A recent study conducted by the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index involving 1000 participants concluded that live music events are associated with higher levels of subjective wellbeing. The telephone survey pointed specifically to the communal element of these musical engagements, such as concerts and festivals, and that the feeling of unity and shared experience contributes to a more positive disposition.
It can be argued that hearing music in a live setting is essential to the human experience, as music has historically been a part of human life for over 36,000 years. The performance aspect of live music ensures a certain amount of vulnerability your LP can’t quite capture. It can be a momentous, “I was there” event that can be one of the happiest memories of your life. As a society, certain moments in music history live in the minds and hearts of all, and are as legendary as the artists themselves.
1. The first time Michael Jackson did the moonwalk.
The 1983 TV special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever is immortalized as the first time Michael Jackson did the moonwalk to his smash hit “Billie Jean” in front of an audience. The history of the moonwalk hardly starts with the King of Pop, and It’s also worth noting that since Jackson wanted to depart from the motown theme of the night, he lip synched the performance as opposed to letting the live motown band do a rendition that he felt wouldn’t capture the groove of the song. Yet, Michael Jackson still made the performance his own, captivating the audience and the world for a brief, extraterrestrial moment.
2. The Beatles’ American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show.
The year was 1964. A four-piece band from Liverpool had exploded onto the scene, creating a mass hysteria akin to the hype around Elvis a decade ago. They caught the attention of America’s most popular variety show host Ed Sullivan, and booked the band for what would be one of the most monumental music events in history. 73 million people tuned in to watch, and from that point on, Beatlemania had arrived stateside.
3. Elvis Presley’s Performance of Hound Dog on The Milton Berle Show.
Rock and roll took America by storm in the ‘50s, shocking conservative parents and igniting rebellious teenage angst like never before. This particular performance on the Milton Berle Show was the country’s first glimpse of Elvis’ pelvis after being hidden away by his acoustic guitar on previous performances. For the times, it was raunchy and incendiary, but nonetheless a turning point for American pop culture.
4. Prince’s Super Bowl XLI Halftime performance
Anyone familiar with Prince’s overall presence and entity know that he is somewhat of a superhuman figure. His performance of Purple Rain at the 2007 Super Bowl was nothing less than a cosmic event, as the show occurred during a quintessential Florida downpour. It goes down as a performance where nature, music, and man became one for a brief moment.
5. Janis Joplin’s debut performance at Monterey Pop.
Janis Joplin goes down as one of the most legendary female rock figures of the last century. Her passion and exceptional musical ability was always present in her performances, and she exploded onto the famed Summer of Love music scene with her set at Monterey Pop ‘67, two months before Woodstock ‘67. Her performance of Ball and Chain, a bluesy song brimming with melancholy, left many in the crowd open-mouthed knowing they had witnessed the birth of an icon.
In a world that is increasingly becoming dangerously polarized, these moments of harmony among people of all color and credence are all the more precious.