Music News

Does Anyone Know How to Play Live Anymore?

An interesting thing is happening. It seems these days everyone is lip-synching. It used to be the case that is was the random pop hack or teen puppet who was exposed in the act. But now it seems that some of the best and talented artists in entertainment are guilty.

Take Yo-Yo Ma, regarded as one of the most talented cellists in the world, and probably the only one you could name. He is so universally renowned that he was invited to preform at the Barack Obama's historic inauguration last month on the steps of the Capitol just moments before Obama took his oath of office. Well, turns out he -- and the other three members of inauguration quartet -- was not really playing the piece ("Air and Simple Gifts") that John Williams composed for the event. The music was recorded for fear of it being too cold for the musicians' instruments to remain in tune. At least in this case there may be cause for lip-synching: Washington in January may not be the right environment for live music.

Next, we have Jennifer Hudson singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl, in her first performance since her mother, brother, and nephew were murdered in October. It is also the case that the Academy Award and Golden Globe winner was singing to a pre-recorded track. Hudson is slated to perform at the Grammy Awards next week -- no word yet if that will be taped or live.

Fellow Grammy winner Faith Hill sang "America the Beautiful" at the Super Bowl right before Hudson. Yeah, she was faking it as well.

Then we get Bruce Springsteen (an act I love, and one New Times music editor does not). One of the most legendary performers of all time. Known for his marathon live shows. "Live" for the half-time show of the Super Bowl with the E Street Band, one of the most respected live bands in all of show business. Yeah, that was fake. The Boss sang his vocals live at the gig, but Steven Van Zandt, Max Weinberg, and the rest of the E Street Band were playing to a tape.

Ricky Minor, the producer for the entertainment at the Super Bowl and American Idol music director, told the Associated Press that "I would never recommend any artist go live."

Let's take that back a second. Minor said that for a live performance he would NEVER recommend a artist go live. Does this make sense to anyone??? A world renowned artist should "NEVER GO LIVE."

Let me give you the rest of his quote to put it in context.

"That's the right way to do it," Minor said. "There's too many variables to go live. I would never recommend any artist go live, because the slightest glitch would devastate the performance."

Okay, so I had the context right the first time. What does it say about the state of music when the right way for Grammy, Golden Globe, and Oscar-winning artists to play is to a pre-recorded tape?

I don't know how music survived for thousands of years before "professionals" like Ricky Minor got a hold of it, but obviously The Beatles, Beethoven, and Bach were all doing it wrong for all those years. I don't know why anyone would listen to them if the "slightest glitch" must have devastated all their performances.

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Stephen Chilton