Monday, February 04, 2008

Did Tom Petty lip sync at the Super Bowl?

Thor Christensen (yes, Thor) with the Dallas Morning News has a theory.

In an article published this morning, he contends that Tom Petty did not actually sing at the Super Bowl last night, but that things sounded "too pristine" and Petty must have using previously recorded vocals, a la Milli Vanilli.

Too pristine? As in, they sounded good, so it must be fake. Thor also argues that Petty's mouth was "strategically hidden" being a "big spongy microphone." Not that windscreens have ever proven useful when it comes to audio. Right.

I'm INCREDIBLY reluctant to buy into this theory, but Thor does make one interesting point.

Check out this video from last night's performance of "Free Fallin', specifically at the 2:15 mark. Definitely something odd there. [Update: I see what the two commenters are saying about how they probably just turned his mic down for the break. All I said initially was that it was "odd," not that he was definitely lip syncing!]

But maybe the real question isn't "did he fake it," but "does it matter?" It's not like we're dealing with someone like Ashlee Simpson here — we know Petty's the real deal. Is it OK to cut the guy some slack and give him a backup plan on one of the biggest nights of his career? Or should he be expected to suck it up and just play and sing, for good or bad.

I'm honestly torn on this issue, I'd love to hear what you all think.

[Update: Sorry, I had to take this down and repost it. I added all the comments back. I'm not about censorship!]


Amanda said...

He might be afraid if he played live and really sounded bad it might effect his tour sells. His promoter and managers probably told him to lip sync for this reason.

The Rolling Stones and Prince both performed live at the super bowl in their performances and I didn't think it sounded too bad. I thought Prince sounded great. I don't really remember The Rolling Stones' performance. But maybe the stadiums they played in were roofless. The University of Phoenix stadium has a roof and it was not retracted because of all the rain in the area. And I do think concerts sound much better outside than at an arena. Maybe stadiums have similar sound problems. I think there is a noticeable echo at all the shows I've seen at the RBC Center.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the part at 2:15..If you knew anything about concerts and running sound, you would know that when singers are not going to be singing (during a solo, break, etc etc) the soundman usually mutes his/her mic to prevent background noise and/or feedback. Obviously, Tom Petty wanted to say something, and the soundman was late turning his mic back on

Anonymous said...

I don't see anything at all weird about 2:15. I agree with what anonymous said. Also, I actually sang in the 1996 opening olympics, and all the solos parts were recorded separately. The idea was that there was one recording that the people were hearing live, and if all was going well, the people at home would hear the same thing. Otherwise, in case of mic failure, there was a backup plan.

In this clip, it sounded like there was a prerecorded track of the chorus playing, with his life track overtop, which to me, it totally allowable and not "cheating".

Anonymous said...

audio issues are common

Anonymous said...

If the only real evidence is that he "sounded too good", and "his chest wasn't rising enough", I don't beleive it. I've seen TP&H in concert over a dozen times and they always sound great and he always makes it look completely effortless. He also always wears a jacket or a vest, and an ascot, so it's almost impossible to see his chest rise and fall. Their near perfect reproduction of their songs is one of the main reasons I love to see him live. There are alot of great artists out there who I love, but who sound terrible live (i.e., Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones). TP&H always sound great live.

Anonymous said...

If they were goign to play tracks then why wouldn't they play tracks for the back-up vocals as well? There were parts missing from the recordings that could have easily been added if lip syncing was done. That is one reason plus it just sounded live to me.

Rob Matthews said...

I think they used digital delay on his voice in Free Fallin' and parts of Running Down a Dream. Seems a more likely explanation than something some no-name reporter in Dallas cooked up to get some attention.

Tom Petty's been playing live for 30 years. I have a feeling that he can do it at this point. It's not like he just won American Idol and has no experience on stage.

Anonymous said...

Shame on this Thor dude. He's a bigger loser than Bellichek.

Anonymous said...

Amen to the Bellichick comment - he's the real cheater, NOT TP!!!

Anonymous said...

It's Super Bowl's policy

Anonymous said...

"Yes, of course it's lip synced! ALL Super bowl entertainment is synced to a tape and timed perfectly. Right down to the drums, even Tom Petty. It's not a big secret either, just not common knowledge. If you asked any of the performers, they would admit to it, there are no "legal" issues binding them to keep a secret.

There is a great book out there called "The Making of the Super Bowl" by former NFL director Don Weiss, and on p. 204 he will support this claim. "Ever since 1993 the Anthem has been pre recorded". You can read this part of the book online at Google Books. Or check out this blogger

It's not up to the performer - it's NFL policy."

Anonymous said...

I've seen Tom Petty live twice... and actually thought he sounded better those two times than he did during the Super Bowl, so... I'll say he wasn't.