From Verzuz To The Opry, Connection And Comfort In Quarantine Livestreams NPR Music correspondents Ann Powers and Sidney Madden recommend a few favorite livestreaming performance series to check out while in-person concerts are on hold.
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Finding Connection And Comfort In Livestream Concerts During Quarantine

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Finding Connection And Comfort In Livestream Concerts During Quarantine

Finding Connection And Comfort In Livestream Concerts During Quarantine

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

It's hard to picture the next time we'll be able to go to a concert in person again, when we'll be allowed back into cramped nightclubs or amphitheaters. But it's not hard to see live music right now. In fact, there's been an enormous surge in livestreaming performances online. Musicians whose tours have been cancelled are playing on YouTube and Instagram. The Indigo Girls performed every week for thousands of fans.

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INDIGO GIRLS: (Singing) I've been banking on a broken machine.

SHAPIRO: Less well-known groups, like the Cincinnati rock band Wussy, have found their audiences on Facebook Live.

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WUSSY: (Singing) Thinks it's pretty odd, she says.

SHAPIRO: And piano players from around the world gathered for a 24-hour marathon webcast where they played the works of French composer Erik Satie.

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SHAPIRO: Our friends at NPR Music have spent a lot of time watching livestream concerts recently, and they are here to recommend some of the standouts. Ann Powers and Sidney Madden both join us.

Good to have you here.

ANN POWERS, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SIDNEY MADDEN, BYLINE: Hey, Ari. Good to be here.

SHAPIRO: Ann, let's start with you. You are in Nashville. And I understand the Grand Ole Opry is still going live every week. Is that right?

POWERS: Yes. This has been such a moving thing for all of us here in Nashville and I think country fans around the world. The Grand Ole Opry is the core of country music tradition. And the show has been broadcasting thousands of nights in a row - almost 5,000 nights. And so when COVID-19 hit, the Opry folks decided to keep it going. And they have been broadcasting these livestreams from an empty Opryland.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: As you can see, we're coming to you again from the empty Opry house.

POWERS: It's the performers and host Bobby Bones in this, you know, huge theater. And it's been so moving because the dedication to the forum, to country music, to the tradition - it's just - I've cried almost every time I watched it, to be honest.

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TERRI CLARK, LAUREN ALAINA AND ASHLEY MCBRYDE: (Singing) We don't care how much money you make, what you drive or what you weigh.

SHAPIRO: Sidney, let's turn to you. You've brought us a series of videos from the breakout star H.E.R. And these are not just performances. Tell us about them.

MADDEN: Absolutely not. They are collaborations that could only happen during a time of quarantine. So for people who don't know, H.E.R. is a Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist. When COVID hit and everyone was forced to stay at home, she wanted to get creative with her collaborations. So she started this weekly series called "Girls With Guitars."

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SHERYL CROW: (Singing) The first cut is the deepest.

MADDEN: One of my favorite duets and collaborations I've seen out of this miniseries is H.E.R. and Sheryl Crow.

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CROW: I'm just going to tell you that as somebody you've never met before in your life, I feel a weird sense of mama pride about you.

HER: What?

CROW: I do. I am so happy you're out there and that you're...

MADDEN: And see; I love that mama pride moment 'cause it's not only an emphasis on raw talent, but it's collaboration free from ego. Usually, if you needed to get H.E.R. and Sheryl Crow in a studio session together, it would probably need a lot of phone calls, a lot of favors. But now they just turn on their phones, and they jam together.

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HER: (Singing) The first cut is the deepest.

SHAPIRO: Tell us about somebody who has just kind of broken out during this era of livestream concerts. Ann, the band Low Cut Connie's frontman has really kind of, like, found a niche for himself.

POWERS: Absolutely. Philadelphia's Low Cut Connie has been one of my favorite live bands for years. And Adam Weiner is an incredibly dynamic performer.

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ADAM WEINER: If you're with me, say yes.

POWERS: And it's wild to watch these shows from Adam's apartment.

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WEINER: Say yeah.

POWERS: After Little Richard passed away, Adam, who's really modeled a lot of his performance style on Little Richard, paid tribute in this incredible way.

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WEINER: All Richard, all the time. Woo (ph).

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POWERS: He read from Little Richard's biography and performed many Little Richard songs while stripping down basically to his underwear (laughter).

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WEINER: (Singing) Oh, baby. Yeah, baby.

SHAPIRO: Something else that's really taken off during this lockdown is something called Verzuz battles. Sidney, it seems like every time one of these goes up, social media just kind of catches fire. Tell us about what these are.

MADDEN: Yeah, it goes crazy. Verzuz is another IG Live series, and it's really based on the art form of beat-battling, going bar for bar, which we know is in the blueprint of hip-hop's DNA. So for me, the pinnacle of these Verzuz battles so far has been Erykah Badu and Jill Scott.

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ERYKAH BADU: What up, Jilly from Philly?

JILL SCOTT: Hi, baby.

MADDEN: Two titans of R&B - and when they went head-to-head, it wasn't so much as a battle but like a mutual love fest reunion. They were - there was so much admiration.

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BADU: Heard your voice and I was like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. What I'mma (ph) do?

MADDEN: And in that example right there, they were actually talking about the Roots song "You Got Me," which they both put fingerprints on back in the day. So it was funny to hear their own interpretation of hearing each other for the first time.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU GOT ME")

BADU: (Singing) If you were worried about where...

SHAPIRO: Ann Powers and Sidney Madden of NPR Music, where you can find an ongoing list of live concert streams.

Thank you both.

POWERS: Thank you, Ari.

MADDEN: Thank you.

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