a change of subject

When it comes to music, my favourite experience is a quality live performance, but I do mean quality – high quality. Because of the effects of studio manipulation, live reproduction is now an especially challenging environment. We’re so used to hearing sound manipulated to digital perfection, pumped through Reason, Rebirth or whichever software package and exported with bare remnants of the artist’s natural talent (or lack of) remaining – Brittany et al, I’m talkin’ bout you.

Nathan Haines could always throw down a live sound that exceeded the de-tuned blandness that his record label insisted on for his albums. Conversely, the American rock & roll legend of Guns & Roses had a shite live sound – nothing like the heavily processed hits featured on radio. The Travelling Wilburys offered an amazing clash – from Roy Orbison (that operatic voice didn’t ever need processing, the single best voice in popular music ever) through Jeff Lynn (whose production skills far exceeded his natural singing ability) to Bob Dylan (no post-production effort will ever make him a tuneful singer, although he remains America’s best songwriter.)

In a way, this thing for one-take live excellence is a metaphor for my own professional output. I do it by myself, often for myself – just to see if it can be done. I do it the best I possibly can – ignoring time & incurred expense – until the job has gone from concept to completion, from a fleeting idea to a finished article. I don’t hide behind a team of subjugates, there’s no-one doing my coding/layout/databases/graphics for me, apart from me. There’s no layers of electronic production smoothing over my work. 1024kb is quality one-take live IT support for you, your friend and your business.

Single-shot live performances that work for me include Billy Preston’s oh-so-right My Sweet Lord at Concert For George –

I read so much into this rendition. Billy recorded the song before George (the author) topped the charts with it. As such, the memorial Concert For George was the last time this song could be “officially” performed – in my eyes anyway. And they cracked it, fully.

Roy Orbison & Friends is the innocuous artist credit for A Black & White Night.

Roy’s friends include Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, kd lang, Bonnie Rait, Jennifer Warnes & Tom Waits amongst others. James Burton leads the ex-Elvis Presley TCB Band – just in case they needed a tight rhythm section. The entire DVD concert is great viewing – look for Bruce Springsteen sharing the mic with Roy. The Boss is yelling as he does, Roy is just singing, yet you can hardly hear Springsteen.

These performances are rare. When I find a gig that grabs my attention, it becomes an instant lifelong favourite. Which brings me to my newest Hall Of Fame addition. A double paradox this time – Led Zep were never really a band that grabbed me, I just didn’t quite get it. And their live sound was awful, Robert Plant’s voice is not an outdoor auditorium voice. Sure, the studio results were massively impressive – but it took 5 full years to engineer & master their reunion concert into a palatable retail offering.

In 2012 Led Zeppelin were Kennedy Center Honorees, a prestigious American recognition of outstanding contribution to the performing arts. I never thought I’d hear a cover of Stairway To Heaven that engendered respect, and I did not think that a female voice could take that song on successfully either. (Apologies for what could be perceived as mildly misogynistic thoughts.) On both counts, I was wrong.

This performance, led by Canadian sister band Heart and featuring John Bonham’s son Jason on drums, brings tears to Robert Plant’s eyes and admiring profanity from Jimmy Page. Absolutely outstanding, an awesome gig. Check it out:

Isn’t Jason Bonham just a monster behind the drums? The real star of that one though – the producer and director – creative vision and drive that took an obvious plan into a magnificent rendition. I don’t know who the producer/director/s were, yet, but they well deserved all the praise they undoubtedly received.

If you have a particular favourite one-take live performance (& it really doesn’t matter which artist or genre), I’d like to know about it. Hit me up through the comments section below.

Edit: Jamie Ellis, after viewing Stairway To Heaven, & being a serious Led Zep fan, turned me on to what can only be the greatest drum solo ever – John Bonham, 1970, Royal Albert Hall, Moby Dick. Part of a Led Zep concert, the track is opened & closed in conjunction with the guitars of John Paul Jones & Jimmy Page but because of the sheer awesomeness of the 15min almost solo performance, credited to Bonham alone. Check it out below:

& that there, peeps, is inarguably the single greatest drum solo you’ll ever experience. There may be a performance or two in some other genre that approaches Bonham’s excellence, but I do not believe that there is, has been or will ever be, a performance that demonstrably exceeds Moby Dick.

(All videos shown on this site are embedded links from YouTube. Thanks Google! YouTube today consumes as much bandwidth as the entire internet did just 6 years ago)

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