How to Write a Live Band Review

You have just been hired for a dream job working at a music publication and now they want you to do your first ever live band review! Easy, right? Well, not exactly…

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During my internship at Australian publication the Music, I was sent out to do live band reviews and on my first job I felt completely underprepared. To help you avoid that awkward “what the hell am I doing?” phase, I will list some great tips on how to write a live band review…

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Research, research, research. You may go into this thinking that you’re going to review a band that you’ve already heard of, but that’s not necessarily the case. You will need to research most bands before you see them. Ask yourself, is this their EP or Debut album? Have any new band members joined since they formed? Have any left? Did this person use to be in a band but are now going solo? Knowing these answers will add to the quality of your work.

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It’s alright to go it alone. Depending on where you work, your boss may allow you to bring a plus one to see a live event. It’s all very exciting at first and you will have friends lining up to join you, but the reality is that it can be a big distraction. Friends and partners want to have a social experience with you, they want to drink and chat, not the best idea while you’re trying to work.

Bring pen and paper. The night is going to turn into one big blur if you don’t take down notes. Remember that you are there to do a job, not be a part of the scene! List down the songs that are played in order and make any additional notes about what the artist says regarding the tracks. Are they old or new? Previously scrapped from an EP? About a relationship gone sour? All of it matters. If you’re thinking about bringing a phone to take down some notes, that’s alright too, just be aware that the crowd might get annoyed with the flashing screen.

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Capture the atmosphere. A live band review requires storytelling, your readers want to get a sense of what it was like to be there through narrative. Was the crowd rowdy and moshing up the front? Were they quiet and reflective up the back? What atmosphere did the band create? Did they use lighting and effects to do it? Or just a plain old acoustic guitar? These details are important.

“It’s easy listening to a record, but a live performance is so personal and real.”  – Gin Wigmore

Keep it short though. Just to add some confusion, I will say that it’s wise not to get too carried away in details. The editor at your publication doesn’t want to read a paragraph about particles of dust floating in the air before the main act comes on. It needs to be succinct and clean, with a steady pace to hold the attention of your readers. Which leads me to my next and final tip…

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Hug your style guide. To produce work of a publishable standard, you need to be familiar with the publications style guide. What’s the word limit? Do you mention the lead singer by surname after writing it out in full? Italics for song titles? What about album titles? Every little detail counts, so edit your work thoroughly and enjoy the high five that you get from your boss afterwards.

There you have it my friends, my top tips on how to write an awesome live band review.

 

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4 thoughts on “How to Write a Live Band Review

  1. Thanks for providing the great insight on writing a live band review Isabel, I’m eager to put your advice into practice. All your points seem relevant and useful. I particularly liked the key mention ‘remember that you are there to do a job’; it’s way too easy to get caught up in the gig scene and forget details that are vital to the review. I feel bringing a pen and paper is a great tip that would help one maintain a ‘there to do a job’ mindset. Thank you so much for sharing. I’d love to read your reviews if you can post a link?

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  2. I wishI’d read this before I’d written my first band review, Isabel. Really great advice in there- in particular, about going to a gig solo! And always adhere to the Style Guide! Great images as well- very evocative.

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  3. I second NayJay – there are some fantastic tips in here – and I would love to read your reviews! Your suggestions are completely logical and obvious (list songs in play order), but it is often these things that need to be articulated to keep you on track when you’re writing to a brief. As you say, it’s easy to get carried away. You write so crisply Isabel; with a beautiful balance of personality and skill.

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