Sunday 30 June 2013

Discuss: Recordings of Concerts

Listening to recordings of concerts is pointless at best and, more often than not, disappointing.


As Glastonbury Festival comes to an end today, and the BBC's live coverage with it, Radio 1 listeners shall no doubt be subjected to several hours' worth of recorded 'highlights' used to remind everyone just how great the experience was. And that's where my main complaint lies. A festival such as Glastonbury (and no, I haven't been) is all about the atmosphere formed within the endless crowds of music lovers. You don't need any qualifications to know that, generally, the musical performances themselves aren't always the best: there are a lot of out-of-breath-vocals, a lot of "let the crowd sing this bit" cop-outs, a lot of points where the note isn't quite hit.

I should just clarify that I do see the attraction and the enjoyment of gigs such as these. Music always has been for performing in a live environment, and should continue to be as such. The lack of production and audio touch-ups that might otherwise clean up a studio recording means the band are at their rawest, giving us a chance to assess their talents whilst they strut their stuff on the stage in front of us. It can be frenetic, magical, emotional, awe-inspiring...

But listening to a recording of the event is immensely anticlimactic. All the visual and atmospheric wonders of that moment are stripped away to leave a track that doesn't quite evoke the same excitement. Whilst, yes, music is an aural pleasure and perhaps nothing else is ordinarily necessary, a festival recording can rarely stand on its own with any real confidence.

Oh, but there are exceptions of course. Within my music collection lies concert recordings where bands have performed fantastic covers, or musicians have approached one of their owns songs in an entirely different way. These are worthy tracks: providing something that I would not otherwise be able to enjoy. But these exceptions are sadly few and far between.

And so tomorrow, when the BBC slots in another "classic set from the weekend" into the radio schedule, I'll be preparing myself to be disappointed.


  1. I guess festivals are kind of different but I used to enjoy bootlegs of individual shows of my favorite bands. You'd always get to hear them playing odd covers or the banter or different arrangements of songs. It was always entertaining.

    1. I do enjoy the strange covers or new versions of familiar songs. But otherwise, a straight festival performance is definitely not intended to be a product for the ears alone...