The Seven Deadly Sins Of Music Performance

The Seven Deadly Sins of Music Performance 

– by Chris Oliver –

I’m pretty new to the reviewing game but I’ve been watching gigs for 15 years, and playing them for 10. Along the way I’ve seen shows good, great, mind-numbingly bad and all shades of in-between. However, there are some things that REALLY get my goat as a gig-goer, so I’ve complied them into a list of ‘Seven Deadly Sins’, which I really hope one or two of you musicians out there read before I come to see you. 

Playing the same set every gig

By all means play your best set, and play it proud, but think about playing some of your more obscure old stuff or trying out a new song every once in a while. If you’re playing the same set as last time, perhaps it’s too soon for another gig, hm? Spend some more time rehearsing; try doing some cover-versions. Also, please don’t fall into the trap of thinking that everyone who comes to your concert only wants to hear your singles.

You could try simply reversing your tried-and-trusted set list, but be warned: Aerosmith, in their ‘permanently off their faces’ days, allegedly tried this – with less than perfect results. Having played the same set for their entire world tour, they reversed the running order for the final, homecoming gig. At the end of the first song, so the story goes, Steve Perry said ‘Thankyou, goodnight!’ and walked off stage. It took half an hour to persuade him that he hadn’t just finished a whole hour-and-a-half long concert. 

Being out of your tiny mind

The Aerosmith incident was probably more down to the ingestion of a copious amount of powders, pills and potions than it was to the irresistible force of habit, but letting your (substance-related) habits take their toll on your shows is the beginning of a messy road to mediocrity, rehab – and 99 times out of 100, no comeback – probably due to early grave entry.

If you can’t stay sober between waking up in the afternoon and going on stage at 9:30pm, you have a problem; seek help. You don’t drink beer with your breakfast before you go to the office; treat your music with more respect. 

Having crap support acts

Surely it can’t be that hard to find someone who plays good music and will follow you round on tour for a few weeks? Stop wasting my money by lazily picking the first band you meet with an empty diary. They don’t even have to sound like you; some of the best gigs I’ve seen have been mismatched support slots: the Foo Fighters supporting the Prodigy, Mad Caddies supporting Snuff. James Brown supported Pearl Jam to rapturous reception. If your support suck, get a new management team, or sell your tickets for half price because it spoils your concerts. 

Assaulting members of the audience

Verbally abusing members of the crowd is treading the fine line between letting your ego get the better of you. Music is not an ordinary job, but when people pay to come and see you, they are paying your wages, and they deserve to be treated with decency and a level of respect.

Assaulting your own fans (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiqdxJyY0XY&feature=fvw), especially in this case is low, petty, and makes a mockery of the fact that people idolise you. It’s also criminal. Grow some.

There are people hired to police these events, let them do their job, and get on with doing yours – unless you are Maynard James Keenan of ‘Tool’, who, rather incredibly, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-wE5LtDKPU managed both. 

Ignoring the crowd

Turning your back on the crowd can be effective at a well-chosen moment – or even for the entire duration of a gig, while incessantly performing pelvic thrusts, wearing a cowboy hat and skin-tight fluorescent orange pants. That would be Maynard from ‘Tool’, again.

The whole point of a gig is the audience, the interaction – you have to offer them something: showmanship, personal attention, any type of connection – the event is about THEM.

A gig is different from a poxy band rehearsal in someone’s mum’s garage where you can pick your nose between songs, swig beer and burp all the time. If you can’t pull it together and put on a show for 30 minutes, then I guess I understand why you are still single, despite being able to play all of Yngwei Malmsteen’s solos note-for-note.

At least look at us for goodness sake, we won’t bite. 

Not introducing yourself

It sounds so stupidly obvious that I shouldn’t need to mention it, but the number of support bands who shamble on to the stage, look nervously at one another, then launch into their first song without a word to the crowd is staggering. If you want to EVER get anywhere in the business, then people need to know who you are. If I meet you socially, I guarantee I won’t remember your name first time; it’s the same with bands. This probably doesn’t apply if your name is plastered all over the venue or you’re the headline act and people have paid money to see you personally. On the other hand, headline bands do tend to make a decent fist of talking between songs, sharing information like songs names, the identity of band members and handy instructions like ‘if someone falls on the floor, in the mosh pit, help them up’. Practice makes perfect, I guess. 

The obligatory encore

I’m clenching my fists and grinding my teeth even thinking about this. It’s the worst cliché in modern music.

In some circumstances an encore is both asked for and warranted. I also accept that, despite my earlier exhortation, certain people simply have to pop off-stage for some cigarettes/beer/whiskey/female attention before trotting out that tired old classic one more time, but don’t, just for the sake of it, go and stand two feet off the stage, just to make it seem like a “proper show”. It breaks the mood and it wastes 3 minutes that could be better used by cramming in another tune. 

So that’s it – the ‘Seven Deadly Sins of Gigging’ finished, wrapped up. Here’s the ‘Obligatory Encore’: 

The sell-out finish

The only thing worse than the obligatory encore is when the obligatory encore consists of some piece of over-produced, sentimental crap which has just been featured in a blockbuster film, and made number one in the singles chart. So it signals your arrival in the ‘mainstream’? It also signals the last time I will ever pay good money to attend one of your shows.

These songs often sound the death knell for bands’ artistic integrity, and what’s worse is that they bring a decent rock show down to the level of a camp-fire sing-along with all the brutal infallibility of a computer-guided missile. I don’t care if you trashed the drum-kit and set the stage on fire; finishing with that song instantly destroyed your rock credibility. Green Day, I’m looking in your direction.

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One response

9 03 2010
citylifers

The obligatory encore is my least favourite part of any gig. I’ve seen bands go and hide behind a translucent partitions, stand there for a few minutes, and return even though no one’s applauding. I even hate them from bands I love. It’s so contrived.

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