Following on from my post on Five Great Male Vocalists, I couldn’t resist sticking this awesome live version of one of my favourite songs up there. ‘One Vision’ by Queen.
Queen was a band that took the world by storm with ridiculous songwriting, vocal lines, guitar riffs and general bandcraft. This is one of my favourite songs of theirs, performed live at Wembley in 1986.
#1 – Live Vs Recording – Freddie was an outstanding vocalist, there’s no doubt there. BUT, what you record in the studio vs what you can actually consistently do live is another test altogether. Freddie was known for incredible recordings (as well as incredible performances), but he regularly had to alter the melodies of his songs to sing them live. Specifically, he would sing songs over 2nd bridge in recordings, but live would completely eliminate this in almost every song. The live version of ‘Hammer to Fall’ demonstrates this most obviously.
A key lesson from this is to not give in to ego, but to record songs only in keys you know you can do live. That way way you are never having to compromise on what you’d like to deliver.
#2 – Stage presence MATTERS – The above said, you can hardly complain about any of the performances by Queen – why is that? If the live performances deviate that much from the recordings, why is this not bothering anyone? Because stage presence counts for A LOT. Freddie was excellent at holding the audiences attention no matter how much he might have been reaching for certain melody lines or having to modify things to hit the notes. Yet, how many singers just stand still on stage? Plenty. There are the Adele’s of this world, but they MUST focus their efforts on their voice. Their voice sells the song completely, such that standing still on stage doesn’t detract from the performance.
It’s not that you have to pick one over the other (it’s more a sliding scale), but recognise that if you don’t feel comfortable throwing shapes to the extent of Freddie Mercury or the like, the less you want to move around, the stronger your vocals have to be. Ultimately, your stage presence should be a reflection of your personality, but recognise that the less energetic you want to be on stage, the tighter your vocals need to be.