couldn't make your self heard - I really felt like complaining, booing or something. But in the end I just walked out. As far as I could see nobody else in the crowd had noticed and most were dancing and throwing themselves about.

    I think it just goes to show that people aren't really interested in musicianship as such but rather a good "show" and they aren't botherered how that is produced. :(
  5. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Bruce - Jesus Jones made themselves known in the USA, albeit, briefly.

    That's terrible!!! Who wants to go to the trouble to put up with the crowd at a concert and listen to lip-synching and "finger-synching?"

    I guess that's the slippery slope that I loathe.
  6. Hategear

    Hategear Workin' hard at hardly workin'.

    Apr 6, 2001
    Appleton, Swissconsin
    I go to the bars/clubs to hear live music to be ENTERTAINED -- it wouldn't matter to me if the band used some little samples here and there. I would not appreciate seeing a band like Bruce Lindfield described though. Although when you think about it, a lot of the music today is lip-synched and it doesn't seem to bother most people. Remember Milli Vanilli? When they were "found out," they were ostrasized and boycotted, one of the guys even commited suicide, yet Britney Spears, NStink, Backdoor Boys, etc. lip-synch their "concerts" and it is accepted. I am not a big supporter of Milli Vanilli mind you, just that it's funny how things change. (Logs out singing, "Girl you know it's true....")
  7. Many of the so called bigger country acts such as Shania Twain, Lonestar and many others now use drum loops and other samples at their concerts. Of course the question is are they even playing country? Joe Diffie, who is definitly a country singer, has all the steel guitar parts on tape rather than using an actual steel player. I think it sucks. Hopefully someone in the crowd actually notices from time to time. Another name country act now uses prerecorded harmony vocals because the artist got sick of the bad harmony caused by the constant personnal changes in the band. I'm a total purist, and i think if you can't reproduce the music you make in the studio live, then you shouldn't ever play it live. It's cheap, and a total cop out.
    I have alot more sympathy for club bands that use samples/loops because they might not have as many members in the band to get all the sounds and vocals required. But personally i think they should just play it as is with what they have. I don't like bands with that real fake processed sound. But that's pretty much the classic club sound. And, as has been duly noted here, most yahoo's in a club couldn't care less, and wouldn't ever notice where the sounds are coming from. We watch and listen to other bands totally different than most people do. Don't forget that.
  8. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    :D :D :D Ain't that the truth?

    Kind of reminds me of an old Queen album cover that said, "No synthesizers."

    Maybe if we could get a sort of "Seal of Certified Live Music. No Artificial Colorings, Substitutes, or Recordings Added," listed in ads/promo.
  9. Hategear

    Hategear Workin' hard at hardly workin'.

    Apr 6, 2001
    Appleton, Swissconsin
    After reading this, I would like to add to my previous comment, that I don't expect a live band to sound exactly like their recording. You are right Trent, being musicians we do hear and see music differently than someone who does not play music. I think the samples and computerized backup vocals are meant to please the "uneducated" in the crowd.
  10. oddentity

    oddentity Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    I don't see anything wrong with using samples and sequences to flesh out a performer's composition-- it's when that takes over for substantial portions of the band that it becomes the problem, imho. Some of the best shows I have seen featured drummers playing to click tracks.
  11. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Trent 35, to me the steel guitar is so much a part of country music that to have it pre-taped and run as a recording just blows chunks. If I were a country star, I'd be ashamed to do that. Maybe one of the other instruments...but not the steel guitar!

    Diffie is from Nashville. Cripes, can't he find a LIVE steel guitarist in Nashville, for crying out loud? What it looks like to me is that the tour promoter just doesn't want to spring the cost of an extra musician on the tour. But if I went to a country concert and the steel guitar was taped, I'd feel really cheated and insulted, because it announces to me that the promoter thinks the band's fans are too dumb hill-billy redneck to even notice.

    As for the band RickBass mentions, couldn't they have at least one live singer plus the backing tape? At least the live singer would add some similarity to reality. Fans are not as dumb as bands and concert promoters often think.
  12. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    I just remembered something similar. In the "Blues Brothers 2000" movie, the Blues Brothers are booked into a bluegrass concert and show up dressed like ZZ top. Well, that is funny. They play "Ghost Riders in the Sky."

    You can very definitely hear a fiddle as it is a very important component of the song's arrangement. But no fiddle can be seen being played by anyone in the Blues Brothers Band up there on that stage. I paid special attention, because I hadn't ever heard a fiddle in any other Blues Brothers song.

    It was just a movie, seems like one of them could have faked palying a fiddle, just for the sake of the movie, but nobody bothered.
  13. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Jason - Well, they had the lead singer singing, but in the choruses/refrains, he suddenly had the friggin' "Ikettes" repeating what he sang!
  14. Josh Ryan

    Josh Ryan - that dog won't hunt, Monsignor. Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 24, 2001
    I go to shows to see musicians play music. I am entertained by what they play, and really don't care if they jump, have seizures, forget their shoes, etc. The changing music IS the entertainment to me. I don't care if someone enhances REAL playing with samples, that's cool, but if I ever caught a band faking it like Bruce did I would leave and ask for my money back. That, to me,. is a rip-off.
  15. brewer9


    Jul 5, 2000
    It depends on how its used. I saw Neil Young's "AutoAmerican" tour in the mid 1980s and it consisted of just him. That's right, just Neil Young and a ton of computerized gadgets and thingamajigs. It was awesome. Neil was running around the stage, singing and playing guitar himself ofcourse, but also triggering, adjusting, and shutting off all the hi-tech widgets. Amazing show, amazing musician.
  16. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...I'm with you, but I'm not totally sold(at all!)that the mega-concert/mega-stars can deliver the goods in a LIVE environment. Over the years, I've been disappointed so many times that I now never go to see a "mega-concert/star"...even when I cop free passes. Personally, I'd rather hear musicians in a club situation goin' for it & communicating with each other...for me, it's all about workin/playin' with other humans; I'm not too interested with ONE or two guys interfacing with a programmed machine...
    IMO, it's not good becoming a slave to the technology; it may crap out & then what? ;)

    I have had this discussion with a co-worker(non-musician)-
    Thru the grapevine, I had heard that a very popular & happenin' '70s/'80s R&B act was NOW playing along with a track; the track "fattens" out the sound in a large venue(like an amphitheatre) & also aids in a more consistent show, night after night(FWIW, I've heard the same thing about a couple of the hot, New Country yentas...their voice is fattened up either electronically or via a 2nd track underneath).
    Anyway, I think this is BS & misrepresenation(ie, a "rip-off"); my friend sez, "...if I spend $50 x 2 on a concert, I want the best sound possible".
    As long as there are those willing to SETTLE for this sorta "entertainment", it will only get worse(IMO).

    Anyway, I'm a purist/hardhead; I'm not too keen on using "canned" instrumentation vs. the breathing instrumentalist. Then again, there was a time when I wasn't too keen on synths being the "pedal steel", the "dobro", the "banjo", etc...

    ...and how 'bout the "canned crowd noiz" at sporting events? What's up with that?

    Rant off.
  17. yawnsie


    Apr 11, 2000
    I think that this is something that musicians are particularly sensitive about - it's easy to consider playing to a backing tape as cheating. I don't think it's quite as easy as saying backing tapes are all bad - the example of Pink Floyd is a good one. Another example is the Who - they'd often play to backing synth tracks on songs.

    I think that if it's obvious that a backing tape is being used to improve the sound (i.e., the Who song Baba O'Reily has the synth playing on it's own for about the first 40 seconds - hardly hard to miss.), I would be able to accept it. If, however, someone is trying to cover up the fact that a tape is being used, or if it's used to disguise the fact that they're incapable of putting in a decent live performace, then I would feel cheated.
  18. I guess using samples is like any other instrument if it adds to the song... these examples have already been used, but samples really added a new dimension to songs by the Floyd and the Who...
    but in Bruce Lindfield's experience, that just sucks. That is pure fakery, and anyone who paid money to see it should be able to get a refund.
  19. I felt the same way when I saw Linkin Park live. I was at a Deftones concert, and LP were the second support band on stage. I noticed that the lead guitarist(headphone fellow) at one point played a chord wrong(he just lay all his fingers across the strings in a haphazard fashion), but I did not notice any change in the guitar 'wall' that accompanies all Linkin Park songs(Do these guys even know what a riff is?). Considering the fact that the DJ was making synth noises(the song was Crawlin'), but only had a pair of turntables and a mixer board around him, the band was playing to a tape. Well, sorry, just the Guitarists, Bassist and DJ. The drums and vocals were live.

    It's always great fun to tell this to Linkin Park fans and see them get flustered.:D
  20. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    In addition to the Who and Pink Floyd, another killer live band that played to sequences was Rush. In certain circumstances, I think it adds to a performance, giving a song layers or textures that aren't available in any other way. As long as the sequence is used in that fashion, as a texture or "icing on the cake", it doesn't really bother me. It's when it IS the song that I don't think it's honest.

    That said, I must publicly admit that I've been involved in some "playing to the tracks" episodes. I'm not proud of it, and don't do it now, but when I first got the Tito Puente Jr. gig, some of his original material (i.e. not his dad's stuff) was so dense, there was no way to pull it off live without a lot of time - which was unavailable. His manager insisted on our doing it anyhow. While there were bass tracks on the recordings used, I did play a part over the pre-recorded part, usually MUCH louder, and not exactly the same ;).

    We no longer do this, as we've rearranged the tunes, and gotten horn arrangements together for them to fill them out. Now, the Tito Sr. stuff, that has always been for real. I'm not sayin' we do it justice, but we DO it, same for all the Tito Jr stuff now too.