Live Bands vs MIDI Backed Bands - There's No Comparison!
The Band on Stage
The girl is singing her heart out. It's a big heart. She's good and generous and works like a trooper, night after night. The boy plays like Clapton (nearly) and is also giving it his everything. These kids have talent. But they're alone on the stage - so why am I hearing a frigging drumkit??
Is this progress?
On the left, we have a laptop; on the right, a musical instrument. The laptop can regurgitate almost the entire body of recorded music at the touch of a few keys. The guitar can't issue a single note unless some poor artisan stands there and plays it. A poor sort of instrument indeed!
But I remember many an evening when friends gathered to relax together. When one or two of us would have guitars that anyone (who knew a few chords) could take their turn on. When we made mistakes, and laughed. When we'd try something new, and unfinished. When we were younger, of course, but mainly, when music was live.
Tonight or any night, in this bar or a thousand like it, the beat goes on - and on, and on - and the only way to stop it is to switch off the laptops. Because, we are being conned. These ubiquitous duos and solo performers, however talented they are, are in effect professional karaoke artists. None of this is new of course, except in degree. We've had backing tracks since we've had tape recorders. And drum machines have for decades been clicking away behind all sorts of unlikely line-ups. But now, it's the full Monty. Request some Santana and it will sound like Santana because, to all intents and purposes, it is Santana. Well, what a surprise.
Best joke of all is - nobody's listening! Why? Because it is entirely predictable. It's going to sound exactly like the record, exactly like it did last night. Yes, you like the music but you've heard it all before.
All is not lost
Wait - something's happening. Our boy's just picked up his acoustic guitar, strummed a few chords, tweaked the tuning, and is starting to play Carole King, You've got a Friend . They sing it together, harmony vocals, no accompaniment save for his solo guitar. And you could hear a pin drop in the silences. No-one's talking. Everyone is watching, listening. Not just because it's different, and good, but because it's dangerous. It's live. It could all fall in a heap. But it doesn't. Ain't it good to know you've got a friend , the dying major 7th, and a burst of spontaneous applause, even from the bar staff.
We can't turn back the clock. We are doomed to hear wall to wall music that no-one is playing, to suffer the mind-numbing torrent of pseudo-music from karaoke-bands and club DJs. But I would rate a busker in the subway having an honest stab at The Streets of London higher than the outpourings of every laptop band this side of Khatmandu.
Biased, me? Yes. Keep Music Live!
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