Are criticisms of the Beatles as a Live Band overblown?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by JABEE, Jan 11, 2018.

  1. JABEE

    JABEE Forum Resident Thread Starter

    New Jersey
    I recently watched the rooftop performance and Let it Be film and even during this time when they were done touring, they still seem to be a really good performing band without overdubs.

    Am I missing something? I sometimes wonder if Lennon's comments about how the Beatles were only really good in Hamburg colored the general opinion or if that was the opinion of the band at the time.

    Were the Beatles a below-average live band compared to their competition in the late 1960s?
  2. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    The ATX
    Greatest live band ever!!!!!!!
  3. Captain Leo

    Captain Leo Well-Known Member

    Queens, New York

    They might have (probably would've) become a better live act with time and practice (the rooftop concert is great) but in the 60s they were pretty subpar live IMO.
  4. Captain Leo

    Captain Leo Well-Known Member

    Queens, New York
    The Stones, in the same year, were much better and more energetic live:
  5. rswitzer

    rswitzer Forum Resident

    Golden, CO USA
    The Beatles were excellent when they wanted to be. Not so good when they didn't care (or couldn't hear), but usually still pretty darn good given the conditions in which they played.
  6. jfire

    jfire Beatles and Jazz Know-if-All

    There's a great bit in Lewisohn's "Tune In" that remarks on however many hundreds of gigs the Beatles played before the Stones even did their first.

    I don't believe you can say one is necessarily better than the others, or that The Who was better, etc. The style of performance among these groups is so different.

    The Beatles weren't a theatrical live band, but they were extremely good. Look at the Ed Sullivan shows, or any number of other 1963-65 shows in decent quality sound/video, including the one below.

    They are engaging, tight, energetic, funny. They execute flawless harmonies (check out the Ed Sullivan Show performance of "This Boy") and don't miss a beat. They just don't dance around a lot, take excessively long guitar solos or smash their instruments.

  7. jimmydean

    jimmydean Forum Resident

    Vienna, Austria
    i think the best evidence are the bbc-tapes (because there was not a screaming audience) and imho they are quite good...
  8. erocky

    erocky Forum Resident

    I've hardly heard any good recordings of the Beatles live after they came to America. I don't mean good performances. The BBC recordings make a great case for the Beatles as a live band.
  9. erocky

    erocky Forum Resident

    With no monitors, they did the Best that they could. I wasn't born until 73. From the videos and shows that I have heard, the live shows seem like an excuse for people to go crazy. The music was not a top priority.
  10. Mr_Vinyl

    Mr_Vinyl Forum Resident

    The Beatles were an incredible live band as far as a rock band is concerned. Some people here claim the opposite by posting live videos: easier said than done when we, 50 years later, can hear much better than what they were hearing back then - which was close to nothing. George Martin wrote that being at a Beatles concert would even drown out the sound of a jet engine. One of the Beatles once said that they often looked at Ringo to get an idea of where they were beacuse they couldn't hear themselves. Under such circumstances, I think they were pretty phenomenal.
  11. dewey02

    dewey02 Forum Resident

    The mid-South.
    I can't disagree with you on this, but the Stones performance looks to be in front of a TV studio audience, which is no doubt a very small audience with pretty good acoustics, and professionally recorded. The Beatles were performing in a huge hall, with a TV camera recording at a distance. (I'm not sure if the audio was from line mics or just from recording the sound in the hall.)

    So yes, I agree that the Stones likely turned in better live performances throughout 1966., but these two youtube videos clearly have great differences in quality that is also due to how and where they were filmed and recorded.
  12. Chemguy

    Chemguy Forum Resident

    Yes...see Rooftop.
  13. Chemguy

    Chemguy Forum Resident

    What’s more energetic is the frontman. The Beatles didn’t have one.

    They were a great band...

    So are the Stones, of course, but you get my drift.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2018
  14. Captain Leo

    Captain Leo Well-Known Member

    Queens, New York
    I think you hit the nail on the head to their live problem. Even The Beach Boys, which was also a band, had a clear "frontman" figure in Mike Love. The Beatles were four guys who equally stood out and who shared the spotlight. This makes for great music, but not so much for a live show.
  15. Captain Leo

    Captain Leo Well-Known Member

    Queens, New York

    Here is a regular concert from 1966 and I feel it is still stronger than a Beatles concert from the same year.
    warewolf95 likes this.
  16. mrgroove01

    mrgroove01 Forum Resident

    Los Angeles, CA
    The Germany ‘66 show you’ve used to illustrate your point isn’t exactly indicative of the quality of the fabs as a live act as a whole through their years of being uber-famous. Yup, they lost interest in touring that year and pretty much phoned it in. There are far better examples of the quality of their live performances from 1963-65.

    Try this one out from when they actually cared.

    Twist And Shout Uncut Full Live Washington Coliseum 64 The Beatles4
  17. Captain Leo

    Captain Leo Well-Known Member

    Queens, New York
    Thanks. But see my thing is, if you're playing a live show and you don't care - and it's obvious you don't - you're basically ripping off fans who bought the ticket. I can't excuse that, you know? And yeah I agree the '64 shows are stronger but even then the lack of a clear frontman as one guy put it hurts their live act.
  18. Price.pittsburgh

    Price.pittsburgh Forum Resident

    They gained their following and were discovered as a live band.
  19. Glenn Christense

    Glenn Christense Foremost Beatles expert... on my block

    I saw the Rolling Stones and the Beatles within a month of each other in 1966.

    Captain Leo, it isn't true that the Stones were better and more energetic live in 1966.

    Yes, Mick moved around more than anyone else in either band,but nobody else in the Stones was any more energetic than the Beatles .
    As jfire points out the Beatles were a killer, way more polished "professional"band than the Stones were.
    The Stones on the other hand had a cool , rag tag proto punk energy about them that was very appealing also.

    At that point in time my opinion is that if they were both on the same bill the Beatles would have wiped out the Stones because they were a tighter more professional band when they wanted to be.

    Now, I saw the Stones in 1969 and by then they had become more "professional" and harder rocking as a band so a double bill of both bands would have been much closer in terms of performance , but with two different styles on display.

    And, I love both bands and loved both shows in 1966 so I have no personal agenda to boost or criticize either band.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2018
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  20. Captain Leo

    Captain Leo Well-Known Member

    Queens, New York
    But that's the thing - the proto punk energy, as you put it - translates to a better live show for me. Yes, The Beatles were a more professional act, but if you're having a Battle of the Bands, who are you gonna root more for - the guys throwing all their energy into it, who don't sound maybe 100% polished - or the guys who are tight and professional but lacking in energy? You know what I mean?

    I actually feel that, if the Rooftop Concert was a harbinger of things to come, The Beatles' live show might've surpassed the Stones'. The Rooftop Concert is stripped of pretense, loose, druggy and raw, whereas the Stones' shows from 1969 onward were as you put it more and more professional. By 1973, the only thing saving their live shows from being utterly bloated was Mick Taylor's amazing guitar skills.

    Also I would disagree with your point about anyone else in the Stones besides Mick being more energetic than The Beatles. Brian and Keith were, in 1964-1966, just as energetic as Mick.
    sekaer likes this.
  21. Castle in the air

    Castle in the air Forum Resident

    new york
    I suspect there is an 11th commandment here.

    "Thou shalt not criticize the Beatles for..." :laugh:
    ODIrony likes this.
  22. vamborules

    vamborules Forum Resident

    First you said they needed more practice. Now you say they were too tight and professional.
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  23. RogerB

    RogerB Forum Resident

    I think the Beatles were a good live band during their touring years. Had they done one final tour in 69 or 70 I think they could have proved to be an excellent live band. The rooftop concert hints at what might have been.

    The Stones have toured their entire career so I think they put more emphasis on live shows.

    My 2 cents....
    maywitch likes this.
  24. Captain Leo

    Captain Leo Well-Known Member

    Queens, New York
    In the context that a lot of the Rooftop Show was practiced and rehearsed beforehand, and yet had at the same time a very impromptu vibe. Maybe it's the material? The Let it Be material was meant to be loose and raw consciously whereas on previous releases they strived for perfection in the studio, which translates to song that don't come across as well or as energetic live.

    It's not really a knock on them as a band or as musicians to say their albums were better than their live shows. Some bands translate better live than others. Led Zeppelin is my favorite band but I would listen to a studio cut over a live one any day.
  25. DLeet

    DLeet Forum Resident

    Chernigov, Ukraine
    Say what you will, but they possessed a crazy ability to pull of harmonies in that wacko no monitor environment. It's a real pity we didn't see a major tour from them where they would overpower the fans without issues.

    they were at their best in 1963-early 1964 as a live band. Please Please Me is almost a live in studio affair. And see this!

    They're scorching here.

    But yeah, in 1965, 1966 they not only played subpar but also could not be bothered to do soundchecks and take a normal roadie group with them to ensure that all equipment works properly.

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