12 June 2005

Why I don't like live albums

I'm not a big fan of live albums. There are people who swear by live recordings and think that this is when a band really comes alive and brings the music to life. Well, I come from a totally different place...

Most of the music I listen to has a certain feeling, atmosphere or energy which is created via the sound and production of the music. Often it can be a certain keyboard sound, guitar rif or hook that makes a great song become a brilliant song. And when listening to a song, certain sections of that song are often defined by these special moments.

The transformation from recorded album to live situation is often where things go wrong. To me, live recordings most often fail to capture these small recorded details of brilliance and many songs become a lot less layered sonically and thus less interesting.

Also, live albums rarely manage to capture the atmosphere and excitement at the concert and will therefore always be the second best way of experiencing a band live.

Finally, too many bands just try to reproduce the album versions when they play live. In my book, this will almost always make the live rendition of a song inferior to the recorded version.

If I'm going to buy a live album, it's either going to be because I was there at the concert and want to cherish the experience or because the band plays the songs in more interesting ways live. Otherwise, why bother at all?


Anonymous Uffe said...

I must say that I prefer live recordings. Exactly as you say yourself: this is when a band really comes alive and brings the music to life.
Studio recordings tend to be a bit lifeless since the performers don't have an audience. Performers feed of the energy of the crowd and eachother when playing live and give a performance far superior to when they record in a boring studio. Plus the studio recording is often made immediately after the songs have been written, where the live recording is made well into the tour when the performers have some experience with the songs and have changed small parts of the songs for the better.
It is offcourse impossible to capture the excitement of thousands of people on a live album, but I think the atmosphere is definitely possible if you listen to a live dvd with digital surround sound. And this way you will get better sound quality as it is impossible to place yourself in the optimal listening position at the actual concert.
Some bands DO stink live, but they usually don't last long either. If a band can't play well live, they can't play well at all!

28 June 2005 at 12:45  

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