When live music isn’t so live
As an avid supporter of live music, every pan that knocks, I am there. There is just something about spirited musicians and powerhouse, melodic backup singers, and lead singers and their feeling and genuineness and vulnerability and spontaneity and ability to hold a crowd that can't ever be packaged and sold on a CD.
If you ever watch Beres Hammond perform live, you understand what I mean. Those moments in which he laughs, or when the outpouring of love from his audience overwhelms him and he has stopped singing, or when we're all screaming and he says, "Hushhhh," that is the magic of live music.
This February, Reggae Month, I will be in hog's heaven with all the many live (and some free) concerts billed to take place around Jamaica.
I don't really like parties because I can always play a CD in my apartment and dance and have a good time. And at home, the drinks cost less and I don't have to get dressed up. But to see artistes live, to hear them perform in the flesh hits that I love is a beautiful thing.
My best friend and I travelled to see Stevie Wonder live in Central Park, and as he sang his first note, I wept, overcome with pure emotion at the fact that Stevie Wonder was only a few yards away singing Isn't She Lovely to me. Worth every penny we spent.
The live music calendar in Jamaica has a couple of staples, many of which deliver great performances and memories worth paying for. Jamaica Jazz and Blues is usually one such event. Though undoubtedly one of the country's most expensive live music events, people save and budget for it and pay the as-high-as-US$220 per night fee to see their music favourites in person.
However, this year's appearance by Mariah Carey at the festival has incensed many. Her opening number, her 1995 chart-topper Fantasy, was blatantly lip-synched.The story has made the news rounds, appearing even on the popular United States website TMZ.
Released videos show the self-professed diva not even bothering to open her mouth during bits of the pre-recorded song. She just pranced around smiling pretty, occasionally moving her lips (often not in sync with the music) and plugging her left ear as real singing singers do.
I take personal offence to an artiste miming to a pre-recorded track at an event I expected to be live.
Some artistes excuse lip-synching by suggesting that they are providing for the audience a better show; that because they are dancing and exerting so much energy, the quality of the sound would be compromised if they sang. So in order to give the patrons a perfect show, they lip-synch.
I cry foul. If you can't manage both, be a recording artiste. Full stop. Don't try tricking me into thinking you are better than you actually are. I'm not impressed.
I will place a lot of the responsibility in the laps of event organisers. If I'm going to pay for an artiste to come and mime, I should be told. It should be indicated on that concert ticket: 'Some or all of the acts will be lip-synching to pre-recorded audio.' Otherwise, I think you have falsely advertised. Allow me the option to choose whether I want to see the illusion, and if it's worth the price you are charging.
And live should mean live. Not 'live-like' or 'lively'. If I pay to come see a live show, I expect a live performance.
Part of the reason we pay big bucks to see artistes live isn't only because we love them and their music. We also want to hear how they match up live to what we have heard post production, recorded in a studio on their CDs. You rob me of that experience when you play a CD, and trick me into believing I'm hearing an artiste live when I'm really not.
Local promoters must demand more from foreign acts. The fee I heard Mariah was paid I dare not repeat, because it is riot-worthy. Having spent that much money on talent, I would insist that she come here and earn that pay, fair and square. This isn't some highfalutin paid vacation in the tropics. This is work! There is an audience which has travelled far and sacrificed lots to come and see the show. Do them the courtesy of giving them their money's worth.
Performers, beware. If you are coming to Jamaica to do a live show, you'd better sing (ask Dianna Ross). Otherwise, you are just a ventriloquist's dummy without the strings and I will want my money back.
Big up to all the Jamaican performers who get a fraction of the pay and yet give a real-life, live performance every time.