When was the last time you listened to live music?

I'm an avid audiophile from the late 50's when stereo wasn't even invented yet (gee, am I that old already?).

The first tube amp and speaker combo started me on the quest to have live music be reproduced in my parent's home. We used to go to Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, etc. which gave me a good feel as to what live music sounds like and to use that as a basis of comparison for the reproduced music at home.

As I grew older (and much older), I attended live classical concerts less and less. I had relied on my home equipment to listen to music on vinyl and audio tape. Along with the less frequent visits to live concerts, I started to form opinions of the equipment I bought and sold and listened to at friend's house.

I started to compare their equipment to mine, or the audio store's. I somehow quit comparing them to live music as a reference.

So, my question is shouldn't we compare all equipment in the audio chain to live music rather than to other equipment?

When was the last time any of us listened to live music?

And I don't mean concerts where the instruments are all electronic, rather than acoustic. In that case it doesn't make any difference since the music you hear is already amplified and through speakers. Would having the same audio equipment in the home as the musicians have at the concert be the ultimate match of "live" music to home reproduced music. I guess I'll have to buy a few Fender amps and Public Address speakers.
If a recording wasn't recorded to sound like live music (i.e. overdamped/processed studio recording) would you still want your system to make it sound that way? And what would all that coloration do to truly well-recorded live performances? I'd rather my system as completely as possible uncover what's really recorded and let the chips fall where they may.

I think attending live performances feeds the soul and also provides useful benchmarks and references we can take home with us and incorporate into our wacky journey. But if you want an even deeper understanding of how music should sound I suggest learning a musical instrument and actually playing either for yourself or in a band/orchestra if at all possible. That feeds the soul even more deeply (imho), and you'll gain an even greater appreciation for and understanding of the nuances and subtleties that underlie the true sound of individual instruments as well as a performer's intent/style and it's contribution to the performance. It's a deeper perspecitive and understanding you can't get from attending live performances, not even from front row seats. I know this isn't always possible, but I'm just sayin'...
The rare non amplified concert is nearly extinct.
The local Classical symphony uses amplification and broadcasts the sound to dozens of speakers. Rock music in not 'live' no matter how you pretend.
Jazz is often in crowded, noisy restaurants, where the neighboring table is usually louder than the performers, who also happen to be running through a cheap PA system..
So the only time I HAVE heard a 'live' unamplified concert was a string quartet at the Univerisity a few months ago.
The actual 'live' event generally is through cheap PA quality electronics.. Or so loud you would be deaf after a few more hours of it.. So where exactly is the value in listening to that crap?
The 'idea'
of live, unamplified music is a nobel one, FINDING such music (worth listening to) is nearly a lost cause.
Honestly, while I enjoy the event of live music... as has been stated by others, the acoustics of most "live" events are not good. Frankly, my stereo in my man-cave sounds better than most live music. More immediate, better tone, more clear, easier to hear nuance. Usually, amplified live music is pretty harsh sounding and often played through systems that are not that good in large venue with poor acoustics.

Now, some acoustic jazz... in a proper setting --- or a small chamber group in a proper setting... no stereo can match that. But, amplified rock, blues, and even many symphonic ensembles all play in a context where the live event is not as good acoustically as is a good recording in a good room on a good stereo.
+1 Elizabeth.
Got all excited about a bluegrass performance at local, historic, small theater (seats maybe 200?). Sitting in a back row I easily conversed with two of the performers on stage at normal volume. Once the show started they fired up the microphones for instruments and vocals. Bad sound! How stupid! I spoke to the manager at intermission, pleading to have her turn off the amplification as it was not necessary. She said the older folks don't hear as well so they preferred it on. Ugh!
I live in the SF Bay Area.
There are several symphony orchestras in the area, ranging from the local community group all the way up to the world-class SF Symphony.
They all perform without amplification.
Performers from pianists to chamber groups all perform unaided by electronics many times every year.
Most colleges and universities in my area offer concerts of acoustic jazz, for instance, without amplification and to respectfully quiet audiences.
I do not know where "Elizabeth" lives but I have never, nor do I now, find it at all difficult to hear live unamplified music.
I agree with most all of your analysis'. Then we can safely ask:

"What is live music and what do we use as a standard of comparison for our home system?"

It seems that there is no basis of comparison. It's what you think it should sound like, not what it actually does.

So I guess whatever we think the sound should sound like is correct.
I'm actualy suprised how good an amplified small acoustic ensemble can sound through a half decent PA system with a live microphone feed in a small venue. This is just proof of how much information (and dynamics) get lost in all the recording, mastering and other stages of the production process for recorded sound.
Last concert featuring unamplified music? The three-year-old granddaughter's pre-school graduation concert!
To the original question: 'last night'.

Years ago I used to do PA systems for special occasions, using a set of Fulton J-modulars for the speakers, tube amps and the like. People would ask me 'why did you lug all that stuff here if you aren't going to turn it on?'

It is possible to make a nice PA if you really want to :)
Goin' once in a while all the time. There were years full of live performances upto 10 times per season(usually when cold and nasty)... Been a few times on open arenas in the nice summer days too. Providing occasional assists to local bands for live stage and studio recordings. Had been a few times in tech crew with famous bands such as Black Crows and Cold Play and listening them back-stage free.

Listen to Jazz at the jazz bars live... No worries to me if there are sounds of flatware or glasses. Most of the ambient noise dissapears if band is intended to be the main event of the evening and not just a background performance.

Listen to the rock through cheap and expensive PA systems... like to see them play, like to share traveling joint through the excited crowd and don't give a puck that my stereo may sound better for the same song... not the point at all.

Listen to the classical music in concert halls live and could tell ya that no way any stereo or PA system in the world can match to the quality of unamplified sound in the right venue.

And lastly, Home gig sessions! Simply self-entertaining, enjoying with few shots of bourbon or whiskey -- Let's begin from part A! Same joy at camping gigs.

Last time I've attended "Dead Can Dance" a month ago in Beacon Theatre NYC and happened to accidentally occupy lodge seats that matched my low-balc seats... Nobody showed up to claim, but the seats were FANTASTIC on the lower part of lodge. Sound, artist and venue was superb.

And lastly, good musicians to me will always sound good: PA system, my home rig, 96kbps-Youtube videos, I do not care.
I play an acoustic guitar daily. Both my wife and my 6 yr old daughter play our piano daily. Does that count?
Did some studio work two nights ago with a Bass Clarinet/Tenorphone, small trap Drum set, Steinway, and my 4/4 Czech Bass.

Without getting into the gear this studio uses, the fidelity of the audio that finally gets to the end user is almost never what you hear during playback. You might experience this to some degree at audio shows were they record and playback on the spot.

Much of our gear can actually sound quite good with the right media.
I saw Judy Collins 2 weeks ago in one of the most gorgeous new small venues in the US - the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport MA. Sitting in the front row listening to her with that background in late afternoon was awesome. Listening to Farewell To Tarwathie complete with whale sounds with the ocean in the background was truly special. She still has a great voice at 73. Incidentally, she had Rachael Sage with her - a great young talent.

Shalin Liu Performance Center
DTC: Thank you for the post & link. Makes me want to head on out from So. Cal. It really does!
My teenage son plays violin in his high school orchestra. I go to see him play whenever they perform. Okay, so that doesn't really count. I don't care for classical music, and I go see him play out of parental obligation.

It has been too long since I've gone out to a club to hear some live jazz. I feel bad about that. Maybe next year I'll get my act together and see some live jazz.
My daughter plays violin. We have a drum set in the basement. I heard the yardbirds live about 2 weeks ago. That was amplified of course but the sound was top notch.
I believe we should have a reference to judge our systems by. Not the other way around.
To the folks leaving in the high-density neighborhoods and large cities it's easier to find an unamplified classical performance or barely amplified jazz band in the bar.

Developing and building venues that are capable of handling unamplified orchestras is high-profile construction that is extreamly complex and requires funding potentials.

Some churches have descent acoustics. Minnesota Orchestra hall in Minneapolis so far the best venue I know for unamplified concerts where even opera performances are unamplified. Far better vs. Carnegie Hall NYC as an example.
Last Sunday at church. We have a choir there accompanied by piano and sometimes a bell choir.

Always a good musical experiance and good for you too.
9/22, Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2. Symphony in C/Rossen Milinov/Di Wu soloist, Along with Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6.

Two excellent performances in a nice acoustic with a world class orchestra and music director.

Prior to that: 8/26, Dead Can Dance at Verizon Hall in the Kimmel Center, Philadelphia
@ Slipknot1...how did DCD sound at Verizon Hall? I missed that show, but I went to Dvorak #7 last April. To my ears, sitting in the Verizon 2nd tier, the music sounded over-damped. But an excellent performance by the Phila Orch.
Last Thursday - Emmylou Harris at christopher Newport college in Virginia. Great show. I am in Nashville right now - bound to be some music around here somewhere. ;-)