Minor mistakes refreshing even for best of live acts

Published 3:28 pm Thursday, March 15, 2012

Last weekend, I drove 350 miles — about 5 and a half hours — to see my favorite band perform, and one of my fondest memories of the show is of them messing up.

Today, lip syncing has become rampant on televised performances like “Saturday Night Live” (remember Ashlee Simpson?) and the Super Bowl. With live and televised music, nothing annoys me more.

So when Radiohead slipped up on stage, I didn’t mind a bit.

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Since I first heard “OK Computer” before my senior year of high school, I’ve been slowly growing more obsessed with the British band.

Last year when Radiohead announced a 2012 U.S. tour, I instantly decided I’d buy tickets to their closest performance: March 11 at the Spring Center in Kansas City, Mo.

About halfway through the concert, the band played a new, unreleased track called “Identikit.”

A few measures in, singer Thom Yorke told the band to stop, after second touring drummer Clive Deamer, who’s touring forgot to come in at the right time.

Yorke half joked, half assured the crowd, “We’re professionals here.”

The crowd cheered, the band kicked off the song again and they performed it without a hitch — at least musically.

A second snafu came partway through the song: A member of the stage crew accidentally turned on all the lights in the Sprint Center. The band kept playing, looked around confused and the lights went off a few moments later.

After the song, Yorke said someone must have been asleep backstage and mimicked a person hitting a light switch while asleep on the job.

The moment added character to the show, and made the band look classy in that they messed up, laughed it off and forgot about it. (I saw another famous musician jumping up and down yelling at a stagehand when a microphone cord was stuck at a show a few years ago — it was not becoming.)

The minor flubs revealed a human side of one of a band that that he’s become one of the biggest names in music and one of the most polished live bands (that puts on a wicked light show, too).

Lip syncing or recorded performances — whether televised or live in person — water down music and exclude the human factor and emotions that go into a live show.

The issue of lip syncing doesn’t completely fall on the shoulders of the industry or the performers. Fans have come to wrongly expect perfection, which is isn’t realistic. The best singers will stutter over a word here and there, and the best performers will make mistakes. The good ones will recover quickly.

The minor flubs didn’t ruin the show or sour my view of Radiohead; in fact, it was one of the best shows I’ve been attended.

It created an authentic, shared experience, which is exactly what you want from live music.

—On a side note, Westboro Baptist Church protested the concert, calling the band “Freak monkey’s [sic] with mediocre tunes.” Nigel Godrich, the bands longtime producer, joked on Twitter that it was the highlight of the tour.