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    Default things performers do on stage at shows - what works and what fails?

    Talking about live performance here. What things work especially well in live shows and what fails.

    I saw a very known singer recently who, in an effort to be closer to the front row of the crowd, went off the proper stage down many feet and onto the area where there was a camera dolly and cables and such by the barricades. Probably was fun for the singer to have the direct closeness, but he was out of sight for the majority of the crowd and out of the lights and all of that. Felt good, but didn't really translate as fun and intimate except to a handful of people. This singer stayed in that location for the majority of the performance, so it brought this point to bear. Moving out of the lights or down that close to the crowd is something I imagine feels good to the performer but doesn't translate to the crowd in general as a good performance.

    Perhaps turning instruments up to ridiculous levels that don't suit the venue counts as a consideration here. Or whether breaking your instruments or otherwise imitating old school rock stars is still germane or just seems like stale schtick.

    Sets that move quickly from one song to another with the minimal talking perhaps over the intro to the next song - this can be a big win with things that come across as polished segues.

    Tastefully done light shows are a bonus. By that I mean appropriate for the act. Good ones really reinforce the mood. Can be brilliant.

    What do you guys like or dislike?
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    Default Re: things performers do on stage at shows - what works and what fails?

    What do you guys like or dislike?
    I dislike rules


    one guy can jump on stage and look like an idiot, and another looks cool

    one guy can climb on a side fill and look like a poseur and another can look inspired.

    there are no rules

    except: no one should ever be on stage with no shirt, or in a hat
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    Default Re: things performers do on stage at shows - what works and what fails?

    It might be safe to say that there are some things that might feel good or seem like a good idea but aren't translating the way the band might hope. In that case it's not a band making a conscious decision to break a rule, it's a band not knowing what is or isn't working for their performance.

    Singers that go off the stage to interact with the front row of the audience might do it for the intimacy it conjures for them personally, but sometimes do that at the cost of alienating the majority of the audience. They find themselves out of the light, in front of speakers, out of mic cable, and creating a more disconnected show for most folks. If that's your intention then knock yourself out, just be truly aware of the actual big picture.

    I think too much chatter is a vibe killer, but a little intro chatter while the band plays under can be done beautifully and feel like a polished performance.

    I'm not sure how some bands become so good as performers, at finding the vibe and voice, at putting on the right show for them. But most of those bands have a good sense of how the performance is really working as a whole, as a show, and for the audience. My theatre background has me tend to appreciate when thats done well, and I think plenty of people pick up on the vibe when it is (or isn't) on. Maybe some bands just sort of naturally fall into doing it right, or others have some sort of good trusted feedback system to let them develop what works.
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    Default Re: things performers do on stage at shows - what works and what fails?

    my point remains that for some performers, a lot of talk is just what their audience loves; and for others, they'd be better off if they 'shut up and sing'

    you can't make a rule

    and sure, not everyone is self aware enough to know whether their stage choices 'work' or not.
    but one presumes that eventually the audience lets them know

    what I DO believe strongly though, is that quite often, professional crew (sound guys, lighting guys, stage managers, etc.) get a kind of road weary, 'seen it all', jadedness that makes them not at all the best arbiters of what 'works' for an actual audience

    easy example:
    I still think some players might toss or smash a guitar at end of show, and it feels natural and exciting, and even necessary. And their audiences love it.
    whereas, it's my experience that almost every jaded club soundguy 'thinks that's lame' or 'dated' or 'contrived' or whatever.


    one relatively successful young band (full disclosure: friends of mine, and Slipperguy as well), built part of its stage act on the lead singer performing Daltrey-esque mic tossing/swinging.
    A rival band even had T-shirts made that read "mics are for singing, not for swinging"!
    but, meanwhile, the former band was (and remains) a thousand times more exciting to see.

    I still have more respect for anyone going out on a limb and TRYING to put on a show.
    even if it doesn't always "work".
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    Default Re: things performers do on stage at shows - what works and what fails?

    I dislike rules

    ...

    except: no one should ever be on stage with no shirt, or in a hat
    Obviously you don't have much to do with the country market....

    And really? Cyndi has never worn a hat onstage?
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    Default Re: things performers do on stage at shows - what works and what fails?

    my point remains that for some performers, a lot of talk is just what their audience loves; and for others, they'd be better off if they 'shut up and sing'

    you can't make a rule

    and sure, not everyone is self aware enough to know whether their stage choices 'work' or not.
    but one presumes that eventually the audience lets them know

    what I DO believe strongly though, is that quite often, professional crew (sound guys, lighting guys, stage managers, etc.) get a kind of road weary, 'seen it all', jadedness that makes them not at all the best arbiters of what 'works' for an actual audience

    easy example:
    I still think some players might toss or smash a guitar at end of show, and it feels natural and exciting, and even necessary. And their audiences love it.
    whereas, it's my experience that almost every jaded club soundguy 'thinks that's lame' or 'dated' or 'contrived' or whatever.


    one relatively successful young band (full disclosure: friends of mine, and Slipperguy as well), built part of its stage act on the lead singer performing Daltrey-esque mic tossing/swinging.
    A rival band even had T-shirts made that read "mics are for singing, not for swinging"!
    but, meanwhile, the former band was (and remains) a thousand times more exciting to see.

    I still have more respect for anyone going out on a limb and TRYING to put on a show.
    even if it doesn't always "work".
    The topic of what works and what doesn't work in live shows is worth discussing even though it's well understood that we aren't making up rules or carving things in stone. It's a live show forum, and that's for performance as well as technical perspectives.

    I take some issue with the continued dismissive tone for all crew and would prefer that bias didn't continually appear here. Experienced professional sound engineers at a concert should have a relationship with the band and a perspective on the show valuable to the band. Smart bands work with them avoiding the us vs them approach. We've already talked about "jaded" sound guys as much as is relevant. Truly. Time to move to to something productive for non jaded folks interested in moving along in their careers and relationships with their clients.

    I think there is a way to talk about shows from a performance perspective that can be a fun thread. When I had gotten signed and did some small potatoes touring as a performer I made a lot of mistakes I certainly wouldn't make now. Nothing terribly interesting to write about I suppose, but all borne from not understanding the performance and segues and thinking only the songs were enough to be a performance. I think they were not. I liked the songs, but would handle presenting ourselves with much more thought out intent.
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    Default Re: things performers do on stage at shows - what works and what fails?

    It's mostly going to depend on the type of music as to how much energy a performer should bring to the show. One of my favorite gigs I used to do was the Woody Guthrie Festival. Not much for anyone seeking high energy entertainment, but if you wanted to see some quality musicians....

    As long as the band is having fun, I think the audience can sense that and respond in kind. Look at the way Mick Jagger used to act back in the heyday. He was a complete fucking goober, but people just ate that shit up.

    For Pounce's guy mostly playing to the front row, Dumbass needs to learn that EVERYBODY in the room paid to see him. I have no problem with an intimate song up close with those down front, but make sure everybody in the room can see you do it.

    As WW said, there are no rules.
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    Default Re: things performers do on stage at shows - what works and what fails?

    Here's one I've found;

    When I talk on stage, I sound like a moron. Similar to when I talk offstage, but it's worse in front of a crowd because I get nervous and mutter wry quips that totally confuse anyone who was lucky enough to catch what I said in the first place.

    SO. Main rule for me is to shut up and play/ sing.

    That 'breaking down the fourth wall' thing is a tricky area. Some people respond to it well, for others it looks contrived, and others still are made uncomfortable by it - a performer coming right at them puts them off and ruins their ability to kick back and enjoy the show.
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    Default Re: things performers do on stage at shows - what works and what fails?

    I dislike rules


    one guy can jump on stage and look like an idiot, and another looks cool

    one guy can climb on a side fill and look like a poseur and another can look inspired.

    there are no rules

    except: no one should ever be on stage with no shirt, or in a hat
    I dislike rules also, but here's one that's easy to follow that I don't think anyone would object to:

    Don't use pyrotechnics on a small stage backed by flammable packing foam used for sound treatment in an large, aging wooden structure that is packed with people, has no sprinkler system, and has insufficient means of egress.


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    Default Re: things performers do on stage at shows - what works and what fails?

    ^ I understand from my friends up that way that it's taken this long for the city fathers to erect some kind of monument to what happened there, i.e., the memorial only just happened in the last month or thereabouts.

    I mostly play small venues these days, so my words here should be taken with that in mind. The main rule, if there can be one, is honesty.

    As daft as some of the punters are, they do know when a performance is contrived: when an action is specifically engineered to get the audience's attention and comes across as forced. Pete Townshend stopped smashing guitars when it no longer felt right to do so, and when he felt it had simply become a habit that he no longer believed in.

    One mistake I made quite often in my callow youth was upstaging the front person. I was doing my damndest to be noticed, standing mostly hidden behind racks of keyboards. I lost a fair amount of work for years afterward. Moral of that story is, everybody's got to know their role.
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    Default Re: things performers do on stage at shows - what works and what fails?

    cool

    I know I'm keen on hearing what has worked, and not worked, for folks performing on stage. When I asked what you like or dislike I wasn't seeking rules, I was seeking experiences. Extra cool if it was from your shows, totally relevant if from shows you've seen.

    One particularly talented band I have worked with a couple of times did their normal amplified show, but then did an encore where they walked to the edge of the stage and played acoustically only for the house. It was absolutely amazing, and the quietest crowd I've ever seen at a venue. Brilliant, and it sure worked. You can't always do that, but they knew the crowd and venue and it worked like a charm.
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    Default Re: things performers do on stage at shows - what works and what fails?

    ... Pete Townshend stopped smashing guitars when it no longer felt right to do so, and when he felt it had simply become a habit that he no longer believed in.

    not exactly.
    he mostly stopped when it felt required, or demanded.

    and in any case (as he's said himself), that was also about his self-consciousness. It doesn't mean he was "right" to stop, or that it's 'wrong' for someone else to still do it.
    that's the part I object to; there's an implication that anyone who does it now isn't somehow entitled to because Pete did it and stopped' (mostly)

    One mistake I made quite often in my callow youth was upstaging the front person. I was doing my damndest to be noticed, standing mostly hidden behind racks of keyboards. I lost a fair amount of work for years afterward. Moral of that story is, everybody's got to know their role.
    again, maybe

    if it's a solo star with a back up band, then I suppose.
    but is it a BAND?
    in a band, is Townshend "upstaging" Daltrey? is Moon upstaging Townshend?
    What made them interesting was that they were fighting for the attention spotlight.
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    Default Re: things performers do on stage at shows - what works and what fails?

    I have to agree with Weedy on most of this.

    In my band there were times when the frontman, knowing some crazy solo was coming up, would sort of bow out and put his head down - and then of course one of the guitar players would come bounding down the stage, hair flying, looking like he was going to break his guitar he was playing so hard... it didn't seem like there was any upstaging going on. We all knew to let him fly around and hang back. Sometimes there were collisions. That's ok.

    A couple of times I pushed my entire keyboard rig over just because nobody expects the keyboard guy to do that. Then we had to do an encore and I had to come pick it back up

    There is one thing that doesn't work for me, and that is when any stage performer looks to be copying a move. I see guitar players do it more than anybody. Standing around like someone's got a Michael Bay camera angle on you only works if someone has a Michael Bay camera angle on you. What works in a music video doesn't work in a club.

    I also don't like it when an artist telegraphs a change or a chorus or something like that. It's like they're giving each other stage cues and pretending it's for the audience.

    More bands would benefit by learning that the show is one entire performance, not 12-15 performances of separate songs.
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    Default Re: things performers do on stage at shows - what works and what fails?

    not exactly.
    he mostly stopped when it felt required, or demanded.

    and in any case (as he's said himself), that was also about his self-consciousness. It doesn't mean he was "right" to stop, or that it's 'wrong' for someone else to still do it.
    that's the part I object to; there's an implication that anyone who does it now isn't somehow entitled to because Pete did it and stopped' (mostly)
    If it's an honest expression of what's going on in that moment, then yes, they're entitled to do whatever they please, including smashing their guitars. If they're just doing it automatically, I think an audience will still pick up on that and sense that it may be a fraud.

    again, maybe

    if it's a solo star with a back up band, then I suppose.
    but is it a BAND?
    in a band, is Townshend "upstaging" Daltrey? is Moon upstaging Townshend?
    What made them interesting was that they were fighting for the attention spotlight.
    Which was absolutley fine, and quite possibly essential, for The Who: it was an honest expression of the band dynamic, and there was no pretense to the contrary. Not all band dynamics will support that kind of competition for the limelight. The bands of which I was a part didn't support it, so I eventually got canned. C'est la guerre.

    So I'll amend what I said earlier: it's not enough just to know your role, you also have to know the subtleties of how that particular group of musicians meshes, or doesn't. Upstaging one another is one dimension of it.
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    Default Re: things performers do on stage at shows - what works and what fails?

    What annoys me is when a (usually young) act appears to have spent more time practicing their contrived looking stage moves in a mirror than they have actually trying to make interesting music. I see this on TV a lot, so part of it might simply be the TV direction and/or the presence of the camera. I have nothing at all against energetic jumping around on stage but it shouldn't look practiced. It should at least appear to be spontaneous.
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    Default Re: things performers do on stage at shows - what works and what fails?

    Maybe it's because I have a background in theatre that I think a discussion about performance is a good thing. We've more than covered the idea that this isn't about a list of rules or a bitch session, but rather a discussion from the performers perspective hopefully of what does and doesn't work as a performance. Not strictly speaking about the music, instruments, gear, or mix. It's a consideration of that other thing that makes it magic.

    I remember when my old band got signed and we did some touring. It was a hoot. We learned a lot and made a lot of mistakes. My band toured with another band but the other band had a better show. Their performance was hypnotic. They put a lot of effort into it too, and it paid off. What they did wouldn't have worked for my band, but I remember the sheer showmanship of it all. Amazing.

    I think it will be hard to quite put a finger on it, and performance seems to be less talked about than gear. Nonetheless it's a big deal and some of it isn't just a matter of luck or raw talent. Some of it can be the product of smart showmanship built in to a show to deliver exactly the right performance for the band, whatever that may be. I think it's well worth exploring.
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    Default Re: things performers do on stage at shows - what works and what fails?

    Here would be a good example of some things to NOT do.

    When your bass and sax players are doing their little groove/solo thing, don't walk your fucking ass right between them. And check out the full on retard pianist standing up waving his arms wanting something in his monitor.

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    Default Re: things performers do on stage at shows - what works and what fails?

    not exactly.
    he mostly stopped when it felt required, or demanded.

    and in any case (as he's said himself), that was also about his self-consciousness. It doesn't mean he was "right" to stop, or that it's 'wrong' for someone else to still do it.
    that's the part I object to; there's an implication that anyone who does it now isn't somehow entitled to because Pete did it and stopped' (mostly)
    I agree that that's a bad reason for not breaking equipment. A much better reason is because It was novel and exciting 45 years ago and not so much now. It looks contrived because it is contrived.


    I also don't like it when an artist telegraphs a change or a chorus or something like that. It's like they're giving each other stage cues and pretending it's for the audience.
    Sometimes it's necessary for someone in the band to give others cues. That's what a conductor is for.

    I was watching a documentary "Turner, Ike & Tina - On The Road: 1971-72" and there were times that you'd see Ike facing the band which was in a semi circle so they could see him, giving them cues. And it seemed to be necessary for the type of music they were playing and the way they would segue from one part to another.

    Same for Leon Russel and the shelter people.

    Giving cues when you shouldn't have to but the band is ill-rehearsed is another story.

    And some jam bands would play until one of the band members dropped dead if someone didn't cue the end.
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    Default Re: things performers do on stage at shows - what works and what fails?

    What annoys me is when a (usually young) act appears to have spent more time practicing their contrived looking stage moves in a mirror than they have actually trying to make interesting music.
    I'm not so sure.
    I'm at least equally annoyed by watching "performers" who practised in their bedrooms so that they can 'shred', but don't have the slightest idea what performing SHOW in front of people is supposed to be like.

    I see this on TV a lot, so part of it might simply be the TV direction and/or the presence of the camera. I have nothing at all against energetic jumping around on stage but it shouldn't look practiced. It should at least appear to be spontaneous.
    I suppose.
    but again, studied indifference isn't entertainment either.
    I'll agree that there is a certain "made for tv rock band" look that I find irritating.
    but again, it's because they've never got out and played, or seen great bands play.
    they've only based their idea of how to look on watching tv.
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    Default Re: things performers do on stage at shows - what works and what fails?

    ... It was novel and exciting 45 years ago and not so much now. It looks contrived because it is contrived.
    see, with respect, that's YOUR jaded old sound guy take on it.
    (and I say that as a jaded old guy myself, so...)

    I don't see it that way.

    it's every bit as 'real' and relevant for SOME now

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