Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Performance = Art?

My wife and I were watching GAC (Great American Country) the other night and discussing the aspects of what makes a good live performance. It's my opinion that an imperfect rendition of a song, if delivered with passion and conviction is preferable to the Auto-tuned, lip-synched stuff that passes for live music these days. The Rolling Stones at the Super Bowl were loose and sloppy, their natural state. Coldplay was on last night in an SNL repeat. They sounded great, not perfect.

We talked about songwriting and what is expected of the writer from the audience's perspective. What is it about some writers/performers that makes an audience connect with them? I think it is something akin to "tapping the Universal in a personal way". It's not writing about what makes you special, it's talking about what makes us all similar. The listener must relate in some fashion: emotionally, physically, intellectually. It can be the lyrics, the melody, the texture of the voice or instruments, or simply the beat. The more elements that connect, the "better" the song and the more often people want to hear it.

When critics and fans talk about a song being "a great record", I think they are talking not only about the technical production of the song, but also the synergy of two or more of those elements, combined with the personal experience of the listener.

Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back In Town" has always been a favorite of mine for several reasons. First of all, it rocks, so the beat and the drive appeal to my basic senses. The lyric and melody flow along nicely, weaving a story about local bad-asses coming back into a town. My hometown never had anything of the sort happen, so it all seemed so cinematic and exotic to me, listening in rural Wisconsin. The twin guitar solo was something of a signature sound for Lizzy, and they used it to great effect on this tune. The call and response chorus invites you to sing along...maybe not the lead vocal, if you are too shy, but at least the response to the lead.

The reference to "Dino's Bar and Grill" is very American, coming from an Irish band. This is the post-Watergate, post-Godfather period when gangsters and hoods were seen as more than criminals, misfits who seemingly had more of an honor code than the government at the time. The song takes a practical view of letting the boys fight if they want to, after all they're just boys. It appealed to my fifteen-year-old hormones to have brawls and bars and "Chicks that used to dance a lot, shakin' what they got".

Add all that up, add some nostalgia to give the patina an extra shine and "The Boys Are Back In Town" remains one of my favorites to this day.

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