Seven Most Impressive Live Synth Performances

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These days a lot of people think of synthesizer performances as someone lurking behind a computer and just clicking away with a mouse. However, there are still musicians who favor hardware synths over soft synths, which makes for much more interesting and impressive live performances. Of course, this was much more prevalent in the early days of synthesizers when a lot of bands included these instruments for their unique sounds. Nowadays it is less common to see hardware synths as part of a live performance, but they are still out there. Here are just a few examples of live shows, old and recent, that features some impressive synthesizer performances.

Alessandro Cortini and Don Buchla - Everything Ends Here

Don Buchla is a legend in the synth community for his pioneering skills, so attendees at the 2010 San Francisco Electronic Music Festival were quite privileged to see him performing live. He joined the Italian musician, Alessandro Cortini who also regularly tours and records with the band Nine Inch Nails. The show was part of Alessandro’s solo project called “blindfoldfreak” where he primarily plays the Buchla 200e. The duo performed the emotional track “Everything Ends Here” and seeing Buchla expertly using the instrument that he created is quite a treat.

Henrik Klingenberg - Roland AX-Synth Keytar Solo

Anyone who thinks that the keytar is not as cool as a guitar should check out this epic solo by Henrik “Henkka” Klingenberg from the band Sonata Artica. In the video below Klingenberg can be seen playing his Roland AX-Synth in a way that would make many lead guitarists envious. If you are not a fan of synth abuse you might want to avoid the band’s live DVD, where Henrik can be seen smashing his Roland AX-7 into the stage floor a few times just like classic rock and metal musicians like The Who were prone to doing with their guitars.

Kebu - Le Parc (Tangerine Dream cover)

Kebu is a musician that has garnered quite a following for himself on YouTube because of his love for creating music with analogue synthesizers. The video below was recorded live in 2015 at the Sthlm Italo Disco Party, which took place in Stockholm. It sees Kebu performing a cover of “Le Parc” which is the track by electronic music group Tangerine Dream that was used for the television show Streethawk. In true Kebu fashion, only analog synthesizers were used during the performance. He used everything from a Roland TR-808, Juno 60, Korg Polysix, Oberheim Matrix 1000 and much more for this track.

Adam Holzman Moog Solo

The video below was filmed in Florence, Italy during the soundcheck of the Steven Wilson Band. During the clip, Adam Holzman can be seen playing the solo for the song “Regret #9” on his Moog Voyager. It’s an impressive performance and judging how much heart Holzman put into his playing during the soundcheck we can only assume that the show itself must have been spectacular.

Jens Johansson - Stratovarius Synth Solo

The clip below features Jens Johansson from the Finnish power metal band, Stratovarius. Johansson is known to have a fondness for synthesizers and count the Yamaha DX7, Korg Polysix, Oberheim Matrix Series and Roland JV-1080 sound module amongst his favorites. This video was recorded live in the Dutch town of Uden, where Johansson displayed his skills with this impressive solo. It is the type of performance that could easily be mistaken for an incredible guitar solo by people who doesn’t see it live.

Terry Adams Synth Solo

Watching the video below without sound might make it look like something trying to play an instrument without quite know how to do it properly, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is actually Terry Adams from the group, New Rhythm and Blues Quartet, displaying why the group has garnered a reputation for the spontaneity of their live performances. Adams is a firm believer that live shows should be full of surprises and this certainly shows in the way that he plays.

1985 Grammy’s Synth Showdown

When it comes to sheer synthesizer spectacle it is hard to beat the “Synth Showdown” that took place at the 1985 Grammy awards. Viewers were treated to the sight of Thomas Dolby, Howard Jones, Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock all competing to show off their skills. Of course, these days the clip looks like it is a parody of the ’80s, but back then it definitely highlighted the arrival of electronic instruments. It is also widely believed that the whole show wasn’t really as live as they wanted people to believe, but the sight of Thomas Dolby going wild with a TR-606 alone makes it worth the watch.