Concert Preferences: Live or Memorex™?

So I’m listening to the latest Richard Shindell live album, and thinking about concert experiences. I had a friend in college who said that when he went to a concert, he wanted the performer to perform his/her songs in the same manner as they were done on the original album…he did not care for “new” versions in concert. I, OTOH, appreciate new versions of songs in concert…it’s part of what makes the concert experience a unique one. (Otherwise, why not just listen to the CD with your eyes closed and pretend your performer is right there).

What do you look for in your concert experiences?

As someone who has seen over 40 concerts in the past three years, I’ve come to realize that I have different expectations for different artists. If it’s one of my favorite artists, and I know most of their songs forwards and backwards, it’d be nice to hear a little innovation on the song. It’s good to know they’re not boring themselves to death playing their most popular songs the same way they have for possibly years on end. However, if it’s an artist I’m not completely familiar with, in general I want to at least to be able to recognize the songs of theirs I already know. I’m less likely to welcome new song innovations. Case in point: Blues Travelers. I saw them at a Horde Fest stop in Cincinnati in 1998, and although I really enjoy everything of theirs that has gotten radio play, I didn’t want to hear a 15 minute version of “Runaround.” (To be fair, it’s no secret that Blues Travelers like to jam a bit, so I should have been prepared.)

I really enjoy it when my favorite artists change songs around a bit. Tori Amos did a 10 minute version of her song “The Waitress” (originally 3 minutes) in her 1999 Plugged Tour, and it was incredible. They Might Be Giants have added classical guitar stylings at the intro of the live “Istanbul” (one of their most popular songs) that just rocks. It gives the entire song a new feel. Moxy Fruvous does what’s referred to as “Extended Sahara”, which adds a great drum solo for the first few minutes. Hearing these songs make me appreciate my three favorite artists/groups all the more, and it’s what makes live music so enjoyable for me. In the end, I think if you’re just going to a show to hear one or two songs, you’re going to have to expect some alterations to the original music, whether or not you enjoy it.

My hypothesis: The bigger fan you are (of a specific artist/group), the more likely you’ll be to accept anything new the put on stage.

What do you think?