Is A Live Band Necessary For a Good SG Concert?

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?

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18 thoughts on “Is A Live Band Necessary For a Good SG Concert?

  1. There is one thing not mentioned here as a major reason for going to concerts, as opposed to sitting at home listening to the CDs. For me anyway, a good concert is a worship service. Of course, we can worship from our homes, but there is an additional blessing in communal worship with fellow believers.

    I’ve got nothing against a band, and I do think there is some value that has been lost with the decline of live music in southern gospel music. But by no means is it a deal-breaker for me. Like you, I’ve been to a concert recently that utilized a band, and the drums just got overbearing at times.

    1. Quite right Brian. I hadn’t even thought to mention that since I was busy focusing on the entertainment/show biz aspect of it, but that’s certainly one important reason to go.

      Which reminds me that I recently came across something to blog about on the topic of communal worship… but that’s for another day. 🙂

  2. quartet-man

    Michael essentially said that the audience didn’t really seem to mind the lack of band and that the added expense couldn’t be justified by the results (not the quality of the band, but with the audience).

    1. Melissa

      The unique thing about the Booth Brothers’ band was that the Booth Brothers themselves formed the core of the band, with Ronnie and Jim on guitar and Michael on drums, each one proving himself to be a skilled musician in his own right. But I suppose that since part of the fun of a Booth Brothers concert is watching their presentation of each song, the audience apparently decided that the Booth Brothers singing to tracks and being free to roam the stage at will was preferable to their singing to a live band and being rooted to one spot on the stage for the duration. I rather feel that way myself, which is odd, since as a general rule, I loathe tracks. Still, it would be nice if they’d at least let Ronnie pull out the guitar once in a while.

  3. 123

    A good reason to go is because it ultimately keeps the band producing music. The record industry is about dead…no group can last on record sales.

    Although I side with those that say having a band is better.

  4. If SG acts got rid of tracks, then they’d also get rid of their safety nets. A great deal of groups today have added vocals on their tracks. This way, even if vocalists are not exactly on, they still SOUND like they are. A lot of vocalists even leave difficult solo lines on the tracks, then lip-sync that part. I’d say about 20% of “live” vocals are not actually live.

    Can’t do that with a live band, unless one of the musicians sings an extra part….

    1. Yeah Kyle, I know that’s a known thing. But I have to admit that I’ve listened closely at each concert I’ve been to, and so far I haven’t detected stacking—not on the group parts and certainly not on the solos.

  5. Backwoods Philosopher

    Well, I come from an old-fashioned point of view. I honestly think that nothing can compare to a live band. Now, this is just my personal opinion, but I wouldn’t be on the road if I couldn’t afford to have a live band. That may sound strange to some people, but there is actually something bizarre about a singer performing their “art” with canned music. Even it tracks are used, it would help to see one or two instruments (maybe a keyboard and guitar).

    I’ve been to many concerts where tracks are used, but prefer the spontaneity of the “trackless” group or quartet. As much as I like Bill Gaither Homecoming concerts, the last time I went to see them, they were not performing in the round and I caught myself watching the entire concert on the huge screen. When you’re seated so far away from the actual performance, why pay $60.00 when you can get a better seat in your living room watching Gaither on TV? I feel the same way about tracks. To me, the whole point of a live concert is just that – it’s LIVE. For some reason, Gospel music fans will accept things that secular audiences never will.

  6. Certainly not. A live band is certainly a plus, but it’s not neccesary for a good concert or DVD. I recently saw the Collingsworth Family’s “Night to Remember” DVD, and it was good, even though they just sang with their soundtracks.

  7. K. Payne

    I think that live music is a plus to any concert. There are times when tracks can add something that you can’t quite pull off live. I also believe that the reaction, from the crowd, can cause a group to work harder. The combination of both make for a good concert.

    1. Singers definitely feed off of the crowd. But one of the keys to becoming truly professional is learning how to be on top of your game even with a less than responsive crowd. I think I’ve mentioned the crowd in Shipshewana, IN before—quiet as mice, but it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to!

  8. Lydia

    Call it “merely psychological” (but I don’t think it is): When I go to a live concert, I love the feeling of being able to say, “I’m actually in the same place as Ernie Haase” (or whoever it might be). “Light rays are bouncing off of EHSS singing and back into my eyes. I’m actually seeing and hearing them right here, right now. This concert is unique, and I’m here for it.” Of course, one gets this feeling more strongly the closer one is to the stage and the less ginormous the venue happens to be. From the fan’s perspective, smaller is better. The singers might even *see me* in a smaller auditorium. But even in a larger venue, it’s still thrilling to be able to say that you are here, now, really seeing these people. Since generally one’s biggest attachment is to the singers rather than to band members, that sense of excitement at seeing a live concert can be there even when the group works with tracks.

  9. Patricia

    I think live band is always better being a musician I love to see Triumphant quartet sing with just a piano and any time you hear Ronnie play guitar it’s great ,if I had a group we would do most of it live I would put a track to songs I play with the mandolin just because that is not a lead instrument to play by it’s self

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