My father and I both love classical music, particularly listening to it live in a concert hall with a first-class orchestra. Similarly, we both purchase multiple recordings of the same symphonic recording (audio and video) to compare the performances of each conductor and orchestra.
What are we listening and looking for?
For most of the classical music that we love, the composer is no longer with us, so it’s up to the conductor to research what Beethoven would have really wanted his Symphony No. 9 to sound and look like? Would he be impressed by the note-for-note precision that some conductors demand, or would he have wanted the conductor to focus primarily on the feel of the piece in its entirety?
And what about the look of the performance? Would Beethoven have cared? Or would he have felt, like Wagner, that the overall experience was just as important as the music?
Both of us agree that the feel and look of the performance is more important than the note-for-note performance of a score. After all, we’re spending our time and money on the conductor’s interpretation. If we only wanted absolute precision, a computer would be happy to oblige.
We’re not alone. In a recent interview by The Economist, conductor Kristjan Järvi, at least in part, agrees with us: “(Classical) concert hall lighting has all of the atmosphere of a dentist’s office.” That’s the spirit!
Which brings us to the whole genre of Tribute Bands. Like an orchestra, a tribute band is a group of musicians whose sole focus is on performing a particular artist’s music. Should they perform with note-for-note precision? Or, should they capture the spirit of the artist’s music and the feel of their live show in an extrapolated direction.
No surprise: I’m in the camp of finding a tribute band that captures the soul of the artist’s music, bases their live performance on a particular time period, and moves the performance into a new and unique direction.
David Bowie Tribute
It’s been over a year since the sad passing of David Bowie. I’m a huge fan and was fortunate to see him live several times. His shows combined great writing and musicianship with astonishing visuals.
It’s a very tall order for anyone to pay tribute to him.
Fortunately, I just had the opportunity of working on a video project with the Rebel Rebel Band, a San Francisco-based David Bowie tribute band.
One of the first things that captured my attention after watching all of the raw footage from one of their live performances: they understand the whole notion of capturing the spirit of David Bowie while moving his live performances in a new and unique direction.
It starts with the personality of lead singer May Oskan. On paper, there’s no commonality between Bowie and Oskan. And that’s the beauty of real-life: Oskan proves that “the paper” is wrong because she has soul and brings her own unique sound and vision to every song.
Bowie was renown for having a tight rhythm section. Desmonde Mulcahy (bass) and Rob Jacobs (drums) bring it. After mixing the multi-track audio on four of their live songs all I can say is: these guys are tight.
Add to the mix Brendan Getzell, who somehow manages to play both keyboards and djembe/bongos, and PJ Bottoms on Saxophone. Plus Kevin Ian Common and Geoff Goss on guitars. Oh, and four of them sing backing vocals in support of Oskan’s lead vocals.
I’m impressed. So much so, that I’m trying to arrange a business trip over to San Francisco around one of their performances so I can experience them live.
You should too. www.RebelRebelBand.com
One More Thing
Desmonde and I have teamed up to look at what type of promotional video works best from a strategic marketing perspective. More on this project after we’ve completed the study in a couple of months.
Special thanks to Desmonde (the bass player, naturally…) for inviting me to play a part in their project.
Here’s a sneak peak of their live performance.