Music News

S.O.S (Sigh or Surprise) – the Reality of Live Music

Photograph of the blog post author, Mary Woodcock

Mary Woodcock


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Hello everyone,  are you sitting comfortably? Good! Now, this article will need your feedback as I am simply the story teller, so relax, read and prepare your input.

About three years ago I was introduced by a fellow blues enthusiast to a well renowned musician, I jumped on the internet and was blown away. Joe Bonamassa was the name and guitar was his game. I seriously could not believe my ears, each line was packed with feeling and a surgical precision with his playing and, seriously… What a voice! I followed him with a passion. For those unfamiliar with JB himself, his first (more famously known) album was released in his early-to-mid teens with the band Bloodline. Since then, his solo career has boomed along with his other band Black Country Communion, not to mention a separate album with Beth Hart. Joe now comfortably holds the title as one of the modern Guitar Heroes, I remember listening to the Bloodline album and swearing to myself in shock and awe whilst analysing and enjoying his playing. If having not remained since his early days, his skill has improved with each following album.

After three years of following his music I finally got the opportunity to see the legendary man himself… I cannot put to paper my excitement. The day came and I jumped in the car to drive to London (which I hate doing, but hey, it’s JB) got as close as I could to the stage and the lights dropped…

Half an hour later and I was pacing Westfield shopping centre. I HAD WALKED OUT. I am not saying he was bad or that he is over rated, he is an incredibly talented artist who I shall continue to follow, I even bought two more CDs of his on my way out.

It must have been a good show due to the aching I woke with the next day from the back of my skull. If I recall correctly, there had been a rather large man behind me bouncing along to the music and elbowing me to each beat of the drum.

I was confused.

How could I not enjoy it? I have every CD and cover his songs at my own gigs. What was it?
It occurred to me that on this occasion the man himself played (almost note-for-note) as he did on the CD. To me, I may as well have just stayed in and listened to them with the bass running high through my headphones. It would have been the same experience, minus being a cushion for the elbow of the gentleman behind me.

On another occasion I fought myself not to leave a concert. The marvellous Mr. Mayer turned out to be not what I had once thought. More for his interaction with the crowd rather than similarity to his recorded playing.
When the man wanted to make the guitar cry he did so with an unexpected ease, but I was almost insulted by his wordplay to the crowd between songs and for over two years I stopped listening to his music.

However, I found myself mystified by Clapton and Winwood… I had never heard live playing like that in my life! I have Clapton albums dating back to the Cream Days but never before had I heard him play as he did then. Winwood too was on form with his playing and singing. The crowd were electric and at the end of each song Clapton ended with a simple “Thank you”.

Now, in summary, the aspects that failed Bonamassa and Mayer worked in Clapton and Winwoods favour. The overdrive of Ego (Mayer) and lack of variation (Bonamassa) were perfectly placed in their competitors for this article. Clapton and Winwood didn’t just vary their playing, they took the songs apart and reconstructed them. Everything was new and exciting. The whole show was very clever and most of all unexpected.

When I go to a show I expect something different from what I know, not a recitation but a re-imagining. To use Clapton again as an example, Layla against Layla unplugged or even the late great John Martyn. With Martyn you could buy the albums and go to the shows but you would never hear the same song twice, So every time was special. Some of my Martyn favourites are found on his BBC sessions as they carry traits of their recorded siblings whilst carrying their own unique natures. You have the Genus but an entirely different species.

My questions are:
How would you feel if you went to see your favourite band and they played just like the recording?
Which do you enjoy more; live or recorded?
What makes the experience for you?
Is Ego a key part to a show?
Should a live experience be different?

Thanks for reading and if you comment, thanks again.

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