The Gig

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This is Celia Hirschman with On The Beat for KCRW.

Since the birth of rock and roll, recording artists have sought to earn the praise and passion of their audiences, with amazing live shows. Whether it was Elvis Presley, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, U2, Bruce Springsteen or Nirvana, the quality of the live show surpassed even the individual recordings.

In fact, a great live show speaks much louder than a well recorded CD. That's because a CD can have all the benefits of a top notch production, incredible side musicians, recording programs to even out the edges and the best mastering lab, to tie the record together. But a great live performance is, of the moment, unpredictable and revealing, for the performer. Audiences who genuinely feel an artist s pain and joy live are far more likely to emotionally connect with them, and stay engaged, long after the performance. The live show is what gives a career longevity.

With the record industry drastically changing focus and direction, the first factor most labels look for in signing an act, is a great live performance. There's a crop of newly signed recording artists touring the country right now and they are all well worth the price of admission.

Consider Nellie McKay a 19 year old wunderkind whose quick witted prose is woven together with brilliant piano playing, wrapped in a sound similar to 40's cabaret. She represents one of several new jazz/pop hybrids that are quickly emerging in the in the wake of the success of Norah Jones. And live, Nellie Mackay is simply delightful, showcasing an astonishing array of abilities, particularly given her age. You can only guess where she s going to be going in the future.

And then there's Jamie Cullen, another young master, who, with his two band mates, completely engage audiences live. Jamie is a ball of energy, unstoppable and magnificent and, judging from the two performances I've seen, he s got it all. He is a fantastic pianist, able to play anything perfectly and most often at three times the speed. Plus he has a voice like Frank Sinatra or Harry Connik Jr.

Go to a Jamie Cullen show and you re most likely to leave energized and excited. This is clearly an entertainer who will be with us for a very long time.

Regina Spektor is another young newcomer makes waves live. Born and raised in Russia, this classically trained singer songwriter came out of the New York Anti-Folk movement, playing locally in coffee houses. It s easy to see why the major labels have broken ranks on their signing freeze to fight a tough bidding war over Regina. Witness her live show and you ll see she s as interesting and dynamic as all great talents are, leaving her audiences in amazement.

And on that tip, The Dresden Dolls are catching a lot of tastemakers ears for their great live performances. Though still very new, this young duo s live show is stunning, and compelling you can t take your eyes off them.

And seeing is believing. Each of these artists have only released a new record in the last couple of months, and the buzz on all of them is very high.

They're touring constantly and always stop in LA. If you haven't seen them yet, be sure and check them out when they come around.

This is Celia Hirschman with On The Beat for KCRW.