There’s something exciting about discovering an artist who not only records fantastic music, but can also perfectly duplicate their music onstage. In this auto-tune age, an artist who can rock just as hard every night in front of hundreds, sometimes thousands of fans as they do the studio—where they have multiple takes to nail that high note—is a rarity. That’s why I continue to go to live shows. Enduring all the mediocre acts is really worth it when you finally come across an exceptional talent. Vocally, I’ve always been blown away by James Taylor‘s live performance and how well he re-creates his sound live. His gentle and soothing voice translates perfectly to live performance, he is a master at utilizing the tone of his voice to mesh, but also to contrast his simple arrangements. His low-key delivery is able to captivate his audience and get them intertwined in his magnificent stories.
Another artist who reigns supreme in terms of live performance is John Mayer. Mayer contrasts from Taylor in that he’s a bit more showy with his voice. He’ll add vocal riffs and new melodies to his songs, to keep his fans guessing and well… because he can. But that’s just his style—he likes to show off his guitar-playing chops and flaunt his incredible talents. And I think its pretty impressive that Mayer adds more complex parts to his live show, unlike so many singers who alter their live performances for the simple reason that they physically cannot re-create the high notes or vocal tone on their albums.
Brandi Carlile is also a wonderful example of a singer with a voice that sounds good recorded, but even better live. The way that she pushes her voice in live performance is so evocative and fresh. While some of that uniqueness comes through on her records, seeing her in concert helps fans fully grasp her vocal strength. Her slight twang, and the way the she pushes her voice to its break, is so powerful. Its like she’s breaking all the rules in just the right way, a way that makes you want to cry when she sings—especially in her song “The Story”. Check out the song below, it’ll give you goosebumps.
These live experiences are the kind that make you overlook the bad, ugly performances you wish you’d stayed home for. It’s not easy to see an artist whose hits you loved on the radio, slaughter the same material in front of your eyes—like Fergie and The Black Eyed Peas at Superbowl XLV, or Taylor Swift with Stevie Nicks at the 2010 GRAMMYs. Despite their massive success, neither Fergie or Taylor Swift could hold their own vocally during theses live performances. Despite the disappointment, there are plenty of other standout performers who make up for the mediocre ones, and that’s what always keeps me coming back for more.
What’s the best performance you’ve seen? Let us know in the comments section.