Matching live performance sound with what is published on recorded material is one of the eternal struggles modern musicians have to grapple with. Although it is far from a new problem, (it is a reason behind The Beatles deciding to call time on their touring careers) the issue has been given fresh impetus in recent year via the development of new and adaptable technologies which enable bands to play a highly effective surging backing track behind their live instrumentation.
Usually this is limited to some rousing synths, a bolstering guitar or maybe even a harmonising backing vocal. But recently it has been brought to my attention that a certain retinue of bands have decided to take the, one might argue, logical step to include Lead vocals and instruments onto the tape.
Described in such a manner, one might easily gloss over the issue at hand. Let me be far less prosaic with my words and clear away any descriptive obstruction.. There is a burgeoning trend amongst young bands for Miming whole sections of what pertains to be Live Performance.
This could be perceived either as an extension of a precise and slavish dedication to sonic replication or conversely, a brazenly executed and audacious fraud. This argument can, and will be played out in all its extremities on a wide variety of social media platforms. But what it made me contemplate is this conundrum: just how long it will be until the trend for backing tracks bends back on itself and bands start limiting themselves to merely what they can play on the day.
It may mean that bands sound stripped down and diminished compared to their current performance presentation but delivering a live show that is stark and unambiguous would unequivocally sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to both ability and ultimately song writing prowess.
Please do not misunderstand, I am not attempting to vilify the regular use of backing tracks. Indeed many of my favourite bands operate with such devices as standard, however, they are just a stylistic choice and with the progression of their use now reaching the point of mimicry, one doesn’t have to be that curious to ponder just when the revolt against their use might happen.
– John Whitmore