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Is is (a)live or is it...


tctruffin
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A few years ago, my wife came home from a Rolling Stones concert raving about their performance of "Wild Horses." What made this unusual was that she had never really liked the song as heard on record. This past May, we had the pleasure of seeing U2 live in Chicago. Now, I seem to be one of the few folks who find Atomic Bomb to be rather less than atomic but dangerously close to a bomb; however, the songs from Bomb that they played live sounded rather good and engaging. Friday night, we heard Over the Rhine play a small club in Columbus, and I was once again reminded of this phenomenon of a so-so album cut coming alive in performance as they breathed life into "Show Me" and "Lookin Forward," two tunes that I felt weren't up to the snuff of the other songs on Ohio and Drunkard's Prayer.

So, how about you? Any songs you've seen saved in performance? Any lackluster album cuts that suddenly sprang to life on stage?

Jesus is not a zombie...I shouldn't have to tell you that.

--Agent Booth, Bones

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A few years ago, my wife came home from a Rolling Stones concert raving about their performance of "Wild Horses."  What made this unusual was that she had never really liked the song as heard on record.  This past May, we had the pleasure of seeing U2 live in Chicago.  Now, I seem to be one of the few folks who find Atomic Bomb to be rather less than atomic but dangerously close to a bomb; however, the songs from Bomb that they played live sounded rather good and engaging.  Friday night, we heard Over the Rhine play a small club in Columbus, and I was once again reminded of this phenomenon of a so-so album cut coming alive in performance as they breathed life into "Show Me" and "Lookin Forward," two tunes that I felt weren't up to the snuff of the other songs on Ohio and Drunkard's Prayer.

So, how about you?  Any songs you've seen saved in performance?  Any lackluster album cuts that suddenly sprang to life on stage?

I was at that Over the Rhine show as well. And I'll nominate another song from the same album, in this case "Jesus in New Orleans." It's a wonderful song, and one of the best on Ohio. But it came alive in ways that I never expected Friday night, given the current circumstances in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I certainly was unprepared for the atomic bomb detonated in my heart upon hearing it. In the face of such utter devastation it is hard not to despair. But I was reminded that Jesus, even now, shows up in New Orleans, wearing a tattered coat, drifting among the losers who are left without a semblance of their former lives. Without intending to turn this into a political forum, music reminded me that hope is found among the ruins, and that we can be agents of that hope. I pray that I will be one of them.

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I went to a Flesh for Lulu concert in college. I wasn't really jazzed about the thing, since the one tape they played for me was all prog-rock artsy. But when they played live, man, it was all punk rock guitars and attitude. The same songs! I guess the albums were for money...

It had a face like Robert Tilton's -- without the horns.

- Steve Taylor, "Cash Cow"

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BDR's trip on the time machine reminds me....Missing Persons, 1984. What seemed little more than vacant, new wave pap on studio vinyl, was robust, musical brawn in concert. I was blown away by much more than Mrs. Bozzio's fish tank brassiere.

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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Radiohead's 'I will' from Hail to the thief always seemed a little lame, but live was the most powerful moment of the set - it seemed like it was the one he needed to sing the most.

Oh, and Dylan's 'Love minus zero/no limits' I've always liked, but now the version he does on the MTV Unplugged album seems like the definite version, it becomes stately and beautiful, rather than just nice and pretty, and seems like a whole different song. And the way he sings the last line is haunting, for some reason. FWIW I am just listening to Another side of... , and another interesting transformation is 'I don't believe you' from the fairly bouncy acoustic version on that album into the nasty, sarcastic monster on the Albert Hall Bootleg.

Edited by stu
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This is a great idea for a thread. Speaking as a former touring musician I can tell you that so many factors play into this, from how much you've toured a song before putting it to tape, to whether or not there is a producer on a recorded project who actually shares the band's original dream for a song. There's also the "Money Factor," -- if you don't have enough money to make a decent recording, you are going to sound better live. Then the "Transition Factor," which is obvious but needs to be said -- some people record things they just can't pull off live, others tend to develop great live performances that never fully translate to two-inch tape (especially in the case of younger bands who actually need a more mature mentor, or producer, to help them weed out the excess). Finally, there are the moments where a band is so well rested and just feeling good about themselves and their set -- maybe they went on a skiing trip before the gig, or maybe they had their favorite meal for dinner. Whatever the case, this is the "Human Factor," which says that sometimes when people are feeling good/confident about themselves and their lives, their artistic expression (even a depressing one) is more powerful live.

I can think of a few cases:

Sleeping At Last always sounds better live.

Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand" is a fun song on CD. But live it is electrifying, especially when he's under the purple stage lights.

77s "Don't Leave This Way," the most heart breaking live song I've felt.

U2's live version of "Kite" made me go back and listen to that entire CD and I really appreciate it even more these days. "Pride (In the Name of Love)" has always been more powerful live, even their recorded live version is more powerful. Actually, the more I think about it, much of U2's music is better live. "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "Bullet The Blue Sky," etc.

Conversely, The Cure are a rare band that in my mind sound better on most of their recordings... I've seen them live and heard a number of their live CDs and they come off as hokey sounding... And I say that as a HUGE Cure fan...

The Detholz are incredible live, like, you walk out going "What the heck was that?! I LOVED it," but quirky as their recordings are, they have yet to capture their awesome presence on CD...

And I've heard that The Wallflowers suck live, which I just don't get.

-s.

Edited by stef

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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The Detholz are incredible live, like, you walk out going "What the heck was that?!  I LOVED it," but quirky as their recordings are, they have yet to capture their awesome presence on CD...

We caught the Detholz opening up for Wilco, and I'd have to agree. I'm not sure exactly what it was that was going on onstage, but it had a vitality that few headliners, let alone opening acts, seem capable of mustering.

Jesus is not a zombie...I shouldn't have to tell you that.

--Agent Booth, Bones

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