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In every case when I have had the opprotunity to hear live someone I have on recording and then go home and listen to their recording, the recording has always won, no question. While I have a great system, i think it has more to do with the PA that is omnipresent in most concert halls today. Th e exception is when I attend my local symohony orchestra which is unamplified- a rairity today except in the better halls.
The Grateful Dead! I didn't understand what the big deal was until I went to a show. Even if I hadn't eaten a bag of mushrooms and spent much of the time wandering around the bathroom trying to find my way back to my friends and our blanket I think it would still have been one of my most favorite experiences. Really.
Disappointed: Most "pop" artists disappoint in live performances...Duran Duran, Spice Girls, Dido, Rod Stewart are some of the worst I can recall but there are many others. They depend on good producers/engineers and many takes IMHO. It is mostly the vocals that don't hold up.
Surprises: Tom Petty. Queen.Alanis Morrisette. Average White Band. Bryan Adams. INXS. M People. Cleo Lane.
Mediocre: Simple minds, U2, Genesis were all reasonable live but much better in the studio. Stones do a great show but don't sound nearly as good as they do in the studio.
I could go on and on...
Well Kublakhan, luckily for me I gave the Dead a second try, or else I would have called you a liar!
My first experience at a Dead concert was one of the worst concert experiences of my life. It was dull, boring and the accoustics were terrible. (I saw them at one of their New Years shows (albeit a Chinese New Years show in Oakland), many, many years ago. The set list stunk, (unbelieveably, the best song they played was Alley Oop), and their playing was uninspired.
Luckily, I caught them a few years later when they backed up Bob Dylan for one of the Days on the Green type of Concerts in the Oakland Collesium. They seemed like a totalling different band. Energized, rockin' and just having a good time. (And the set list was great, not a bunch of obscure songs from their lessor albums and B sides.)
As far as live performances that exceeded my expectations:
Nils Lofgren, (I had never heard of this guy, and he played at a Bridge concert and blew me away!)
Stone Temple Pilots,
Those that dissappointed me included:
Jethro Tull, once anyway. (And like the Dead, a second concert impressed me as to how good they could be, given the chance).
Smashing Pumpkins (Twice they stunk! Never again for me!)
My two cents worth anyway.
David Byrne is mesmerizing live. At the time I saw him last he was into his
Brazilian stuff, which didn't really float my boat. On stage he grabbed the
audience and didn't let go, start to finish. I had terrible seats up in the back
of the balcony too...and it was blazing hot as I recall. In spite of all that I had
a great time and walked out of there energized.
Gillian Welch, with her very talented acompaniest, David Rawlings...I wasn't
expecting to enjoy, as much as I did, this acoustic set with only the two on
stage the entire performance, with music of a rather somber tone. I was
skeptical, though I do love her music, that I'd enjoy it for two hours. I was
way wrong. Absolutely rivetting...both of them.
I think what those performances/performers have in common is their
tremendous passion for their music and for sharing it. It occured to me there
was nothing 'routine' about these performances. It was as if it was the very
first and last time the artists were performing them. I've seen Rory Block
perform twice and she had that quality as well, but it was not a surprise to me
in those cases.
Dissapointments...hmm...a friend took me to see Pearl Jam at one of those
horrible mega-venue's that double as sports arenas. I like some of their
stuff, but I wouldn't call myself a fan. I went to be with my friend. It was so
bad we walked out half way through it. Also walked out on Dave Matthews at
another larger-than-life (this time outdoor) venue. Like his recorded stuff....
real hohum live...definitely got the sense there that this was concert 126 out
of 198 they'd be doing that year.
Absolute worst disappointment: Beck at Benaroya hall with the Flaming Lips
opening. Love Beck...saw him do an outdoor gig that was very
memorable...what a great, charismatic talent! This was to be a performance
of mostly material from his Sea Change album, which I like very much. But
this show was overamplified in a hall that really needs no amplification at all.
The sound was enough to make me run screaming from the place...and I
think I actually did! My wife endured, while I waited in the lobby. In the time
I spent in the concert hall I couldn't distinguish anything remotely musical
between the overamplified music and the standing, screaming fans all
around. Flaming lips were even worse still (don't care for their music in the
first place, so this was like dental work without novocaine!).
Miles Davis live circa 1972. He played with his back to the audience for the entire concert. But I was a teenager & didn't really understand what I was hearing. There are certainly times an artist needs to turn away from the audience and play to the band. Thank goodness it's not all just entertainment.
Here are a few off the top of my head:
Amazing in the studio and perhaps even better live. This guy is the man.
Disappointingly good, not great, in person. Sounded terrible in Athens for Bridges to Babylon tour.
Circa 1986 live at the original gold star sardine bar. Just amazing. Totally, hypnotically mesmerizing. Recordings very good too, but before she got a little kooky, Ms Barber was a real musician's musician.
At Radio City Music Hall, a bit amplified and very schticky, head tossingly sex kitteny commercial. In the studio much better, I think.
BB King Blues Bar, Times Square, circa 2000. Much better live. Usually badly recorded.
Better live in Hell's Kitchen, circa 2001, but not bad on CD.
Private party, circa 2003, Southhampton NY. WOW -- I didnt think I even liked Lionel Ritchie and this guy was so cool I couldnt even believe it!!!!!!! One drummer, one bass, small amps and the keyboard.
Brixton Academy, circa 1998.
WOW! Now this is a tough call. Ear splittingly loud concert in small venue, but still sounded great. His recordings (at least the one with "Liar" are very very good, almost worthy of an audiophile recommendation.)
Beethoven Symphonies The Proms Royal Albert Hall
Forget which orchestra. Once in a while, a really good simply miked production will sound better than "live" but live usually wins here.
Michael McDonald BB King Blues Bar, Circa 2002
This didnt sound great, despite the smallish venue and intimacy with the small audience, the grey hair and the belly. But no doubt, this guy still has something special. I would say this depends, subject to the performance and the recording. Living on the Fault line is a good track for an audiophile.
I think the moral of the story for me is that the bigger and more commercial the concert, the more likely it is to sound like crap and disappoint, even if we are dealing with charismatic energetic performers.
Of course, substance abuse will alter the results of any survey.
Van Morrison at Jones Beach- 45 minutes of hostility, he couldn't wait to get out of there.
The Clash at Bonds 25 years ago. The SINGLE WORST venue ever. Terrible sound and no sightlines at these "legendary" shows.
Patti Smith in Ann Arbor ca 1975. Her band was snowed in and she tried to do an entire poetry/acapella show.
The Dead at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City. I was uncomfortable and bored. Five hours of Dead is at least two hours too much for me.
Eels at The Roxy five years ago. One of the best songwriters alive decides to dress as the Unabomber and drown his perfect hooks under a barrage of noise.
Kim Richey Opened for some alt. country band and blew everyone away.
Taj Mahal I had tried to see him for 20 years so I didn't want to set myself up for disappointment when I finally got to see him play. I anticipated a low key acoustic blues set. Instead, he was all over the place: acoustic and electric and on top of his game on both.
John Hiatt's Perfectly Good Guitar Tour. I'd seen him many times and really liked his shows, but this one, with a younger, much harder rocking band was tremendous. I believe Cheryl Crow opened.
John Fogerty's comeback show at Town Hall, NYC. CCR was always about the records-not the shows. Fogerty went away for 15 years and when he came back he had learned how to play guitar AND he found a great band to back him. The songs are as good as can be.
Agree completely with Marco about how Benaroya Hall in Seattle can ruin the best of concerts.
I went to see Emmylou Harris there with Buddy and Julie Miller as the opening act. You could only get a sense of what they were capable of because the overamplified PA system and bizarre acoustics made them almost unlistenable.
The only reason I stayed is that Buddy Miller was such an incredible, unexpected talent, obvious even through the horrible sound. He played with Emmylou through all of her set and the combination of the two of them would have been outrageously good if only you could have heard it.
Broadway theatrics and rock 'n roll. a performance I will remember for life.
As good live as recorded
Best live band ever?
On the back steps of the student union in college- just he and his guitar kept a crowd of 2000 enthralled for 2+ hours
Seen is a small venue-guitar licks from another universe
Tina Turner- boring left after and hour
Joni Mitchell- great voice, no charisma. Her back up band Tom Scott and the LA Express was the star of the show
Chicago- Low fidelity venue, no energy
They may have had just bad nights but I left these shows wondering how much studio polish got them where they are.
The Dead, as listed but for different reasons and the SOUND SYSTEM. Also RatDog, and Phil&Freinds.
Paul Simon at a local ampitheater, wasn't crowed so I just moved back behind the mixing board, and wow, I never heard a PA system image before. To say I was blown away was an understatement.
Bruce Springsteen once opening his Born in the USA tour. Magic. Since then mostly disappointments.
Talking Heads: Reluctantly agreed to go with a friend to see them. After the show, I drove around NorCal to see their next three concerts.
Kings X: Every song, even those that miss on CD, is explosive live. Tightest band I've ever seen, they sound like one mind playing three instruments simultaneously.
Dylan: Once show a big surprise, another a big disappointment.
Springsteen in a stadium: He worked it like a small nightclub.
Eminem & Dr. Dre: Two of the most captivating performers I've ever seen. I like their recordings well enough, but in concert they blew the doors off!
Meat Puppets: Sleepy on the recordings, rippin' live.
Nels Cline Singers: Nels Cline is the most compelling, masterful musician I've ever seen.
Throwing Muses: Good recordings (especially "Limbo"), but amazing in concert.
Soundgarden: I saw them at a surprise gig at a small club. They sounded monolithic.
Primus: Used to see them do afternoon gigs at a little bar on Haight Street. They were far too big for the local circuit, and quickly proved to be.
Spin Doctors: Not what you'd expect to see at a little bar on 2nd Ave in NYC. Soon thereafter, they shot to fame.
Catherine Wheel: More energy & creativity on the recordings than live.
Milton Nascimento: A musical hero of mine, he sat on a stool the entire night. Boring.
Tvad, why be embarrased, Tina Turner's on fire when she hits the stage.
Annie Lennox was electric on stage. She had the crowd from beginning to end even though she was the opener for Sting.
Biggest dissapointment was Sting. Although in fairness it may have been an audience expecting Police standards. He couldn't get the crowd into his new stuff. The brightest spot in Sting's set as when Annie Lennox joined him for a duet.
Patricia Barber live was incredible. I figured she would be, but had no idea the talent of her musicians until I saw them first hand. Absolutely incredible.
Harry Bellafonte (okay I don't think much of his political positions currently--but his music is amazing). His voice was failing, but charisma was 110% on stage as were his musicians--again incredible.
Harry Connick Jr., really wasn't expecting much because I just don't think his albums are that great. On stage--different story he is brilliant, charismatic, and creative. Incredible musicians. Every night he changes the program--which I think lends itself to more creativity. He is a must see.
Janis Ian. Seen her a few times now and she is so funny on stage. I didn't know if I was at a comedy club or a music club. Can't remember having more fun at a concert.
Don't go to many concerts anymore but here are a few from my archives. Hope you younger folks remember some of them:
Pink Floyd (saw them 3 times over 30 years ago and each show was stunning. I think the "medicine" helped)
Emerson, Lake, and Palmer
Deep Purple (w/ Ian Gillian)
Disappointed compared to studio:
Led Zeppelin (Plant's voice blew out in 1971)
Rolling Stones (good show but marginal music)
Fleetwood Mac (Buckingham/Nicks)
Jefferson Airplane (w/ Marty Balin)
Crosby, Stills, and Nash
Perhaps the best concert I ever attended, The Who, just after releasing Quadrophenia, we had never even heard these songs yet. Cobo Hall in Detroit, I think the crowd was in shock, couldn't even make a peep of noise.
Alice Cooper, early 70's, the shows were fabulous.
Many of the SE Michigan bands of the late 60's, early 70's, Mitch Ryder and Detroit Wheels, MC5, Up, Sunday Funnies, SRC and others.
Cyndi Lauper, with Rick Derringer, pretty damn nice!
Todd Rungren and Utopia, I've seen high school bands play better, perhaps a bad night?
Moody Blues, probably could never sound like their recordings.
Patti Smith, 1st half of the concert they were awesome, took an hour break and couldn't play, probably heroin and/or the coca with the alcohol chaser.
From my ''vintage'' years!
Big let down:
Elton John 1984 (got the bootleg tape to prove it!)
The Eagles (Hotel California) Toronto 1976
Men at Work Quebec 1982
Paul McCartney (Wings over America) 1976
The Police 1977 at a small college pub with only about 100 students packed in.
The Rolling Stones at the El Mocambo in Toronto 1977.
This was a surprise act. The sign above the club's entrance was '' Appearing tonight, the Cockroaches ''
When the club owner announced them onstage, here came Mick and the Stones in the flesh.
I was priviledged to be there. The following evening, you had a line-up 3 city blocks long.
They played for two nights in this small club, and you can hear the results on the ''Love you Live'' reissued cd. The atmosphere was electrifying. Compared to the cd, the live event was raw and full of rough around the edges, very much in the spirit of the Stones themselves. I became a Stones fan that evening, and found their cd's too slick and overproduced since.
My definition of Stones music: A bunch of guys player music just for fun and un-structured - anyone pitching in with vocals when they felt like it and all together also- while someone forgot to shut the tape recording machine down.
SNS - Have you seen Seinfeld's "Bizarro Universe Episode"?
I saw The Who's Quadraphenia tour at the Pontiac Silverdome ca. 1975. Much of the music was on tape, Keith Moon had just died, and the crowd booed the opening act (Toots and The Maytalls) off the stage. In particular, the less than accepting suburban Detroit crowd may have pissed off the band, which sleepwalked through the concert. While this may have been one tour after the one you so enjoyed, this was a TERRIBLE show.
OTOH, Todd Rundgren NEVER fails to delight me, even when his choice of material roams into the margin (quite often, actually).
Is this an official bizarro inversion of the time-space continuum?
Jethro Tull in the 70's....unbelievable
Fleetwood Mac 70's..rumours was hot
Blue Oyster Cult 70'S...with about 500 other people...no shows loss!
Stephen Stills in the 80's in a small bar in Atlanta with a four piece band was maybe in the top 3 shows I've ever attended
Neil Young with Booker T and the MG's in the 90's
Genesis in the 80's
Heart in the 70's - that is one righteous rock band by any standards
Eric Clapton in the early 90's - I mean front row seats and he strolls out with some adlib into to White Room with a duke hanging from a string on the axe....journey man....nuff said
Believe it or not Bryan Adams rocked everyones noogies off
Kenny Rogers...ouch...in the round in the 80's was damn good...
Stones in the 70's and the Steel Wheels tour
Joe Walsh...he's drunker than me...
Hootie and the Blowfish...chick flick
Beach Boys....I'm gonna spew!
Jimmy Buffet - STOP THE MADNESS!
Beatles in the 60's......just kidding
The rest are a blurrrrrr......
Probably the most disappointing show I saw, relative to my esteem for the performer, was Albert King in a NYC club in the mid-80's, but this may be unfair since he might not have been in the greatest of health anymore. Nevertheless, backed by the competently polished local blooze-boogie band who opened the set, he came out with his electric guitar cranked up to godawful volumes, about twice as loud as the whole rest of the band put together (I'm not kidding, I mean literally -- the disparity was so enormous it would have been comical if it hadn't been so painful), played through a horrible sounding solid-state amp with a piercingly discordant tone, kept what sounded like both a phaser and a chorus turned on one setting the entire night, completely inappropriate for the material, and proceeded to sloppily repeat the same licks over and over in each and every song, with no regard for the songs themselves, and continually wandered out of time away from the changes since he was so loud he couldn't hear the band during his solos. At one point he did apologize for his rather disconnected demeanor, saying he'd been ill. I've been to a few shows that were even harder to sit through for me than this one (Dave Alvin & the Guilty Men, Evelyn Glennie, James Blood Ulmer, Foo Fighters were some squirmers I'd rather forget), but won't detail them because my expectations weren't as high. (Well, there was that legendary DC show where Minor Threat opened for UK punk heroes The Damned and wound up basically blowing them off the stage, to our hometown delight yet major disappointment...)
Biggest surprise at a show? When Robert Plant made an impromptu mid-set appearance at a club where the Stray Cats were playing (again mid-80's), spontaneously joining them onstage after his own concert at the local arena for rousing off-the-cuff renditions of 50's rockabilly standards. I initially feared the Zeppelin-esque banshee overkill worst, but he was actually much better at singing in the authentic style than Brian Setzer, and clearly having a total ball wringing out "Be-Bop-A-Lula" and the like. Have you ever heard a packed-house crowd all of a sudden become twice as loud? I think the most shocked guys in the whole joint were the Strays themselves.
Dan: Don't forget Ani Difranco too (not that I've had the displeasure of seeing her live... ;^) About Evelyn Glennie, my comment as our group filed out of the hall was to the effect that it only makes sense, when you think about it, that what we'd just witnessed came across as an assault of rote mechanical virtuousity totally divorced from any feeling of artistic communication or musical soul -- after all, the woman *is* completely deaf. A technically awesome but ultimately meaningless (to me) oddity that I'd like never to endure again.
Tvad: By the time of that Stray Cats show I mentioned, they were already well on the down slide of their rather meteroric little career, and the Plant surprise was by far the highlight of that show. Contrast that with a few years earlier when I saw the band on their first tour in '82, before they even had an American record deal -- if anybody ever thought these guys were pretenders or some kind of joke (which they quickly began to justify thinking of them as), that first show was one the most amazing I've ever witnessed in my life. Yeah, I know in one respect they were simply mining a style that had come and gone before they first picked up instruments, but they recombined it, very successfully at first, with a contemporary punk approach, and you would not believe the explosion of music, energy and sound that came off that stage, from just three guys with a grand total of one slap bass, two drums (kick + snare) and one cymbal, and one old Gretsch guitar plugged into only an echo box and an old Fender amp. Absolute excitement, could more than hold their own alongside vintage Dave Edmunds, Blasters, X, Rockpile, Cramps, Robert Gordon, Shakin' Pyramids (seen 'em all), too bad they weren't ever near that great again in later years, but more recent claimants to the throne like the Reverend Horton Heat or Southern Culture On The Skids have nothin' on the Cats in their heyday. Even so, their singin' and lyrics do seem pretty unintentionally comical in retrospect if you go back and listen to the records. Hadda be there, I guess. BTW, I've never been able to stand Setzer's Big Band, which to me is either a pale imitation at best, or a smarmy desecration at worst, of the postwar jump-band style ;^)
I forgot to mention the band that surprised me the most, mainly because I'd never heard their music before seeing them perform: The Waterboys. They opened up for U2 on the "Unforgettable Fire" tour. They still had Karl Wallinger (who later started the band, World Party) on keyboards, and by the time they closed with the song, "This is the Sea", I was slack-jawed. Lucky for me, I saw them again the following night. They were absolutely mesmerizing, and 20+ years later, the album "This is the Sea" is still one of my desert island discs.
LeedistadYou lucky devil! One of my favorite, underrated bands of all time. Some of the best talent in the business, but they were actually from England. Where's that machine from "Brainstorm" when you need it?
Martyki, no, not a case of Bizrro Universe. The concert I'm speaking of was late 73 or early 74, Keith Moon still with band. I suppose we could never make a peep as one song went right into the next, this show still stands as perhaps the best I ever attended.
Todd Rungren, yes, his band was terrible, Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor mid 70's, perhaps half the crowd left prior to the end of the concert.
SNS: I guess today we learned that "Timing is everything in life"!
BTW Every time I see The Who (once in each of the lasr four decades) they are better than the last. The most recent show was last year at The Hollywood Bowl and I thought PT really upped his game on the leads.
FWIW Music choices aside, Rundgren is a fantastic player and usually surrounds himself with very capable accompaniment. It's unfortunate that you seem to have caught an exception to that rule.
Big disappointment last night, even though I didn't have any major expectations going in. I won't say who the band was because they were local heroes from the 60's, with one album to their credit, who recently re-formed but with only 2 of 5 members from the original lineup intact. The most recognized among them -- the guitarist who went on to form a hard rock band on a major label which recorded extensively and toured internationally in the 70's, and the bassist who co-founded a very long-running and nationally-known blues/rock band -- both did not participate. Instead on lead guitar was a local hot-shot whose name I've been aware of for over 20 years, who has national recognition in guitar circles with many albums to his credit and is also a teacher and author/columnist, but who I'd never heard or seen before myself (except for one time on local radio). Anyway, I thought the entire show was awful in every respect, including and especially this guitar-god guy, plus the vocalist (one of the original members), so I got up and walked out after only several songs despite the $20 admission, 'cause I just couldn't stand listening another minute. Oh well, c'est la vie...
Barry Manilow is fantastic live. Perfect sound, perfect lighting, rehearsed to perfection.
Paul Simon was just boring. I left halfway.
Julio Iglesias was great 15 years ago. I saw him again 5 years ago. Same old chat and it was like watching a bad rehearsal. The sound was appalling.
Air Supply. Saw them once in 2003, not great live. Russell’s voice has gone.
Jean Michel Jarre. Great outdoors, indoors was crap.
Madonna. Sound was appalling. She makes a little talent go a long way.
Dionne Warwick. No stage presence.
Judy Collins, very good. Didn’t use any sort of stage monitoring or IEMs.
Joni Mitchell. Boring.
Liza Minnelli in 1985. Great.
Art Garfunkel, voice of an angel.
Phil Collins. Perfect sound.
Josh Groban, fantastic.
Celine at Caesar’s Palace. The best live sound I have ever heard. The Coliseum was made for her and the acoustics were out of this world. OMG, that sound!
Elton John. Great sound and superb.
AC/DC at the Forum in L.A. I was never a metalhead, but my friend had free tickets. Absolutely incredible show, incredible sound.
Could not wait to see Depeche Mode at the brand new Staples Center in L.A. After all that hype about the venue being built to be state of the art for concerts and sound quality, the biggest disappointment I've experienced to date. The worst sound ever.
Fast forward maybe 15 years to see Hall and Oates and Tears for Fears at the same venue. Sound was just as bad. Loved the music, hated the sound. That place is the pits for sound.
But hands down, Skinny Puppy has the best sound, set-up, theatrics, lights, the whole shabang. I know the music isn't for everyone. But no matter where they play, I know I'm in for a show not to be forgotten.
Biggest let downs:
Joni Mitchell at the County Bowl in Santa Barbara-- the show that was released as the CD/DVD "Shadows and Light". She made no attempt to connect with the audience and her icy cold demeanor really ruined the show for me. The "all star" band did not cohere well, IMHO.
Roy Buchanan at State Theater in Portland, Maine, early 90's.
Seemed a shadow of his former self.
Terrible guitar sound (he'd ditched his famed 50's Tele at that point)
and uninspired backing band.
Robert Cray at Hult Center in Eugene, OR.
Cray was great. Unfortunately his band played
with zero emotion, like accountants adding up columns of figures.
A bizarre combination that did not serve Cray's talent.
Derek Trucks Band and Robben Ford at some Casino on Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. This one was spoiled by the exceedingly wasted crowd.
We left early and witnessed three or four cops pinning a screaming, freaked-out tweaker to the ground right in front of the venue. A real downer.
RTF at Granada Theater in Santa Barbara.
Started off with Corea's invocation to L. Ron Hubbard and went downhill from there. Those guys emitted a level of self-indulgent pretentiousness I'd never experienced. I'd seen Stanley Clarke band and enjoyed that much more. I have many C. Corea CDs I enjoy but that show, no.
Los Lobos at the gym at Bowdoin College, Brunswick Maine, early 80's. This was the tour promoting "Will The Wolf Survive". I went into the show with no idea of just what fantastic musicians those guys were/are. Wow!
Les McCann at Lobero Theater, Santa Barbara, mid 70's. My brother
took me, as I'd never heard McCann, who turned the venue into some sort of down home church. He had us all in the palm of his hand-- incredibly soulful guy.
Oregon at Campbell Hall, UCSB,late 70's. I was a fan, based on their records but was unprepared for the transcendant in-concert experience.
Bonnie Raitt, Arlington Theater, Santa Barbara,early 80's. My wife and I were fans but live, Ms. Raitt was so much more intense than on record.
She and her band were red hot. A superb show.
Solas; another case where they were considerably more intense live than on record. This was a very small venue (Center For the Arts in Grass Valley). Great vocalist (don't remember her name) and I couldn't take my eyes off fiddler Winifred Horan, who played like some sort of possessed Gypsy.