September 23, 2020

10 Best Quarantine Concerts Online

Some livestreamed concerts emulate the one-time-only experience of live shows — they’re webcast just once in real time, then disappear from the web. Others recognize that anything that’s digitized can be recorded and replayed. Here, alphabetically, are 10 of the best virtual concerts that have stayed online.

Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, a big band dedicated to the fusion in its name, has turned its weekly Sunday-night slot at Birdland into virtual sets that hold supercharged mambos alongside far-reaching jazz excursions. Painstakingly edited together from solo home recordings, the music still swings mightily. The June 14 edition features Rudresh Mahanthappa with breakneck alto saxophone solos in “The Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite” composed by Arturo’s father, Chico O’Farrill.

The corporate sponsorship is relentlessly overbearing, but it paid for a close-up, “MTV Unplugged”-style studio session for Aventura, the New York City band that turned Dominican bachata into best-selling pop. Romeo Santos croons in his otherworldly high tenor and flirts with the camera, sometimes with his cousin Henry Santos harmonizing on a remote hookup. The other band members supply bachata’s syncopations with transparent precision.

Erykah Badu started off charging just $1 admission to her increasingly ambitious series of livestreamed shows; this one has lingered online. “Apocalypse 3” was a surreal soundstage production — costumes, lights, musicians in separate plastic bubbles — that expanded on her 2015 mixtape, “But You Caint Use My Phone,” vamping on technology, communication and connection. Her cues to the band only clarify her easygoing control.

The roots-rock songwriter Jason Isbell celebrated the release date of his new album, “Reunions,” by performing its songs in a livestream from the near-empty Brooklyn Bowl in Nashville, joined by his wife, Amanda Shires, on fiddle and harmony vocals. The songs are moody character studies with philosophical undercurrents; the banter in between was loose and free-associative. Images of homebound spectators were broadcast on big video screens via Zoom, a bit awkward on both sides.

“Big white mansion is my habitat,” Gunna rapped in a track by Metro Boomin called “Space Cadet.” He staged “Wunna Live in LA” on the terrace of a big white Los Angeles mansion, with a live band — some masked — punching up his recorded tracks. Gunna’s career catalyst, Young Thug, makes a guest appearance. The songs boast of material and sexual triumphs, but they’re delivered as minor-mode incantations, turning almost hypnotic.

Norah Jones has been doing bare-bones livestreams a few times a week during the pandemic: just her and her upright piano (or occasionally a guitar), playing to an unmoving camera that she occasionally glances at. The songs in this 21-minute set — hers and one by Cut Worms — contemplate love, transcendence and loss with troubled grace. If only she had better miking.

Jorma Kaukonen — a guitarist and singer in Hot Tuna and, in the 1960s, in Jefferson Airplane — has his own 200-seat theater on his Fur Peace Ranch in Ohio, from which concerts had been livestreamed long before the lockdown. Since the pandemic hit, Kaukonen has been playing mostly solo weekly concerts from its cozy stage, working through a lifelong repertoire that spans ragtime and psychedelia, trying not to repeat a song and garrulously answering fan questions delivered by his wife, Vanessa.

The South African pianist Nduduzo Makhathini merges the modal propulsion of McCoy Tyner with kindly, straightforward melodies that lead into quasi-mystical meditations and explosive sprints. His homemade livestream — he plays upright piano and is joined by his wife, the singer Omagugu Makhathini — is a mini-manifesto of hope, determination and gratitude. “I can’t really move outside my home, so it forces us to move deeper within,” he says in a five-minute spoken introduction.

Can a stadium concert fit into a living room? Daniela Mercury, a Brazilian superstar who performed for hundreds of thousands of people on New Year’s Eve 2010 in Rio de Janeiro, struts, twirls and sambas as if she’s on a much larger stage, with her masked band behind her on what looks like a patio and her children showing up as Carnival revelers. In a nearly three-hour set of upbeat songs celebrating Carnival and her home province, Bahia, she’s completely tireless.

Sure, cover bands have surefire, time-tested material. Even so, Post Malone’s tribute to Nirvana — a benefit for the World Health Organization that was apparently shot in a rec room with a well-stocked bar — was heartfelt and loud, not to mention one of the few real-time livestreams that could handle the sonic demands of electric guitars. Travis Barker commanded the drums, and Post Malone, true to Nirvana aesthetics, wore a dress.