One of the hottest and most controversial topics sparking discussion on social media these days is real Rock bands use laptops and backing tracks to enhance their live performances.
This is by no means a new topic, but fall in reverse A festival gig had to be canceled because the laptop containing the harmony vocals went missing. Some rock purists only see this in black and white and for real rock he is quick to declare that the artist doesn’t use the track at all, but I don’t think so.
I don’t think it’s a big deal unless it dominates performance. Vocalist like Ronnie Radke goes all out every night. He has the right to use the track to enhance his performance live. There are many layers and complexities in what many of your favorite new or current rock artists create in the studio, and this is nothing new in rock.
This does not make the band a scam or fake. Technology has improved and we are light years ahead of the days when many classic rock artists were touring with seminal albums, but using backing his tracks is nothing new. We’re also not talking about when the artist was forced to lip-sync on TV because the studio wasn’t set up for his performance live. that’s another thing.
As a rock historian and music lover, I have interviewed thousands of artists, from Paul McCartney to Ozzy. I’ve been on rock radio and TV for nearly 40 years, written a book, starred in over 100 music documentaries, and watched thousands of shows since his teenage years in the 1970s. Some of the best rock shows I’ve ever seen included backing tracks.
As a boy, I was fortunate enough to see Queen perform at the Beacon Theater in 1976, before I graduated from arenas and stadiums, with the great Freddie Mercury. At the time they were supporting their new album, night at the opera.
They used a projector to play the track during the operatic portion of the pioneering video for “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Live onstage, he had no way of recreating the layers of vocals by the three singers, but fans wanted to experience the song in its entirety. No one in the audience was upset that the tape and video were played for that part of the song.
Pink Floyd, The Who (with tracks from two masterpieces) who’s next and quadrofenia) and many other runners have run the track since the 70s. Does that make them less relevant, or does it take away from the fact that everything else was live and they gave their hearts out?
I’m not going to name names, but I’ve seen bands that rely heavily on backing tracks.
There are fine lines. I want singers to sing, musicians to play. If a band is playing with passion, power and conviction, but for continuity’s sake they have to use some backing tracks to fill out the sound, unless it dominates the show, I That’s cool.
The problem arises when bands use them as crutches, wearing boring, uninspiring sets that are absolutely unacceptable in the rock community. Raw chaos. You can’t fake it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it has to be real and tangible.
Before I wrap up, there are two things I want to point out.
First, many classic rock bands use the track whether it’s obvious to critics or naysayers.
Second, some up-and-coming bands that use their tracks for backing vocals or additional instrumentation can’t afford to take a certain number of musicians on tour. In many cases, we have to do the bare minimum for the cost of the tour. Does that mean they shouldn’t go on tour and bring music to their fans?
I don’t want to see the lead vocalist lip-syncing. That’s unacceptable in rock and metal genres. But before we judge a new rock artist who’s doing her best to recreate the music that fans have come to love and appreciate, it’s arguably one of the greatest singers in rock history, Freddie Mercury. If it was good enough for you, remember that it’s good. Enough for me.
Bands that allow the use of backing tracks
These musicians say the backing tracks help them put on the best shows they can and they’re not ashamed to confess it.