Friday, January 05, 2007

Concert Albums: Being a Post in Which Nothing Particularly Deep or Important is Said

Does anyone else have a problem with in-concert recorded albums? The premise is great: Recreate the concert experience for the listener at home by capturing the moment in digital quality. But, it never really works, does it? I think that that is because the artist always knows when the recording will take place; therefore, some of the magical spontaneity of the concert just fizzles.

Were I queen of the world, my first decree would be that no performing artist is allowed to know in advance that a recording is being made of his or her concert. I think that that alone would go to great lengths to rectify this sad situation. Second decree: Grover Cleveland carved into Mount Rushmore. (But that's another reflection for another time.)

Take Amy Grant's latest offering, Time Again . . . Live. Now, I've been to many an Amy Grant concert over the years, and she puts on a great show. Time Again is not like going to one of her concerts. It was supposed to be an intimate evening spent in some favorites from almost 30 years worth of songs. Amy brought in her own furniture from home for the concert. The stage certainly looks great, with a big old couch plunked down in the middle. But, the concert never has that intimate feeling, because, instead of keeping it small and homey and simple and unplugged, Amy Grant chose to make it into a big production. It's too big and noisy and self-conscious. I never lose myself in the moment of an unrepeatable breath of eternity, whether listening to the CD or watching the DVD. It leaves me pretty cold.

Now, I can probably safely say that no other fan has attended the sheer number of Carolyn Arends concerts that I have over the past seven years. Carolyn Arends concerts are really something special. Far more special than even the best Amy Grant concert. She is an amazing musician, and she tours with this incredible musician, Spencer Capier, and together -- though they've played the songs hundreds of times -- something spell-binding happens when they jam on stage. It is as though, as they feed off of each other's talents, they draw so much inspiration from their mutual creativity that each song is born anew.

Could this magic be captured on a recording? There have been many of Carolyn's concerts where I've thought at the end, "That was so awesome. I wish it had been recorded so I could relive it." But, on Carolyn's compilation album from 2000, Seize the Day and Other Stories, she included three live tracks. And these tracks are, well, to me at least, less than inspiring. She went in and had a concert specifically to record those tracks, and it shows.

Now, should her people ever enact a covert operation and record a concert by stealth, I think we'd be in business.

1 comment:

CrazyJo said...

I think there is something about the live aspect that just cannot easily be captured - even when the artists DON'T know they are being recorded. It has to do with the atmosphere provided by the listeners, the energy of the room feeding the energy of the performance. On occasion some of the magic can be saved, but usually what is so sweet when experienced first hand is just a disappointment on a recording. Until they can make virtual-reality recordings, everyone will just have to keep going to concerts to get that fix! :)