Saturday, August 5, 2017

Debbie Gibson - Live At The Concord Pavilion (1988)

This is an audience recording of a Debbie Gibson concert from her first tour that took place 29 years ago today, Aug. 5, 1988, at the Concord Pavilion in California.

I've been sitting on it for a while, and was on the fence about posting it at all because the sound quality isn't so hot, which is often the case with fan-made recordings. This one is a low-fi recording to begin with, but the sonics are muddied even further because it's sourced from a second- or third-generation cassette tape.

But with all that in mind, the fan in me still won out over my inner audiophile. Because where else are you going to hear this concert? Nowhere. If it wasn't for the bootleggers, this concert would be lost forever. This is the reason why so many audience recordings have formed the basis of bootleg concert albums. Not all of them sound wonderful, but they're out there because they're now part of history. Same goes with this concert. It might not have the historical significance of the live shows by such '60s bands as the Grateful Dead, but so what? It's all we now have to recall an era that's rapidly fading into the past.

And while it might seem odd to mention Debbie and the Dead in the same paragraph, close listening to this concert reveals they do have one important thing in common. They both sang live without electronic sweetening or Auto-Tune fixes. This is becoming important with the passage of time.

As we move deeper and deeper into the Auto-Tune era, pop stars are being signed by record companies more for their looks and less for their vocal talent. Singing songs live without a net has become a thing of the past, except maybe on those TV shows where singers compete with each other. So even though the Dead jammed and Gibson played commercial pop, their commitment to actually kicking it live -- warts and all -- gives them some common ground, historically speaking.

This concert presents an excellent example of Gibson's commitment to live performance. She's a theatrically-trained singer who has acted on Broadway and belted out songs from the stage with little or no amplification. Here, she's on key about 99 percent of the time, but there's an enjoyably imperfect human element to her vocals, which sometimes come off like an excited teenager racing around the stage -- which she was, being just 17 at the time.

My guess is that one of her teenage fans sneaked a boombox into the concert and slipped it under their chair to tape it. I'm assuming this because the recording captures the audience in glorious stereo but the music in constricted mono. My guess is that the recording device was placed under someone's seat or in another hidden location.

To make the tape more presentable, I did some tweaking of the EQ to bring out the treble frequencies. I also applied some limiting to beef up the sound (cassette recordings are notorious for lacking presence). The first two songs in the second set -- which came after the "tape flip" -- dragged a bit, so I sped them up to the proper pitch. Cassette desks were also notorious for being unreliable when it came to recording and playback speeds.

The 80-minute show is a time capsule of Gibson on her way up. The crowd is extremely vocal, especially when she goes into her then-recent #1 hit "Foolish Beat." Gibson had the audience in the proverbial palm of her hand. But to her credit, she refused to play it safe and pander to her teenybopper audience. Instead she hit 'em with four (count 'em) new songs from her still-to-be-released album Electric Youth, which wouldn't hit stores until five months later in January 1989.

Gibson's 1989 #1 hit "Lost In Your Eyes" is presented here with some variations in the melody that she'd improve upon in the final recording. She mentions that she'd only written the song a short while ago. Wonder how many concert goers remembered it when it was blaring from every Top 40 station on the planet within a few months?

She even breaks out one of the aforementioned new songs as part of the encore, "We Could Be Together." It's a great song (in fact, it's my favorite Gibson single), but its retro melody and rhythm represented a change in her style and it was totally unfamiliar to the crowd. So it took some guts to play it. The next time someone tells you Gibson's music was bubblegum, remember how she led her audience from dance music into '60s-styled pop in this concert.

Gibson closes with a cover of one of her favorite songs, Elton John's "Crocodile Rock," a tune she also did as part of the Acoustic Live show I previously posted. I was never an Elton John fan, so what she sees in this song I don't know. But the crowd seems into it.

In two weeks I'll have a much better sounding Gibson concert that's an even bigger part of history. Thanks to fellow Gibson fanatic Scott From Australia for hooking me up with these super-rare shows, both of which are making their first appearances online here.

Related posts (i.e. the largest collection of Debbie Gibson rarities online):
Debbie Gibson - 12-Inch Singles (1986-88)
Debbie Gibson - 'Out of the Blue'-Era 7-Inch Singles: A's and B's (1987-88)
Various Artists - The Songs Debbie Gibson Gave Away (1988-92) 
Debbie Gibson - The Alternate Electric Youth (1989)
Debbie Gibson - Rarities (1990-1999)
Debbie Gibson - Acoustic Live (1991) 
Chris Cuevas - Somehow, Someway (1991) 
Deborah Gibson - Memory Lane Volume 1 (2004)
Deborah Gibson - Memory Lane Volume 2 (2005)

Track list:
First set:
1. Introduction
2. Staying Together
3. Play the Field
4. Love In Disguise
5. Foolish Beat
6. Red Hot
7. Wake Up To Love
8. Shake Your Love
9. In the Still of the Night

Second set:
10. Lost In Your Eyes
11. Should've Been The One
12. Out Of The Blue
13. Introduction of the Band
14. Only In My Dreams

15. Between The Lines
16. We Could Be Together
17. Crocodile Rock



  2. Thanks for posting this. I am gearing up for an epic #OOTB30 post on August 18th. Would love to swap thoughts some time on the We Could Be Together boxset being released in the UK...