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Music: Live , or Studio?

Jade Jaguar

I love live music. I go to several music festivals every year, and sometimes hear music in clubs. The spontaneity of the performances, and reactions/interactions of the audience are wonderful, BUT...

As I was drooling over the equipment on the web sites of Denon, Pioneer Elite, and Sony ES, (I may be able to update/upgrade my system soon) it occured to me that for all the varieties of music I listen to, the best actual sound comes from a really good HiFi system, not a live performance. There are some excellent concert albums, but again, the very best sound comes from a studio, in my opinion. What do you think?
Studio is more polished... but I think both have their merits. But to me, it's really down to the singer.

You have some who are equally good in studio and live. But then you have some singers that are much better in studio, and some much better live. So it all depends. :)
Oh, it all depends on so many things.

Obviously there are more facilities available in a studio. And most live recordings are made with the goal of reproducing the event, making the listener feel like they're there.

The single most important factor of an album's sound is the intent and style of the producer and engineer. Many rock albums go for the "live in the studio" thing, a minmalist approach that is supposed to be more natural. On the other end, there are the George Martins of the world who can use the studio as another instrument. The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Peter Gabriel do this very well.

It's two totally different listening experiences, and some bands excel at one over the other. Rush's live albums are generally a bit too "perfect," with obvous post-recording dubbing and futzing going on. This is was rampant until relatively recently, especially with jazz albums where they ripped solos and whole chunks out of performances.

Of course I love it all- there is a great pleasure in listening to studio perfection like Sgt Pepper, Moving Pictures, or So, where every note and every moment is just right. But with King Crimson, Deep Purple, and my favorite jazz artists, I tend to head for the live stuff. Some bands are more performance bands. I personally rarely even see the point in listening to an Allman Bros studio album.

Concerts are of course another thing completely. Jazz is all about the performance, and records are just something to keep you busy in between concerts (or the only way to listen to dead musicians). To me, a band loses cred when they can't deliver on stage musically even if their studio work is solid.
Music recorded in a studio is meant to be a work of art (well, mostly). It is the music that the artists and producers want you to hear.

Live music is a performance of that work. It can sound just as good, a whole lot better or a whole lot worse. But the effect is mainly in your presence at the performance. You can think a concert was great, but hear a recording of it later and it sucks. Live music should be appreciated the way it's supposed to be experienced - live and in person.

Live albums are basically just to make money. If I want to listen to a band, I'll put on one of their studio records.
I totally disagree with your view of live albums.

Becuase what they do in the studio can be the mainstream stuff, but it's when it's live that they're *really* performing. To true artists, that's what it's all about. Performing to people, getting response. Thus it's nice to be able to view that on DVD or have it on CD.
I must admit that, due to the nature of what a lot of my friends listen to, most of the live music a hear are audience dubs. So they generally sound like crap.

However, live albums that are mixed and produced properly can sound good, or even better than the original - like the way a band subtly changes a song after playing it a hundred times.

I'm just saying I'd rather listen to live music from the audience, not my couch.

By the way - why is this thread in tv/film section?
I'm just saying I'd rather listen to live music from the audience, not my couch.

We all would. But sometimes that just ain't possible. A fan may live in some part of the world that the band doesn't tour. Or the band might no longer exist, or be past their prime.

And there are just some classic performances that have become legendary thanks to their preservation and production for the marketplace. The first such example is Duke Ellington's "comeback" (though he never really left) at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, featuring the famous extra-long unplanned solo by saxophonist Paul Gonsolvez.
Also, the Allman Bros at the Fillmore East, John Coltrane at the Village Vanguard, etc. These albums aren't just "extra," but essential for fans of the bands.

I think concert films also deserve a mention, especially with advent of DVDs. Both legacy concerts given nice treatment and made-for-DVD productions add an extra dimension for the music lover. Rush fans absolutely must pick up the new Rush in Rio DVD.
Rush fans absolutely must pick up the new Rush in Rio DVD.

Hey, GKE

I was thinking about picking up the DVD, but I've read that the mixing is terrible. Can you confirm this?
Dude, nice to see you around here. You're like the only other person around here with some decent taste in music.

The opinions on the DVD are the most polarised of any release I've ever seen. Half the people absolutely love it, the other half loathe it. I'm in the former category, but I'll try my best to describe the mix.

- The most noticeable thing is that the crowd is very very loud. The 40,000 Rio fans are all hardcore and extremely enthusiastic (and they had every right to be- this was the first time Rush ever played there).

- Ged's vocals are a tad low. Whether it's the mix or just the way it sounded that day is unknown, but I think it's the latter. With that noisy crowd and the sheer power of the band, as well as Ged's weakened voice and range, it's to be expected.

- There is no DTS track, only DD.

- It is not anamorphic.

- Some people believe the sound was over-compressed, fearing the return of the same problem that plagued the Vapor Trails album. I think what they're hearing is just a natural live sound. It's just not going to sound crystal-clear in a live performance.

- The most puzzling difference of perception is the bass. Some complain that it's barely audible. Others, like me, actually had to turn our subs down. I can't see how anyone can complain of lack of bass- my windows were shaking.

In my mind, if you're a fan, there's no question that you should get Rush's first DVD concert which is almost 3 hours long, features an amazing set list, and sounds much more natural than the dubbed, cold presentation on their older live albums.
Yeah, I'll be picking it up as soon as my local retailer gets it in. The set list looks awesome. I don't have a very advanced stereo set-up for my DVD, so I might not notice the sound issues as much as others with better equipment.

I am looking forward to it (though I must admit to not really being able to get into Vapour Trails much - all the tracks seem to merge into one style by the end. I can never get through it in one sitting. I much prefer Test For Echo).
Vapor Trails is the CD for which the sound complaints are justified. They compress the bejeebus out of it- so much so that it infuriates me.

Musically, I truly think it is amongst their best. I love how aggressive some of the music is and how positive the lyrics are. As a bass aficionado, there is plenty to drool over.

Then again, I also loved Test For Echo, though that album is one of their most heavily criticised (I don't really understand why).

Vapor Trails is one strong example of the low-brow mindset of recording engineers today- smash up all the dynamice range so that it would sound "louder" on the radio. I don't mind if it's for LimpBizkit or whatever, but Rush is not a band that uses the radio for publicity anymore. They shouldn't ruin it for the rest of us!

(Sorry to go off like that, but this stuff matters to me. :) )
I think Rush is the exception to the rule in live vs. studio because of their flawless stage execution. Somehow, they manage to make their songs sound exactly the same as the sound on the records. How those guys can pull off playing two intruments at a time is beyond me. They have enough talent in that band for five or six guys.
I know what you mean, the sound for Vapour Trails is way off.

With the live vs. studio debate, for me it's mostly academic - progressive rock bands tend to play the songs almost note for note in a live setting, and so I would rather have the studio recordings.

The only exception to this rule is King Crimson, and to an extent Spock's Beard (I have heard five versions of The Doorway, and each one has a different acoustic middle section). So whilst I know that Yes' Close To The Edge will sound the same if I listen to a live recording from 1972, 1982, 1992 or 2002, with Crimson and The Beard I actually enjoy listening to their live shows.

Speaking of Spock's Beard (or more specifically Neal Morse), have you listened to Testimony? I have to hand it to Neal Morse he has done the impossible - make a good Christian rock CD. An amazing listening experience.
Dude, nice to see you around here. You're like the only other person around here with some decent taste in music.

That was a little overbroad, don't you think? I demand a retraction! :p

Okay, I'm not a Rush fan, and I've never heard of Vapor Trails. I do agree that live performance recordings are important, especially in Jazz. Even in rock there are some, I'm thinking of one by the Doors, in a small club in LA, that may be the best performance the artists ever did. But, as far as the quality of the sound, I think I asked a dumb question, because in the studio they can try for perfection, and come close. Well, unless it is Phil Spector, and the Wall Of Sound.
While recreating studio performances live is impressive and great for some bands, with others it is boring. Rush's music is so tight and structured that they don't much leeway.

I have not heard Testimony and admittedly have little interest. And yes, it is partly due to the Christian subject matter, but more to do with the fact that I rarely follow post-band solo careers. But he is a talented dude and I'm glad he's doing well.

King Crimson- my musical gods. Whatever the equivalent of musical orgasm is, I have that everytime I see them live, and will be seeing them on the 18th.
The current band doesn't stray much from the compositions, because they reigned in a lot of the experimentation in favor of tightly structured pieces and interwoven guitar lines. But there is something inexplicable about why this music is so much more powerful live. It is absolutely breathtaking. The last time I saw them, I actually was breathing a little heavy during the Level Five.

I think of Crimson's musical development in the last 8 years like weightlifting- first the muscles are torn (the band experiments and jams, in the studio and live and releases them only through the website) then the muscles build on that and strengthen (the band settles on compositions and releases them to the mass market). Repeat, etc.

Jade, you're cool 'cause you dig Zappa, so don't worry.:)
And I know you're a big Who fan, so I'm just letting you know that I'm listening to the bonus disc of demos and alt takes on the new Tommy double SACD.
Okay, I'm jealous, of your SACD setup, and the Tommy disc. I do have all the Mobile Fidelity Ultradiscs of the Who. Although I'm not the fanatic you are, I also like King Crimson, and have several of their albums on vinyl, including a RYKO disc virgin vinyl one. I know we actually share a lot in musical tastes.

Time may have finally healed my credit record, and I may refinance my house this spring, to finish with the remodeling. I think I can squeeze off enough to do some major updating of my system then, including SACD. If I do, I'll post enough about it to make YOU jealous! :p
I have not heard Testimony and admittedly have little interest. And yes, it is partly due to the Christian subject matter, but more to do with the fact that I rarely follow post-band solo careers. But he is a talented dude and I'm glad he's doing well.

I was very skeptical, which is why I listened to some of the tracks as MP3 before taking the plunge to buy. And it has Mike Portnoy on all the drum tracks, so that's half of Transatlantic right there!

The other band who I always find to have (or had) interesting live shows was Led Zeppelin - no two performances were exactly alike. I have the 2 disc live DVD, and it is unbelievable.

And I am also jealous of your Tommy 2 disc SACD. I have a bootleg version of Pete Townshend's Tommy demos, but I am guessing that these are the Who out-takes during the recording process?
El S., I put this thread in the Book, TV, and film section because I thought music, as another art form, fit better here than in off topic. Hope it didn't bother anyone too much.
Live and studio are both good. In different ways. :D

Being able to go to a concert is of course the best way to experience live music. Especially if the artist is at least half way decent when performing live. I'm not only talking about major bands like the Stones (god I do so love seeing the Stones live!) or Alice Cooper etc, who also put up a *great* show in addition to the music, but also small bands (got a very, very positive experience in Vienna last Saturday .. our very own ChiLlBeserker's band in action was extremely good live :D ).

Recordings of live performances can be either good or bad. Depends on the recording, and how much you're into the artist. I love the Stones' live albums, even though they're very weak compared to the actual live performances.

So basically .. it does depend a lot on the music, and the artist. And on how well the live performance was captured/mixed, if we're talking about live recordings, not attending concerts. Professional live recordings are of course usually better but I've also got to hear some pretty amazing quality Stones show bootleg recordings .. which I'm very grateful for. :D

Incidentally ... I'm totally looking forward to the Stones 4 DVD set from their latest Forty Licks tour ... Four Flicks, released in the US on 11 November, I think, and a week or so later in region 2. :D I know it won't be as good as the live concerts, but I'm drooling at the mere thought of this. :D
I glory in your envy, but alas, it shall be short-lived. Due to personal and financial struggles, my euipment and media will be packaged and stored in less than a month for quite a while. I will be living off of mp3s. It will hurt me. If you get your new audio setup before I can reclaim mine, I will stew in jealous rage. :)

I listened to the surround track of the Who SACD the other day and it is so cool. I especially like the touch of putting the cries of "Tommy can you hear me?" in the rears, so it's as if the listener is Tommy. Or something. Neat-o.

Anyway, if you do get a chance to hear Crimson's new material, especially live, I can't recommend it enough. Surpasses their "classic" stuff by miles, IMO. If evil had a sound, it would be Level Five. No surprise why I love it so much, then. :devil:

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