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Saturday, 6 November 2010

Sonic Deception?

As i do every Saturday morning when the BBC2 music tv show "Later with Jools Holland" is on, i settled down this morning and watched my recording of last nights show.

Whilst watching i thought, "I know, i'll write a blog post about how much i enjoy the  show and why". But, something else struck me whilst watching Kings Of Leon playing their final song.

Anyone who knows anything about Kings Of Leon will probably know that the band is made up of four members of the Followill family. Three brothers and a cousin.
But, how many people also knew that, when onstage, they are joined by a fifth member?

You could be forgiven for not knowing the latter fact. Especially if you've only seen the band perform live in the kind of huge arenas and stadiums that they tend to play these days.
The reason for this potential lack of knowledge, is that the fifth"member' is hidden behind the band. Behind the amplifiers and to the side of the drummers mini-stage.

During the course of the three songs that Kings Of Leon played on "Later.....", i saw this fifth member playing percussion, guitar and, i think, keyboards. I do believe he also helped out on backing vocals. But, because he was virtually out of sight and out of the light, this is not easy to prove.

Now, this is not the first time that i've noticed this little deception and Kings Of Leon are by no means the only band who do this, when playing live.
Many other bands also do this. Some more discreetly than others.

So, is this right?

Personally, i feel that any musician who is contributing to the live sound of the band, should be visible. And, by visible, i mean actually on the main stage and in front of those amplifiers and drum risers.
Not behind them.

After all, isn't this mini deception just as bad as auto-tuning a voice, or miming because of the vigorous dance routine that you're doing?

This is not a new phenomenon either. I have heard stories of hidden guitarists, hiding in the wings and playing a band members guitar parts for them. But, that doesn't make it right for this to happen now.

These days, music and especially live music, is a huge money spinner and ticket prices often reflect this. If i pay decent money to see my favourite band, I expect the members of that band to be playing the music that i'm hearing. If they need help, fair enough. But, i also want to see those helpers.
I fully accept that it's not always easy to reproduce what was recorded in the studio. But, at least be upfront about it.

Some bands do this properly and well done to them for that.
The band Keane, for example, now have an un-official fourth member, Jesse Quin. He was brought in to add bass guitar, guitar and percussion to the bands live act and has been touring with Keane since 2008. He always perfoms on the stage beside the other band members.

So, if Keane can do this openly, why not some other bands?

I guess, that in these days of backing tracks and miming, we should just be grateful that bands actually bother to play live in the first place? I'm certainly grateful for that.
But, just look out for those extra personnel, lurking in the shadows.


  1. First of all, Jools Holland has a tv show? Cool!

    Okay, on to the topic... I wonder how that fifth Leon King feels about it all. Was it their choice to be in the shadows and not in front?

    I was thinking of Simon Townshend, the sometimes fifth member of the Who. Big brother Pete does introduce him and give him credit, but he mostly hides to the side of the stage supporting the rest of the band.

    Also, Scott Thurston for many years was the sixth Heartbreaker on Tom Petty's tours, but only recently made into the "official" album line-up.

  2. He's had that tv show for a few years now & very good it is too. I know Mike is a fan, but i don't think you can see it over there. Just the DVD's.

    As long as the extra personnel are acknowledged i suppose it's not so bad. But, if they're hidden, there is still that suspicion of deception.

  3. His name is Chris Coleman, who is a long-time friend of the band and he joined them for touring purposes only in June this year. He is very visible at all of their gigs - he is stands behind Matthew (Lead Guitarist). They decided to ask him to tour with them to help out with keyboards, percussion etc. after taking advice from Pearl Jam who also have a touring member called Boom Gaspar. There is definitely no deception going on here!

  4. Anonymous: Thanks for the info. I would of thought though that as a long time friend of the band, there was even more reason for Chris Coleman to be in front of the amps, instead of behind them?
    As i said, i am in no way singling out Kings Of Leon, a band i've bought albums of in the past, for this practise. They were just the latest example that i'd noticed.

  5. I think it was more down to the Show than the band - this is where he is normally positioned pretty much the same as any other percussionist.
    Additional info: Chris is married to Holly Williams (daughter of Hank Williams Jnr) and is an established Drummer to trade in Nashville!
    If you like KOL, you might enjoy my website:

  6. Lyanne: It sounds like he should be striking out on his own, with those talents & family background :)