Backing tracks sap the life out of live music

On Saturday night I watched a local band that used backing tracks and programmed stage lighting for all songs. I know this has been common practice for many years, but I was struck at the extent to which an entity that promotes itself as a live band resembles karaoke. A drummer, bassist and single guitarist churned out ’80s anthems complete with pre-recorded rhythm and guitar tracks, synthesizer sounds and backing vocals.

This didn’t seem to bother anyone but my friends and me. I know it’s common practice for many major artists, including Bruce Springsteen during the Super Bowl halftime show. Still, on a local, small-scale level, I expect a venue that advertises live music to hire bands that are less than half synthetic.

I don’t think audiences necessarily expect a perfect rendition of a song. The problem may be that some musicians fear the limits of their own abilities. To me, the challenge and potential reward of a band is to work creatively within the limitations of the band’s instruments and members.

I’ve become uncomfortably numb to the use of backing tracks or recorded music sans band in settings where musicians were previously hired. One extreme example is a UK man who filed suit after paying tickets to a musical that included no live music.

Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer live music to be live.

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~ by bakerumedia on October 7, 2009.

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