The real mark of a musician is their performance in a live setting. With modern technology and music production, we can do fantastic things to improve the quality of the sound and even make singers sound better than they are. But one thing that no machine can repair is a poor live performance. Sometimes it’s funny to watch, sometimes it’s painful – either way, catastrophes on stage always stick in the memory…
Miley has been hitting headlines recently for her live performances and there’s no denying that she’s improved from a few years ago, but the headlines haven’t been about her vocals. Her raucous antics and ridiculous costumes take the focus away from her singing, which is probably just as well because when she performed on the Today show in 2008, it was embarrassing beyond measure. It wouldn’t be a surprising fact to find out that this was Miley’s body double who had been accidentally roped into singing.
This might come as a bit of surprise, given his credentials, but ex-Beatle George Harrison gave one of the worst live performances in rock history. After the band’s split, he became the first to tour North America and tickets couldn’t have gone faster. Unfortunately when it came to show time, old George had been on the white powder and was far too drugged up to put in any respectable effort. It’s worth mentioning that he also had laryngitis, but it was the truck load of cocaine that led him to lose his lyrics and his head in places.
Sometimes stars simply can’t deal with the pressure of having to sing in front of a live audience, so they resort to that treasured defence; the lip sync. Done well, this can provide fans with all the atmosphere of a live gig and the exact notes and rhythm of their favourite song from an album. Done wrong, it’s embarrassingly obvious and leaves everybody assuming, wrongly or rightly, that you can’t sing at all. Mariah shows us here exactly how not to do it…
Another famous rock performance gone wrong was The Doors revoluton-inspiring gig in Miami in 1969. The band were all kinds of intoixicated and if you look at footage, you’ll notice far more policemen on stage than musicians. The lead singer whipped the crowd into such a frenzy with his narcotic-induced speech and singing that fans were tearing around the stage and giving the cops a run-around all night. The band continued to play through regardless, but there was little rhythm and even less musical talent on show.
Katy is another singer that you won’t hear singing live all that much. She represented the modern ‘Studio Singer’ and all of her tracks are highly produced. Put her onto a live stage and you’ll either get to experience her weirdly perfect lip syncing talents, or you’ll be running in the other direction when she decides to have a go for real…
Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash was one of the original drugged-up rock and rollers, swallowing amphetamines by the fistful to get himself through the days and nights of constant touring with Sun and Columbia records. Whilst he maintained faith throughout his life and was consistently repentant, unfortunately his temptation often overcame him and even more unfortunately, there were often cameras or microphones nearby. One particular example stands out, his casual duet rendition of the Hank Williams classic “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” with Dylan on piano and Cash almost on the floor. You have to see this to believe that two icons of talent could product something so awful.
Green Day have been a staple of the pop-punk-rock scene for decades and they’ve turned in some incredible live performances in that time, but lead singer Billy Joe Armstrong has also been known to throw the odd tantrum on stage. Playing to a sell-out crowd in Las Vegas, Armstrong gives up his performance to use his remaining time to rant at the show’s organiser’s for cutting his set. His performance was okay-ish up until this point, but the rant becomes embarrassing and eventually ended up to the singer’s rehabilitation and recovery program that was so well documented…