Neil's vast improvement in live singing over the past decade and a half

For general discussion of Pet Shop Boys topics.
Message
Author
User avatar
Pod
Posts: 2091
Joined: Wed 27 May 2015, 11:07 pm
Contact:

Re: Neil's vast improvement in live singing over the past decade and a half

#16 Post by Pod » Tue 26 Jan 2016, 9:27 pm

Remember the 'Live Here Now' stuff that was done a while ago (they may still do it) where acts were recorded and the audio sold after the show? I have a few of these from various bands and the quality is surprisingly good. I'd have liked something as 'raw' as this from one of the PSB tours, even if the vocals are tainted. Bootlegs were inferior to this stuff.
Just for the sake of it, make sure you're always frowning. :|
It shows the world that you've got substance and depth.

User avatar
PSB-90
Posts: 87
Joined: Wed 25 Mar 2015, 12:24 am
Contact:

Re: Neil's vast improvement in live singing over the past decade and a half

#17 Post by PSB-90 » Wed 27 Jan 2016, 1:20 am

Waffleon wrote:Neil's not a singer's singer for sure but he has a beautiful voice. I think some recent songs are easier to sing than their early stuff too. There's an obvious vocal advantage to writing music with simple melodies and fewer words. Shame he's not a dancer's dancer though. ;o)
Calls to mind Chris's Somewhere comment, "It's a SING-GER's song that one!" :)
Last edited by PSB-90 on Wed 27 Jan 2016, 9:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
DJ Pat
Posts: 1470
Joined: Sun 21 Aug 2005, 3:06 pm
Contact:

Re: Neil's vast improvement in live singing over the past decade and a half

#18 Post by DJ Pat » Wed 27 Jan 2016, 6:00 am

Can't we have some real honest opinion on these so-called live vocals instead of everyone just adoring everything they do and dishing out praise at the slightest oppourtunity?

I thought only 3rd rate pop stars like Cheryl Cole sang along with a perfect sounding vocal on stage?

Apparently not.
Live synth pop tracks you might have forgotten about.
https://soundcloud.com/user-152577839

User avatar
jasonjohn
Posts: 1949
Joined: Mon 27 Sep 2004, 12:10 am
Contact:

Re: Neil's vast improvement in live singing over the past decade and a half

#19 Post by jasonjohn » Wed 27 Jan 2016, 8:43 am

lol, would hardly call the vocals perfect, even if they are pre-recorded.

User avatar
Zog
Posts: 2271
Joined: Wed 29 Oct 2003, 2:37 pm
Contact:

Re: Neil's vast improvement in live singing over the past decade and a half

#20 Post by Zog » Wed 27 Jan 2016, 9:40 am

Even with the improvement in live stage electronics, etc, I'd say that Neil has regained much of his "studio tone". But that I mean, that's he's learned to keep his voice from getting nasally and losing that trademark Neil "laser-like" sound. I suspect strongly that he has stopped trying to sing too loud, and let the amplification do its job, probably by better monitoring. Also, he's had one hell of a lot if practice singing live now, so he can use his unique voice to much better effect.

Sure there are some backing vocals of his in some tracks, but, some of the trademark PSB sound has his voice multi-tracked: Being Boring is one of the best examples. We know this because he said that it was very difficult to achieve that effect (there are about 4-6 Neils in unison in the vocals). You can acheive that electronically today well, but the tiny variations in each vocal track give his voice in that song a unique quality.

-Zog
Last edited by Zog on Thu 28 Jan 2016, 7:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
New Stuff
*** “Back-Track” - Retro Funk Mix (MAS 2018)
https://soundcloud.com/martin-ashwoodsm ... k-mix-2018
*** “Cydonia” - Techno Mix (MAS 2018)
https://soundcloud.com/martin-ashwoodsm ... x-mas-2018

User avatar
Hillbilly
Posts: 2614
Joined: Tue 11 Apr 2006, 6:28 pm
Contact:

Re: Neil's vast improvement in live singing over the past decade and a half

#21 Post by Hillbilly » Wed 27 Jan 2016, 10:10 am

glennjridge wrote:If they ever....put out another live album I would prefer...he redid the vocals in the studio.
George michael can sound better live than the studio.....most singers cant.
Rather than listen to awesome new or older live psb tunes with great new arrangements yet paired with subpar thin vocals is not what I want to hear. In neils case I dont require real.
Having said that he sounds loads better live now.he sounds more confident with his voice like he knows he is singing better now.
But if they re-did the vocals in the studio, then it's not a live album as the music arrangements performed on stage are pre-programmed!

I have heard several PSB live recordings where the vocals don't sound very good, and sometimes even a bit off key, and that's why I'm not interested in their live albums. I did not, however, think that Neil's vocals were bad at the two PSB shows I have attended.

User avatar
Niall
Posts: 1264
Joined: Thu 30 Oct 2003, 9:19 pm
Contact:

Re: Neil's vast improvement in live singing over the past decade and a half

#22 Post by Niall » Wed 27 Jan 2016, 1:31 pm

Zog wrote:Normally I'd start a topic like this as: "Is it just me, or ....", but in this case there's no question that Neil's live singing is often approaching studio quality these days. I realise "practice makes perfect", but being a lapsed classical musician (flute), I've always had a pretty good ear, especially when a singer is off pitch, or their basic tonal quality changes.

I remember, when they first started touring live, Neil's voice was quite acceptable. But the classic PSB "Neil sound" was always that laser-like pure quality that instantly attracted me to the PSB in studio recordings.

However, the first hint there was something slightly odd, was the big South American "Disco-Very" tour, captured well on video. I remember being mostly impressed, but couldn't help noticing that Neil, especially in the slower music was often out of tune (not wrong notes), and his voice quality sounded rather nasally. Not exactly an appealing sound to my ears. It's a well known classical music phenomenon, that if you can't properly hear yourself as a singer or a violinist, say... you will subconciously help hear yourself by playing too loudly or slightly out of tune, so your ears can hear yourself. In live pop/rock music, this is why good sound monitors for the musicians are essential. Anyway...

Then there seemed a gap Bilingual came out about the time I renewed by interest in the PSB (I saw the Discovery Tour video later on). Neil wasn't bad at the Savoy Somewhere tour that happened around that time. Then there was the notorious gap. Poor Chris seemed to age 20 years within about two years, and nothing was released aside from the substandard "Screaming". And then came the CreamFields live concert, featuring some very cool new mixes of older songs, but with, IMO an utterly atrocious vocal performance by Neil: he was very badly out of tune, and his vocal quality was to be generous very poor. I heard many different bootleg recordings of the event, and I found myself utterly embassed to be a fan. It was then I decided that Neil, while superb in the studio, was to my ears unlistenable live. 1998-99 was not a particularly pleasant time to be a PSB fan.

This was redeemed by Nightlife, but I was dreading the live tour. The first performances were poor and then they became acceptable, but not overly so, IMO. The live video of the event is clearly better, because I think they had a chance to "tweak" it somewhat in the studio. Nevertheless, even when Neil was in tune, his live concert voice, on the whole was sonething I came to accept.

Today, I don't know if it it's just far more live experience, and possibly going to see a professional vocal coach (live singing is tough, even opera stars constantly go though this)... but 80-90% percent of the time his live singing is infinitely better (and I don't just mean auto-tuned). No, his laser-like vocal quality has returned too. I've not seen them live, but now they are superb live... well pretty much most of the time. I find myself enjoying that unique, effortless PSB voice that Neil has learned to use live. The improvement is dramatic, and it's easy to see why they love touring so much now. It's second nature to them now. :)

I just needed to get that off my chest... mission accomplished: and what a superb live act they are now!

-Zog
Perth, November 1, 1994 was my first ever live show. I had watched Performance and Highlights numerous times. I was gobsmacked by how good Neil sounded in Perth.
But yes, in recent years he's become much better. It's as if he's settled for a certain way of singing things, even if it differs slightly from the record. His voice slots into a pitch and he's fine. I notice his biggest struggles now are in lower songs such as Leaving and Invisible, verses of Memory of the Future - it used to be the same with So Hard and Before. But things such as West End girls, Go West, A Face Like That - he's almost on autopilot.
Do we all agree that everything Neil's singing, he's singing live? Do any of you think there are any songs where Chris isn't playing anything or do you thing he's always playing some component?

Edit: Also agree quite clearly, he's singing along with himself.
Where were the Chris Lowe mistakes referred too, before?
Evertonians are born not manufactured.
We do not choose; we are chosen.
Those who understand need no explanation.
Those that don't understand don't matter.

User avatar
glennjridge
Posts: 7786
Joined: Sat 01 Nov 2003, 10:28 pm
Contact:

Re: Neil's vast improvement in live singing over the past decade and a half

#23 Post by glennjridge » Wed 27 Jan 2016, 6:15 pm

Hillbilly wrote:
glennjridge wrote:If they ever....put out another live album I would prefer...he redid the vocals in the studio.
George michael can sound better live than the studio.....most singers cant.
Rather than listen to awesome new or older live psb tunes with great new arrangements yet paired with subpar thin vocals is not what I want to hear. In neils case I dont require real.
Having said that he sounds loads better live now.he sounds more confident with his voice like he knows he is singing better now.
But if they re-did the vocals in the studio, then it's not a live album as the music arrangements performed on stage are pre-programmed!

I have heard several PSB live recordings where the vocals don't sound very good, and sometimes even a bit off key, and that's why I'm not interested in their live albums. I did not, however, think that Neil's vocals were bad at the two PSB shows I have attended.
Im cool with it not technically being live....it could be a new thing....
"quasi live"
lol. I imagine alot of us love those new versions of our favorite songs they play at concerts. The only downer is these new arrangements generally come with an in and out of tune neil...I would rather he redid the vocals. In fact I would prefer they deleted the crowd noise also. If this creates a new form of live album idea Im cool with it. How about PSB "live" in quotation as the cover lol

DYSMC2009
Posts: 139
Joined: Thu 25 Jun 2009, 4:44 am
Contact:

Re: Neil's vast improvement in live singing over the past decade and a half

#24 Post by DYSMC2009 » Thu 28 Jan 2016, 10:29 am

There was a recording of a webcast / radio recording of a Yes era concert, I believe from 2009. I believe it is from Argentina.

Neil is clearly singing along to pre-recorded vocals. They were obviously broadcasting Neil's in-ear monitor, not what the audience was hearing. This is very clear because during one song, Neil starts singing the wrong verse completely, and yet he continues singing a long, so there is a clear contrast between what Neil is hearing, versus what the audience is hearing. Obviously if the audience was hearing that, he would just correct himself and sing the correct verse, but he started with the wrong verse, and so he continued it.

So what conclusions can we reach based on this evidence?
1.) Neil clearly uses in-ear monitor to hear himself to be able to sing along with.
2.) This is not always audible to the audience. Most of the time it would seem to be there just for him to be able to follow along with. Most of the time it is not audible to the audience.
3.) His live voice is picked up and audible to himself in this in-ear monitor.

Based on some of the other comments from this thread, it would seem that for some difficult parts of songs, his pre-recorded voice is played live.

I do not believe that is the case for the majority of songs, based on the very clear Argentina 2009 audio, where they broadcast an incorrect audio stream. I believe it is primarily as a guide vocal.

Do I believe that auto-tune is used in a live setting? I am not sure how reliably that could be done in a live situation. That is more of a studio trick. I think it could be used live to a limited extent, for certain passages that may be vocally challenging and are per-determined to have a certain effect. I think it would be too difficult and too taxing to do for all of his singing. And too much potential for something to go wrong. I could definitely accept it being used probably in a very limited extent live for pre-determined passages, but I doubt it is done more than that.

I agree from recordings his vocals have not always been the best. Creamfield 1999 is a great example that I am familiar with. But yet evidently he sang decently well in the past, so maybe with a guide vocal in his in-ear monitor, very limited live singing along to his voice (that is audible to the audience, not just in ear, the so-called double tracking), and maybe very limited use of technology (if even that is feasible), coupled with maybe practice and coaching.

User avatar
jasonjohn
Posts: 1949
Joined: Mon 27 Sep 2004, 12:10 am
Contact:

Re: Neil's vast improvement in live singing over the past decade and a half

#25 Post by jasonjohn » Thu 28 Jan 2016, 10:59 am

Agree almost entirely with you DYSMC2009

Pretty sure he is live on Graham Norton with Love Etc https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRmAZrxpSKk

Theres a slight metallic shine to his voice that suggests processing.

Strikes me that Neil sings good when he is composed and relaxed. Which is obvious I guess, but singer-singers can often belt out songs regardless.

User avatar
Zog
Posts: 2271
Joined: Wed 29 Oct 2003, 2:37 pm
Contact:

Re: Neil's vast improvement in live singing over the past decade and a half

#26 Post by Zog » Thu 28 Jan 2016, 9:44 pm

jasonjohn wrote:Agree almost entirely with you DYSMC2009

Pretty sure he is live on Graham Norton with Love Etc https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRmAZrxpSKk

Theres a slight metallic shine to his voice that suggests processing.

Strikes me that Neil sings good when he is composed and relaxed. Which is obvious I guess, but singer-singers can often belt out songs regardless.
I think you have pretty much nailed it. Neil's classic PSB vibe is NOT to belt out songs over the powerful music. This is part of what makes the PSB unique. On the whole, he's largely gone back to singing more calmly live, a hard thing to do, I'm very sure. But Neil's voice does indeed change (and not for the best) if he accidentally does "an Adele" or for that matter pretty much everyone else when singing. His live perfotmance singing has definitely improved, in fact you can usually hear that when they tour, he's often not at his best during the first performance or two, but really settles in nicely after.

One more thing: singing with no vibrato (as Neil does) is very difficult to do well, it leaves your voice very exposed.

-Zog
New Stuff
*** “Back-Track” - Retro Funk Mix (MAS 2018)
https://soundcloud.com/martin-ashwoodsm ... k-mix-2018
*** “Cydonia” - Techno Mix (MAS 2018)
https://soundcloud.com/martin-ashwoodsm ... x-mas-2018

User avatar
glennjridge
Posts: 7786
Joined: Sat 01 Nov 2003, 10:28 pm
Contact:

Re: Neil's vast improvement in live singing over the past decade and a half

#27 Post by glennjridge » Thu 28 Jan 2016, 10:39 pm

I like that neil himself is aware that double tracking his voice when recording vocals makes his voice sound so much better. he even said so in a literally at some event...he said he doesnt sound like neil tennant unless he double tracks.which is basically recording on another track singing along with yourself matching the first recorded vocal making the voice sound stronger and IMO shinier somehow.

they have programs now that you dont even have to sing it again...the program will create another vocal slightly different than the first but I dont think it sounds as good or as natural as the old fashioned way, just resinging again. in fact it loses that double track sound IMO making it kinda counter productive.

User avatar
Niall
Posts: 1264
Joined: Thu 30 Oct 2003, 9:19 pm
Contact:

Re: Neil's vast improvement in live singing over the past decade and a half

#28 Post by Niall » Fri 29 Jan 2016, 8:40 am

jasonjohn wrote:Agree almost entirely with you DYSMC2009

Pretty sure he is live on Graham Norton with Love Etc https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRmAZrxpSKk

Theres a slight metallic shine to his voice that suggests processing.

Strikes me that Neil sings good when he is composed and relaxed. Which is obvious I guess, but singer-singers can often belt out songs regardless.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuvLPkiKCrQ
This one is marked out as a live vocal and I'd agree. Neil sounds quite good here. Another couple of things to note - it's much closer to the excellent demo version.
I was waiting for him to waver slightly on the "it all takes courage" and into the chorus and he does a wee bit.
Also, the presenter makes an error in proclaiming they've worked with Cat Stevens - it must be derived from the It's A Sin/Wild World/Jonathan King legal action.
Evertonians are born not manufactured.
We do not choose; we are chosen.
Those who understand need no explanation.
Those that don't understand don't matter.

User avatar
Niall
Posts: 1264
Joined: Thu 30 Oct 2003, 9:19 pm
Contact:

Re: Neil's vast improvement in live singing over the past decade and a half

#29 Post by Niall » Fri 29 Jan 2016, 8:46 am

Zog wrote:
jasonjohn wrote:Agree almost entirely with you DYSMC2009

Pretty sure he is live on Graham Norton with Love Etc https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRmAZrxpSKk

Theres a slight metallic shine to his voice that suggests processing.

Strikes me that Neil sings good when he is composed and relaxed. Which is obvious I guess, but singer-singers can often belt out songs regardless.
I think you have pretty much nailed it. Neil's classic PSB vibe is NOT to belt out songs over the powerful music. This is part of what makes the PSB unique. On the whole, he's largely gone back to singing more calmly live, a hard thing to do, I'm very sure. But Neil's voice does indeed change (and not for the best) if he accidentally does "an Adele" or for that matter pretty much everyone else when singing. His live perfotmance singing has definitely improved, in fact you can usually hear that when they tour, he's often not at his best during the first performance or two, but really settles in nicely after.

One more thing: singing with no vibrato (as Neil does) is very difficult to do well, it leaves your voice very exposed.

-Zog
Calmly live - a terrific way to put it. He's in control, isn't he? He knows where he's at and is less prone to shockers. I love the way he has slightly reinterpreted some but it adds a lovely new flavour to some of the songs. "When you're lying next to me" and 7.47. Clearly it's not meant that way but typing that line, it just occurred to me there's a funny double meaning.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6TWVVZt1Do
Evertonians are born not manufactured.
We do not choose; we are chosen.
Those who understand need no explanation.
Those that don't understand don't matter.

User avatar
Niall
Posts: 1264
Joined: Thu 30 Oct 2003, 9:19 pm
Contact:

Re: Neil's vast improvement in live singing over the past decade and a half

#30 Post by Niall » Fri 29 Jan 2016, 8:56 am

Zog wrote:
jasonjohn wrote:Agree almost entirely with you DYSMC2009

Pretty sure he is live on Graham Norton with Love Etc https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRmAZrxpSKk

Theres a slight metallic shine to his voice that suggests processing.

Strikes me that Neil sings good when he is composed and relaxed. Which is obvious I guess, but singer-singers can often belt out songs regardless.
I think you have pretty much nailed it. Neil's classic PSB vibe is NOT to belt out songs over the powerful music. This is part of what makes the PSB unique. On the whole, he's largely gone back to singing more calmly live, a hard thing to do, I'm very sure. But Neil's voice does indeed change (and not for the best) if he accidentally does "an Adele" or for that matter pretty much everyone else when singing. His live perfotmance singing has definitely improved, in fact you can usually hear that when they tour, he's often not at his best during the first performance or two, but really settles in nicely after.

One more thing: singing with no vibrato (as Neil does) is very difficult to do well, it leaves your voice very exposed.

-Zog
I don't understand "when he does an Adele", Zog - is this like oversinging or trying to hard?
It's probably a touch of synesthesia. But I can visualise it when Neil's voice shapes. You know the peculiar edge it has when he suddenly changes notes. Sometimes he does it singing "and" or "when" and in my mind it's on a diagonal line and then angles sharply almost likes there's a hinge or pivot.
He does it in Only The Wind with "inside we're all smi-ling" "and no-ones been ly-ing" "there's nobody hi-ding" "my hands are not sha-king".
Evertonians are born not manufactured.
We do not choose; we are chosen.
Those who understand need no explanation.
Those that don't understand don't matter.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot], Google [Bot], jules, MSN [Bot] and 34 guests