When the Voice Goes: 5 Rock Singers Who Have Lost It Live
Photo by Marco Torres
Last week, this video of Guns n' Roses playing at the Bridge School Benefit in California surfaced on YouTube, raising a lot of eyebrows among music fans. It was an acoustic performance of "Welcome to the Jungle," which might sound like a confusing prospect in and of itself, but what has everyone talking is the singer.
One might suspect that whoever is in this video is a bad karaoke singer, but no, it really is Axl Rose. While Axl has always been spotty off and on live, this one takes the cake for bad performances. Only once in a while does one hear a trace of the old Axl in there. The band quickly took to the Internet to explain that Axl was suffering from strep throat during this show.
Strep throat or not, though, it's hard to keep up a singing style like his over the years, as many legendary rockers have found out in their middle age. Unfortunately for them, YouTube has become a showcase for all their worst vocal moments, and there's no hiding it anymore when the voice goes.
5. James Hetfield
In this video from 2006, we see Metallica struggling their way through what must be the billionth performance of "Fade to Black." The band is sloppy, which is all right considering how many times they've played it. I mean, it's hard to imagine them really putting much effort into this one these days.
But still, James seems like he's barely trying to sing well. Here he lazily works his way through it and when he does try to put some edge into his voice, it's weak and flaccid. Even worse, he botches the lyrics early on. One could say this was a bad night or that the song just isn't inspiring anymore, but this is pretty much just James on everything these days.
4. Cedric Bixler-Zavala
After almost ten years of punk yelling in At the Drive-In and then switching to an intensive, high-pitched singing style in The Mars Volta, it's hard to believe Bixler-Zavala's voice has held up as well as it has. So maybe this video where his voice is cracking on almost every single high note shouldn't surprise anyone. It's a shame regardless, but The Mars Volta should probably consider tuning down in the future. Bixler-Zavala just can't hack it on those highs anymore.
3. Roger Waters
This video unfortunately shows what Waters has resorted to over the last few years: Backing tracks and backing vocals to hide just how badly his voice has disintegrated. One can hardly blame him considering his advanced age and all that screaming he did in the '70s, but it's just sad to hear him croaking along to "Have a Cigar" here. He should probably lay off the cigars, all things considered.
2. Dave Mustaine
Lately Dave Mustaine must inhale helium before he goes onstage. His highs all sound like his impression of Alvin, Simon and Theodore; whenever he can even croak them out, that is. The rest of his range is slowly slipping into Lemmy's roughness with none of the charm.
For a while, he could hide it on the albums, but his voice is sounding pretty rough even in the studio these days, especially on their latest album, Th1rt3en. And live? One need only watch one or two videos to hear just how bad it's become. Incidentally, he seemed to lose his voice the moment he lost his mind. Maybe that means something.
1. Bob Dylan
No one has lost their voice worse than Bob Dylan. We all, of course, have noticed it turning into some raspy Tom Waits facsimile on his albums over the last 30 years. But live? Well, it's even worse. Especially on his older songs.
The above video is "Tangled Up In Blue" like you've never heard it before, lacking any trace of melody or tunefulness. One wonders, does Bob still chain-smoke? He literally sounds like a throat-cancer patient here, like he can barely force a word out. At this rate, his voice is going to sound like a death-metal screamer by next year.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.