I was pumped. This had all the makings of a great show…well-known, stellar players, a powerful & authoritative lead singer, great songs…all the pieces were there. The band definitely had a good sound…but. Instead of ‘giving it to me’ – making eye contact, watching to see how I (the audience) was responding, and getting ‘in my face’ some times, the band let their old habits and insecurities suppress them. The bass player faced the drummer the entire set. The horn players didn’t really move, they just played. The background singers (who were up front) seemed to be singing ‘over’ me and not connecting, plus, exhibiting some distracting dance moves that at times attracted attention at the wrong times.
The music was great and I knew why they had a crowd. But I couldn’t help thinking how it could have been unforgettable with some work on the show and on each individual, starting with the lead guitar player. The oddest thing about that show came from him. First of all, he carried himself apologetically and was turned toward the lead singer all night, even for his solos. He basically didn’t move much or show any expression or emotion. But then out of nowhere toward the end of the show, he suddenly pulled his guitar up and back behind his head and played a solo! He stood looking out at us (finally) and smiled as if to say ‘look what I can do’!
My friend and I looked at each other with an amused ‘whattheheckwasthat?’ expression on our faces. It wasn’t that the trick was not great or entertaining, it was just that it didn’t fit the guy we’d been watching all night. It was out of character. He didn’t really own it. His look said ‘quiet and understated’ as if his day job involved accounting or banking or number-crunching of some sort. Yes, the move is great and it’s a crowd-pleaser, but if it comes out of nowhere and is the only ‘move’ you do all night, it’s a bit disingenuous. It came across as hokey and put-on. Make sense? It would be like hearing my always-singing or humming 70-something mom suddenly break into a funky rap. It doesn’t jibe with who she is.
In sharp contrast to this band was the very next act on stage that night. The lead singer played keys and displayed real authority and personality throughout the show. As the intensity of the last song built to a big trash ending, he flipped his keyboard over & landed on his knees. The crowd totally loved it. We believed it because he owned it, and it was one of those memorable moments we walked away talking about.
Granted, a lot of cool things that you’d like to do on stage can and need to be rehearsed and perfected before you go live. But practice until it becomes part of you and is second nature. You’ll discover some things will become part of who you are and some things just won’t be ‘you’. The trick is to know when to say when, because if you can’t own it, lose it.
As always, Rock Well & Often.
Live Music Producer
Tom Jackson Productions