The Best Concerts Aren’t Rehearsed

While watching the Super Bowl halftime show today, I appreciated the sheer spectacle of it. A lot of work went into the show, with thousands of people involved. I respect what they did.

But I think there’s something about a highly polished, choreographed show that takes away the magic of a powerful musical performance. It’s like they’ve been instructed to have fun instead of actually having fun (I’m pretty confident that’s almost exactly what all the common folks in the background are told: “Look like you’re having fun!”)

This reminded me of a video I saw recently where Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler encounters a street performer in Russia who happens to be playing an Aerosmith song. The first few seconds of the video are of Tyler watching the performance, and it looks like he’s making a decision. He doesn’t have to–he could have easily applauded the singer or walked away–but instead he does something awesome.

He walks up to the mic at just the right moment and starts singing.

The result is a really incredible duet. There are no lights, no background dancers, no pre-recorded background singers. It’s just Steven Tyler, a Russian dude, and a guitar.

I’ll stop with the hyperbole and just let you watch it. It’s just 81 seconds. I love that Tyler continues to include the singer in the performance when he could have taken over.

4 thoughts on “The Best Concerts Aren’t Rehearsed”

  1. I’d suggest the best performances are highly rehearsed… but have room left for improvisation and spontaneity. Tyler has obviously practised that song so much he’s got it down pat, and the busker has been rehearsing too – but by taking advantage of the moment, they can make something even better!

  2. Highly-polished and highly-pre-recorded, I might add. It makes for an exciting visual presentation, but it’s musically a bit lacking. Very few acts can actually sound good in a stadium (the Boss and U2 are exceptions), and even if there are a few live vocals here and there, I’d guess that 95% of what you heard yesterday was a backing track. And a music video in front of a studio audience just isn’t super compelling.

  3. Aaron: Yeah, I didn’t want to assume it was pre-recorded, but I figured that was the case. Are the singers actually singing at all, or are they just miming the words?

    It occurred to me while I was watching that the entire halftime show could have been pre-recorded, and we wouldn’t know the difference.

    Ian: That’s true, perhaps rehearsed isn’t the right word. Steven Tyler has clearly rehearsed that song many, many times (though not together with that specific Russian street musician). Maybe “staged”?

  4. Oh, he’s the one who sings this. I didn’t know that. Great song. I like it.

    I won’t say it’s the best concert, but that’s cool of him to sing with a fan of his. You can see the Russian dude is totally star struck. He just sang with Steven Tyler! That’s awesome!!


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