A while back, I read a comment Michael Booth left on a thread about live bands versus tracks that got me thinking about the whole debate over which is preferable. I can’t recall exactly what he said at the moment, but basically he was pointing out the fact that a live band isn’t really necessary to put on a good show.
I kind of agree. Yes, a live band brings an extra quality that can’t be matched by tracks, but I don’t think it’s better by definition. For one thing, I’ve been to concerts where the live drums were sometimes over-powering, and it distracted from the singing. Ultimately, it’s the singing that I’m coming to hear, not the band. I’ve heard people who will say that without a band, there’s little motivation for them to attend a concert since they might as well just stay home and listen to the CD. But that doesn’t seem convincing to me. Yes, the songs may sound essentially the same live as they do on a CD, but if a group isn’t using stacks, there can be differences and spontaneous embellishments, e.g. when Signature Sound recently sang a bit of “Walk With Me” without a microphone. I love those kind of moments in a concert. To be fair, there is more room for spontaneity when you’re not tied to a track, but even if we set spontaneity aside, there’s still a skill to getting up and delivering a song on stage with or without tracks. If you possess that skill, it will impress people even if you don’t have a band. I think the Booth Brothers are an excellent example of this. I don’t think they need a live band to improve their show. It’s already a good show. Ultimately it comes down to picking good songs and delivering them well.
On the topic of reasons for going to a concert, I’m motivated to go by reasons that go beyond even the singing. You get to watch how the emcee handles a show and what he does in between songs. You might have the opportunity to watch how professionals deal with bumps in the road like illness or unexpected electricity outages. And you can connect with the singers off-stage. Unless you’re one of those people with so many connections that you’re on a first name basis with everyone in the industry already, that’s a valuable opportunity. And none of that has anything to do with whether or not the group is using a band or tracks.
So why do you go to a concert? Do you think it really matters whether groups have all-live music? Are you significantly more motivated to see a group that does?