This year at CES, we had two incredible musicians put our system to the test. Graham Nash stopped by to play some tracks off his upcoming album. And Lori Lieberman stopped in at our penthouse suite at the Mirage for an unplugged performance, which we recorded and played back over our system. John Atkinson wrote on Facebook that the highlight of CES 2016 for him was hearing Lori Lieberman’s acoustic performance. It really was a remarkable experience.
Jason Serinus from Stereophile was in our room before Lori’s acoustic rehearsal before the actual concerts. Jason and I retired to an adjacent room so that we could discuss the equipment list. I remember quite clearly that while I was listing out each product in the system along with its retail price, Jason was frantically taking notes. Even though Lori was behind us, as soon as she started singing we immediately stopped talking and were both transfixed.
The purity of her voice and the emotion she was able to convey was incredible. On certain songs, she gives me goosebumps. Pandora and I were fortunate enough to hear her perform at the Grammys concert hall in Los Angeles just before Christmas. It was a wonderfully intimate concert. But to rank the sound quality, I would have to say that the live acoustic performance is a good Irish mile ahead of the best electronic recording possible today.
The acoustic performance (non-amplified) is really the “ne plus ultra” and as you can imagine—very difficult to execute because the artist can only perform for so long. And by its very nature, an intimate room cannot accommodate many listeners. However, with all the caveats aside, if you ever get the opportunity—leap and run to assure yourself of a seat. It really is that impressive.
While I prefer the recording played back on a high end system to the sonic performance at a live amplified concert (usually played through a PA system) the live acoustic performance is an exception. It is so rich and tonally colorful—capable of conveying emotion at a level that we only partially emulate on a really good high end system.
Interestingly enough, all of the close mic recordings that the audiophiles love are not representative of what the artist will sound like, when you sit even 10 – 12’ away from her. Joe Cali recorded Lori singing “The Last Thing On My Mind” on both the Thursday and the Friday in 24-192 and it really sounds stunning. It’s a wonderful souvenir of an unforgettable performance.