You know that awful feeling you get when you finally score tickets to see your favorite band perform and, after months of listening to their album in hopeful anciticpation, their live show just totally sucks? I’m sure you do; we’ve all been there at some point or another. The guitarists misses the chord, the lead singer can’t hit the right notes. Go to enough concerts and you’re bound to leave a few of them unsatisfied. The letdown of a live show is one of the worst feelings in the world. If you’ve ever stood at a concert thinking “I wish I had stayed home and listened to this in my room,” then the artist has, in some sense, failed.
The cliché “I heard they suck live” translates to “the band isn’t talented, their producer is.” But the expression takes on a new meaning with electronic musicians because most of them are producers. Even the musical acts that aren’t strictly DJs but still have an electronic feel to them, think Animal Collective or LCD Soundsystem, still do a lot of the production work themselves. Every musican leads a double life: the studio where he makes the music, and the stage where he performs it.
Both are important in different ways, and there’s obviously a difference between being a great live performer and a studio wizard. Live shows combine lights and visuals; there’s a lot more to a concert than just the music. The context of a performance can have a huge effect on the experience, too. But great musicians still have to be great performers above all else. And the best musicians are doubly talented at both producing and performing. The line is becoming blurry, thanks to software like Ableton Live that allows both in-house production and live performance. But the old adage is still true: live shows prove who’s really got talent. At a time when record sales are falling, concerts are especially important.
It’s funny to think of the Bloody Beetroots wearing their masks alone in the studio, or Daft Punk working on the new album from inside the Pyramid. But both of those groups are as popular for what they do in front of an audience as for what they do alone in the studio. Sure, they make great stuff behind the scenes. But let’s not forget about the live show.
Here’s a great example of an artist who knows how to work the studio and the stage. It’s hard to “put on a show” as a DJ, unless your name is Steve Aoki and you spend most of your time standing and screaming into a microphone. Laidback Luke stands out as one of the premiere producers and performers working today. The Netherlands native has really taken off in the last couple years. His success is well-earned. He’s ridiculously talented at making original songs and remixes; and he performs with an energy you won’t find many other places. Listen to some of Laidback Luke’s stuff below. Then do yourself a favor and go see him live.