Are they the enemy?
I remember in 2015 much criticism heading in the direction of the Cork Opera House when they axed the house band in favour of pre-recorded backing tracks.
And I have certainly been in company with some professional musicians who look down their noses at singers or instrumentalists who use them.
Without commenting on individual cases, there certainly are economic reasons to use them. And logistical ones. I am yet to meet a singer or lead instrument player who says they prefer being backed by backing tracks than by a good live band, but that doesn’t stop some people using them when they feel they have to.
Our new friend from last Monday’s gig in Connolly’s, Tibor Bana told me that night that he got a great kick from performing with live musicians because he usually plays with backing tracks. Some people may sneer. But he’s hardly going to hire a band, or indeed a string quartet to support him while he busks outside Tesco on a Saturday afternoon? It wouldn’t make financial sense.
Likewise for a singer who loves singing big band arrangements. Because unless you’re Michael Bublé you probably can’t afford to hire a big band. So what do you do – not sing publicly at all??
And sure, a pantomime without a live drummer accenting each joke is without doubt a lesser show, but is it better than not putting the show on at all because it’s too expensive?
And I’m not a huge fan of them. Give me a live band any day. But I also think we should all respect the right and indeed the reasons to use them.