What’s the better: A song’s studio version or the live performance? There’s now a way to scientifically compare.

Live albums used to be a super big deal for the music industry with concert records regularly going platinum. Today, the Internet has made it possible for to post live performances within seconds of finishing. The means the debate over which version of a song–the original studio recording or the live performance–is actually better.

I remember seeing Roger Waters at the old Kingswood Music Theatre in 1987 during which he performed “Mother” from The Wall. I swear it was superior to the recorded version. Absolutely transcendent. And who has ever bothered listening to the studio version of Peter Frampton’s “Baby I Love Your Way”?

Then again, there are plenty of live recordings that are absolute rubbish. I’m annoyed at most of U2’s performances of “Vertigo” because Bono insists on changing the pacing of his vocals. Other artists speed things up, slow things down, and otherwise change the arrangement.

Until now, comparing, live and recorded versions of the same song has been a rather subjective thing. But now we have the Live Music Analyst.

The LMA purports to pull apart the particulars of a song in both its studio and live form to judge the merits of each on a variety of metrics. For example, this is what they found out about Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

The LMA has looked at dozens of songs from artists ranging from Alice in Chains to ZZ Top. Give it a whirl.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “What’s the better: A song’s studio version or the live performance? There’s now a way to scientifically compare.

  • March 28, 2021 at 11:44 am

    The Talking Heads’ studio version of “Slippery People” from Speaking In Tongues is awful compared to the LIVE version on Stop Making Sense. I saw Byrne play it two Summer’s ago and it was outright glorious!


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