What Makes a Good Live Show?

What is a good performance? I recently went to a few concerts back to back this past weekend, Live 105’s BFD and The Faint, respectively, and discussed a few performers from the BFD concert with a co-worker.

She asked me about M.I.A. who performed at the Sunday concert. I told her I was very disappointed the first time I saw M.I.A. when she performed on Governor’s Island at Hard NYC in 2010 due to rain and the fact that she sounded drunk (or was, dunno). In any case, I was unimpressed with that performance. Regarding her recent performance at BFD, again, I was unimpressed but Loved the music. Throughout the day, of all the artists on the main stage, she’s the only one (well, her music) that had me and my friends dancing our asses off. We could barely see her because we very far up on the lawn but also, there was something lacking in her stage presence. Which made me wonder, what makes a performance “good”?

I think about the artists that have blown me away live: Madonna, Paul McCartney, 311, The Faint, 30 Seconds to Mars, The Postal Service, John Mayer, Maroon 5, and No Doubt. Then the attributes that made these artists impress me: their musical ability, their energy, their music (of course), and their stage presence. For the most part, each of these artists bring their own flavor to the table.

What was missing for me, in both of M.I.A.’s performances was musical ability. Her music, I don’t think, is really made to be live. It’s dance music. It’s like going to a concert to watch a DJ spin (I know people do that, but I’m not part of the crowd that does) when it belongs in da club! When I spend my hard earned cash to watch an artist on a stage, I expect a performance. “Dance, monkey dance!” It’s what I paid for, right? She doesn’t have the goods, for me.

I’ve seen my share of mediocre performances by artists I enjoy, like Bjork, for instance. Love love her music but her stage presence? Nonexistent. I saw her at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City when she released Volta and man was I unimpressed. There were no anecdotes to get to know this musical talent better. Just straight up music. She has the chops and the talent, but she can’t do the other stuff very well. Which is okay! But I’m just not gonna pay to see her live again.

Going back to the conversation with my co-worker, I told her that Madonna made my top list of best live performances in my lifetime. I saw Madonna’s Confessions tour and she rocked my socks off. Solid two hour show of Madonna dancing and singing. That’s a frakkin’ show. My co-worker’s rebuttal? Beyonce can do what Madonna does. Surprisingly, I’m a casual Beyonce fan and have never had the urge to see her live. Perhaps after my co-worker’s comment, I’ll make an effort to do so? Who knows?

Last night’s The Faint concert at the Independent was excellent. They played my favorite songs and I hurt myself dancing from the music. What made it a great show was the music, the performance, and their personal touch. I like how they talk to us. Especially in a small venue like The Independent.

Ultimately, I want to be enter-frakkin-tained when I pay to see an artist at a concert. The artist has to give me the goods to make me still like their music after the show. But that’s me.

What makes a good show for ya’ll?


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