Friday, May 13, 2005

Pre-recorded Tracks = NOT a Live Performance

I stayed home from work yesterday. I had a sore throat. I slept in until 11:30 and felt better after that. So I went to the Keane show last night, for which I bought tickets several months ago. The sore throat returned during the night. Damn sore throat! (Shaking my fist at the sore throat.)

After the show, Stoker and I were talking about the band and their presentation (you should always assume Stoker is with me, even if I don’t mention him. He’s usually at my side. Or I’m at his. I really love his company) and I’ll be honest, I was a little disappointed. First of all, it’s impossible for me to go to a show and just sit there, soaking up the atmosphere and the music. I’m cursed with an obnoxious brain that never shuts up. Everything in sight is subject to analysis and over-analysis. It can be paralyzing and irritating. I don’t even think I could get in one of those sensory-deprivation chambers without my mind going wild with ideas about the human as all-consumer and Buddhist monks and yogis and meditation and stuff like that. Anyway.

First I analyzed the crowd and was annoyed that there was SUCH a crowd. What does that say about me? Of course, I don’t really find the crowds at a show like Radiohead or Coldplay as annoying. I don’t know why. Maybe because I don’t feel like I discovered them before anyone else. Another annoying trait I possess: wanting to be the originator of all cool things. Especially good music. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m cursed with generic taste that I often mistake for eclectic, discriminating taste. But at an indie-rock show, you get a bunch of kids dressed in black t-shirts, dyed black hair, and scrawny bodies accentuated by girl-jeans worn by both guys and girls. Which is the audience you expect. The audience at Keane struck me as unexpected. At Keane I felt like I was in high school, being chaperoned by a few teachers and parents dressed in their Old Navy-, Gap-, etc. best, with a few misplaced emo/hardcore/indie-rockers like myself (sometimes, sometimes I am a rocker).

It was unbearable. Why do I go to shows and resent everyone else there? I’m not sure. I’m still trying to work it out. One of the chaperone-y, teacher types there (and he really IS a teacher) was Soffe, an iconic Logan figure. Some think he looks like Jesus, but not so much anymore because his beard is really huge. But he’s also this heroic figure who wanders around town buying music and books and being intelligent in his Birkenstocks. And I suspect most people want Soffe to think they’re cool and smile on them with approval, because he seems so individualistic. Anyway, I didn’t expect to spot him at Keane, but it doesn’t surprise me, now that I think about it. He finds music he likes and doesn’t sway with popular opinion. Once I tried to argue with him about the cultish aura of the Polyphonic Spree with that as the basis for why they suck. He simply said, while avoiding eye-contact, that the music is good. So whether it’s popular or not, Soffe will listen to his internal voice and ignore the cheers and jeers of those around him. I guess that should be comforting to me. He was at Keane. I was at Keane. Stoker was at Keane.

But then I realized, amidst of flashy lights and video-screen backdrop hoopla, that Keane is just ‘okay.’ Why the huge crowd? I guess okay sells. I mean, it worked on me, didn’t it? And I’m an annoying, misled elitist. Here’s what I think: the singer has a voice that’s easy to appreciate. He’s not really singing anything that’s a lyrical wonder. But he stretches his voice and it reaches the high points in a sweet crescendo and you feel like something epic has happened. You feel like he’s singing about the emotional scope you experience in your everyday, banal life. And when he sings about it, it doesn’t seem so banal and unimportant. You feel a part of the epic, human experience. Not all singers have that quality. Brenden Bensen opened for the band and he certainly didn’t have it. I was bored with him after the first song, intrigued only (with lustful desire) by the beautiful semi-hollow body Gibson in his arms.

I leaned over during Keane and asked Stoker if he thought Coldplay is better. No question about it, yes. And they are. And pretty much Travis is better. (We’re sticking with British bands, here). And Aqualung is better. And Snow Patrol is better*. I’d say just about any other British band is better. I think I can make these claims because Keane had pre-recorded bass tracks playing during the show. What charlatans. I’m not kidding. What do they take their audience for? Or are we supposed to think that’s okay? Apparently, the media has been abuzz with errant cases of pre-recorded tracks, such as Ashlee Simpson on SNL, with super-star devotees and others claiming that it’s OKAY to play a live show with pre-recorded tracks. Personally, I’m against it. Why? you ask. What sort of fool wants to pay money to see their ‘favorite’ band gallivanting on-stage, pretending to sing and play? I’d rather stay at home for free and listen to the studio recording that I already purchased on my mediocre sound system, simulating the pre-recorded mess I’d hear at their misnamed ‘live’ show. Live music isn’t live when the band pretends to play. It’s a rip-off. And I’m not going to support it. Everyone else is free to.

But overall. Keane wasn’t that bad. They were decent. And Tom was gracious and seemed humble about their quick rise to fame. But they also had pre-recorded bass tracks for their encore numbers. I can understand. I guess maybe they’re just really great planners. You know, they stood around, planning their show and said, “What if our fans want an encore?” And decided they had to have something ready. Just in case. But what’s wrong with hiring a real bass player? What about ethics? Just because everyone else is doing it (do they really want to be associated with the type of bands who do it?), does that make it right? I mean, what about the proverbial bridge and that stupid friend jumping off it? Would Keane follow? These are important questions. Everyone needs to think about them.

*N.B. I don’t actually know for certain whether these bands use pre-recorded tracks or not. I assume they don't because they have band-mates who play instruments.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've seen a few artists who, for lack of money or other resources, have created their music sans bandmates. When they do a coffee-house gig, they simply bring along a bass machine (not a recording, mind you, but almost) to give a little accompaniment. But you're right when it comes to an established band - they really ought to invest in a person. I mean, you have to have someone to talk to on the road, right? Someone to take a cut. Someone to pawn groupies onto.