Don’t Just Play. Perform!

From the fifty-plus concerts I have attended thus far in my life, I have formulated some strong opinions regarding live performances.  Take note that I am, by no means, offering disrespect toward any of the acts I mention in this article.  I am simply stating my personal opinions and views.  With that said, let’s get to it.

First off, when I experience a live concert, I expect a performance, not just a live run-through of the music.  Let me explain.  A lot of bands these days, especially those in the heavy metal genre, seem to think the fans only want to hear the music in a live setting.  Wrong!  Well, at least for myself, that is not a correct theory.

For an act to “wow” me and convince me that they offer great performances, they need to meet several characteristics during their show:

1. Crowd Interaction.

This is easily the most important characteristic in my eyes.  I like to experience the music played to me, not at me.  If it’s a band performing, any and all of the members can take part, even if they lack a microphone.  For instance, 10 Years’ drummer played catch with the audience with his drumsticks.  When a fan threw one back too short, the bassist caught it and used it like a violin on his bass guitar.  Bruce Springsteen brings fans on stage to dance, takes song requests, and holds his microphone to fans in the pit to sing along.  Mitch Lucker of Suicide Silence brought his fans into the performance by dividing the crowd to make more noise along with other little gimmicks like that.  Although it’s a bit cliché, it is still better than playing at the crowd.

2. Stage Presence & Energy.

This part can be paired with crowd interaction.  It can also create exceptions for the first aspect.  For instance, if an act appears to be having fun with their performance, they may not have to engage in the audience as much as other acts.  They should still do it, though.  One example for this piece is Incubus.  When I witnessed their live show, frontman Brandon Boyd did not share many words with the crowd.  However, the band was clearly having fun playing to a packed ampi-theater audience with a well-chosen set list.  Still, Boyd engaged with the crowd by holding out his microphone during the chorus of “Wish You Were Here” for the fans to sing along, and boy, they sang!

3. Overall Sound.

The music has to sound good.  I remember when I saw Slayer at Mayhem Fest ’09, something was off.  Their microphones or speakers kept fading out, which definitely tainted their overall performance.

4. Time.

This one is pretty self-explanatory.  If you are one of the main acts in the show and a lot of people are mainly there to see you, do not just play a forty-minute set, especially if you are in the direct support slot.  Black Stone Cherry, I am talking to you.  If you are the second-to-last band of the night, I want to hear at least one hour out of you.  You guys have enough material to do that.

Anyway, that is my spiel.  I love concerts and seeing all different kinds of performances.  I am used to attending metal shows, but a lot of those shows are more or less the same experience.  Therefore, seeing acts like Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Childish Gambino, etc. is refreshing.

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