Is It Live? (Or Is It Memorex?)

Posted by Dave

Years ago, naive concert goers actually thought that the music they were hearing at a “Live! In Person!” event was… “live.” (Silly people.) The discovery that Electric Light Orchestra was “sweetening” – or augmenting – their concert sound with sequenced (pre-recorded) tracks created a minor scandal. But soon, the practice became common, and had the benefit of allowing the Bee Gees, for example, to re-create the multi-tracked vocals of their hit recordings before live audiences.

Nowadays, through a reverse Darwinian process called “De-volution,” arena artists don’t even pretend to be “live.” Britney and Beyonce lip-synch openly, if not so brazenly as Miley Cyrus – whose voice continues to be heard on-stage, even as she changes costumes in her dressing room (replaced by a dance double.)

It was only a matter of time before similar practices were adopted by club and party bands. Which is why today you can hire an all-male trio whose sound includes female voices (along with horns and strings.) Indeed, you can hire groups whose pre-recorded sound is so full, that your “live” musicians seem to be doing little more than just playing along with the track. There’s a name for this “new” form of musical entertainment. And that name is KARAOKE!

Now – if you know what you are hiring and are happy with the sequenced sounds of Milli Vanilli, then that is exactly what you should have. My only complaint is with any band whose demos and promo material fail to make clear what is “real” and what is “reel to reel.” One quartet of my acquaintance advertises their “Phat Trax,” letting potential buyers know that – yes – it is (at least partially) Memorex. But another track-using local band’s website simply refers to their “big sound,” and I find that deceptive.

If this trend continues to its logical conclusion, ever fewer live band members will show up. Soon, the music will all be canned. And there’s a name for that form of party entertainment, too: it’s called a DEEJAY!


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