It has been awhile since I posted here and I need to resume. A few nights ago, I had the privilege to attend the Christmas Jam in Asheville, NC. There were a bunch of groups performing, some very good and some very bad. The headliners were Bruce Hornsby, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Warren Haynes(he is the host), and the Doobie Brothers. I came too late to hear Bruce Hornsby, but I did get to hear Derek and Susan, and after taking a break while the little guys played, reentered to hear the Doobie Brothers.
Live sound is a struggle for everyone these days...the artists, the fans, and even the sound engineers. I hate doing it myself, but love doing mixing and mastering. The rooms are rarely acoustic gems, there are always technical and electrical problems, and the show is live, so you don't get a do-over. That said, there are problems that I find very common these days that I did not find common 30 years ago. First of all, if there are ten people on stage, playing ten different instruments, there should be 10 different sounds coming out of the speakers. It always amazes me how many instruments never make it to the PA speakers. And toms and cymbals are part of the drum kit. Getting half of them is not good enough.
The speakers should be clearly heard over the sub woofers. Just because you can turn it up without starting a fire, does not mean that is what you are to do. The subs are always a problem in arenas because of the shape of the room...turning them up makes it worse, not better. This seems to be lost on the average live sound engineer. Oh, and if you need to wear earplugs because it is too loud...turn it down.
I don't know where they get these guys, but training is sorely missing.
I am not picking on anybody in particular, just what I have observed in 99% of the concerts I have seen in the last 10 years, and it seems to be getting worse, not better.
Getting back to the concert, Derek Trucks is a great guitar player, and had a very talented band behind him. His wife Susan Tedeschi is a great singer and if you get a chance to hear them, by all means do. The second song Susan sang was The Letter which I consider one of the best songs of the 60s. The horns added a full flavor to the band and the arrangements were solid.
The big headliner was of course the Doobie Brothers and they did not disappoint. We were above the stage and had PA speakers aimed our way, as well as the direct sound of the 2 full acoustic drum sets close by. The sound was excellent at that position and the drums, live sound and PA sound together, were as good as I have ever heard. You should know that the Doobie Brothers hits are some of my favorite rock songs of all time. And as an aside, I always liked Michael McDonald's piano playing, but really, really hated the sound of his voice. So I am talking here about the original, non MM Doobie Brothers sound.
Tom Johnston was sick and did not make the concert, but Patrick Simmons was there and what an incredible guitar player he is. Warren Haynes sat in for a tune or 2, but Patrick is just in another league. The other guitar player was John McFee, who has played with them since about 1980, and is about as talented as one man should be. The Keyboard player, Billy Payne, has played with them in the studio and in some concerts since the early 70s. The bass player. John Cowan, has played with them for years. The drummers, Ed Toth and Tony Pia were flawless and as in sync as you will ever see 2 drummers playing at the same time.
So you had great players, playing great music, and everyone knew the songs and sang along. It really was a superb set and that alone was worth the price of admission. Light years beyond the typical boring pop concert of today. If you get a chance to catch their tour with Journey this summer, do yourself a favor and get tickets. There are just a few things important in a concert or recording, and they have all the ingredients.
1. Great Song- This is the most important part.
2. Great Arrangement- This is the vehicle that presents the song.
3. Great Players- who can play the arrangements.
4. Great Sound- whether in a recording or in a concert hall, you have to be able to hear it clearly.
Note what is missing in the above complete list...
3.Great Midi Sounds
There are some Youtube videos which are good samples of the Doobie Brothers over the years and one in particular which has very good live sound is a concert in 1982 with the same guitarists Patrick and John, (Looking very young) and it can be found at
In that concert you will find a guitar duet between those same 2 guys that is just spectacular.
I should mention another concert that I went to that was good music and good sound and that was the Trans Siberian Orchestra. An excellent example of good clean loud rock the way it should be. Good production value and music with a good message. I would also suggest you see them if you get a chance.
I always appreciate good concerts and have little patience with bad ones. So that is why I left the auditorium between Derek Trucks and The Doobie Brothers. I spent years getting paid to listen to bad music and I don't want to hear it anymore unless I am getting paid.
I find it very encouraging that there is still some good music out there, even if it is hard to find.
I enjoy pointing out good music wherever I can find it.