Saturday, May 14, 2011

What Makes a Performer Great?

Notes From The Playground: What Makes a Performer Great?

As I get ready for our upcoming 8 city tour to support the latest disc "Domesticated" I am excited to get up in front of audiences and deliver these songs that we spent the better part of a year perfecting on disc.

Its made me think about what components go into making a performance great as opposed to simply good. I think it's in the "need" of the performer. How much need we have to be loved.

Whether you enjoy their music one has to concede that Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, Judy Garland and Janis Joplin all had something in common.. performers who needed to play out their need for love on stage..and thats at least part of why they have become legendary.

Its as if they wouldn't exist if they weren't playing out their deepest drama's and appetite's and passions for the masses. They all became undeniable. Completely original..because their need to be loved and accepted was so great.

The basic insecurities we all have seem to have existed in these personalities, but in larger amounts, seeking greater and greater acknowledgment from the crowd that they are indeed worthwhile.
Sure we need great material, a decent singing voice, a career direction, a clear marketing path and a whole lot of luck to reach a public.
But to maintain and deepen our relationship with an audience over the years and grow a worldwide fan base one must possess something more, a magical X factor which makes us hungry for the love of strangers in a darkened club or theatre or concert hall.
Some piece of our soul has to be satisfied by that..twisted? Perhaps.
Normal? Definatly not.Audiences don't pay to see normal.

The more I think about what makes performers great, it seems that it may be the lack of self love that makes us reach for acceptance, a desire to be loved, powered by a deep fear that we are unlovable, which keeps us reaching for the audiences approval.

Turning my thoughts back to our upcoming spring tour...
It's not that I believe myself to be a "great" performer..but certainly something unknown seems to power me on stage that is beyond my understanding. I have a hunger to meet our audience. To entertain them, to reach them, to make them feel something. And it's because I get back so much when I do. Some kind of magical relationship bong is forged for me that makes me feel safe and strong and invincible up there.
I'm getting better at feeling peaceful and safe in life, but back when I was younger I can try say I was more comfortable on stage than off. Not sure what that says about my mental or emotional health, clearly a deep insecurity was driving me to seek acceptance from my audiences.

I believe that we shouldn't be interested in giving my audience an average experience. They can get that from TV and movies and boring chat with coworkers etc. We want to deliver a punch in the gut, a joyful high, a romantic jump start of the heart. Thats something they take away from our show and remember for the rest of their lives..and why a performer like Tina Turner was able to tour for decades without a hit. She gave us joy and a sense of liberation, plain and simple, we didn't care what song she was singing.

As a coach I am always asking my clients "What gift do you have to give your audience"? Its worth thinking about what that it is.. so it can be nurtured!

I'd be interested in hearing from folks about whose performance has moved you the most over the years and why?

1 comment:

  1. Tina Turner's performance is one of the best ever. Bette Midler's also. Barbra Streisand,Liza Minnelli, Diana Ross... (well, Diana not that much, but many times.)Why? because they see the plot of a song, they live each line,their voice is unique and they tell us stories we are interested. And they keep the magic of performing live alive.