Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Live music: rediscoveries

One of the greatest aspects of concerts is how every performance of a song is unique, with varying energy behind it--coming from the artists and influenced by the crowd. Hearing a certain song performed live can spark an entirely new appreciation for it. Seeing a piece by a favorite artist in a new light is satisfying, and it can sometimes seem like you are experiencing a new work altogether.

After a particularly moving rendition of a song in concert, there have been times when I've wondered how I missed singling out that song at all before. It was the same song, yet different. I've rediscovered numerous songs and even whole albums this way.

Rilo Kiley's song "The Absence of God" had not clicked with me until I saw them perform it in concert in 2008. I had been hoping they would play "More Adventurous," which is another slower-tempo, melancholy song from the same album. As it turned out, I found the live performance of "The Absence of God" to be touching, with a lot of feeling behind it, and it became a song to which I listened and liked just as much thereafter as the one I would have preferred to hear.

At the Bright Eyes concert on July 28th, they played a few songs from their album Cassadaga, which had never been an album that stood out to me. After the concert, I appreciated that album like I hadn't before and immersed myself in listening to it. "If the Brakeman Turns My Way" was a highlight of the show (and a live fan favorite, judging by the cheers). I think it might actually be the best song on that album.

Bright Eyes has been ending their sets with "One for You, One for Me," which also closes their latest album, The People's Key. The lyrics "You and me, you and me / That is an awful lie / It's I and I" did not resonate with me until I saw how Conor Oberst performs the song live. Rather than what could be interpreted as an isolationist stance, the line conveys the idea that we are all one. In rastafarian belief, a prominent influence on this album, the phrase connotes equality among everyone. In concert, toward the end of the song Conor always reaches out to the crowd, touching many people's hands. This gesture perfectly complements the lyrics, and can only be experienced live.