I’m a sound guy. I got into this business over 30 years ago because I had some technical chops that lined up very nicely with the experience, training and education I received in music over the first 21 years of my life. A well written song, the artistry of the singer, the skill and soul of the instrumental performers… all are about the music. Audio is about the music. It’s a nice fit, eh?

I’m also a theatrical technician (i.e. stage hand) and that part of me enjoys the engineering and physical creation of spectacle… the lighting, pyro/cyro, wardrobe, video. Visual spectacle can stand alone without the music (or sometimes in spite of the music).

But the quote in this blog title kind of sums up an impression I’ve gotten over the last few years – that spectacle is too often being substituted for genuine, live music performance talent at worst, or sublimates the music at best. In some cases the spectacle enhances the music, but that has seemed an elusive goal for most performances.

Knowing that many fans respond to the visual more than the cerebral, I’ve been wrestling with concepts and words to express the dichotomy. I waited long enough that Robert Scovill did my homework for me and will doubtless get a better grade. Follow the link below.

The Show Versus The Concert | SPLnetwork.com


  1. Tim, this was a great thing for you to post and I thank you for bringing it up. Marvelous article you linked to.

    Not sure if you’re familiar with Tom Jackson, but one of the things that he always tries to get people focused on is that people don’t come to hear music. They never come for that, at least not any more. They come for a show. But another point that he makes is that in no way, at all, does this mean that the music is not important. It just means that your music, in and of itself, has to be a show. Your music has to make the emotional connections, capture the audience, create moments, and through that, give them a new perspective on life (if you’re that good). Don’t you wish all music did that? That’s why people don’t go for the music anymore. It doesn’t do that a large portion of the time. The show’s production ends up getting that weight.

  2. [QUOTE=Jay Barracato;bt747]Many of my favorite shows are a single songwriter/musician standing or sitting at a mic, in a gentle spotlight that doesn’t change, just doing their thing.[/QUOTE]

    I wasn’t going to say it originally… but Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel are the pinnacle of that kind of show. It’s interesting to me that most of their albums are actually recorded live.

  3. [QUOTE=Max Warasila;bt748]I wasn’t going to say it originally… but Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel are the pinnacle of that kind of show. It’s interesting to me that most of their albums are actually recorded live.[/QUOTE]

    I’m sorry but whilst I agree the sublime ‘Live New York 1967’ album, engineered/recorded with just three mics by Roy Halee, is a great example of how simple and quality can combine to make something sound magical and greater than the sum of its parts, your second sentence is quite wrong.

    Paul Simon’s first solo record (The Paul Simon Songbook, 1965) was recorded “as live” in mono with one mic, as evidenced by the sound of his foot tapping, but is still a collection from takes done over several days in a studio in London.

    As a duo (and apart as far as I know) their only live albums are those billed as such, with the exception of the 1972 Greatest Hits which innovatively combined studio tracks with 4 previously unreleased live tracks recorded between ’68 and ’70.

    “Wednesday Morning, 3am” through to “Bridge Over Troubled Water” were all recorded in studios using multitrack techniques. After Tom Wilson produced their first, Bob Johnston produced “Sound of Silence” and “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme”, “Bookends” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” were produced by Simon & Garfunkel with Roy Halee (who also engineered much of their earlier work plus a lot of solo Paul Simon up until “Rhythm of the Saints”).

    As the duo and technology developed they became more and more involved in studio production techniques – how do you envisage “Voices of Old People” being recorded live?

    After the lack of success with “Wednesday Morning, 3am” Tom Wilson later took the original folkish recording of the song “Sound of Silence” and famously overdubbed a bass guitar, electric guitar, and drums, plus added reverb and echo effects – quite the opposite of “recorded live” as the famous single has elements recorded over two different years.

    “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is absolutely notorious for the amount of time it took (roughly two years in total), across several studios, to record before it was released in 1970.

    In interviews both Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel are quite articulate on how they learned to use the recording studio and all its associated techniques, as part of both the compositional and production process.

    ETA Paul Simon has stated several times that “Graceland” would simply not have been possible to record as it was released, without early digital multitrack, due to the number of times tracks were copied, edited and moved over two years, from the original South African recordings to the further sessions in London, New York and elsewhere!

    Here endeth the lesson.

    Apologies for going off-topic, but I felt this error required correction! I was privileged to hear them live in Hyde Park, 2004. There were many spine-chilling moments, but the most memorable were when all I could hear was Paul Simon’s guitar as the sole accompaniment to the vocals – that was something really special … and it would have sounded just as good on a PM3500 as a big D5 😉

    Carry on…