I attended a friend’s birthday celebration the other day and part of the event was going to hear some live music, specifically The Decibelles, a wonderful 3 woman trio. The Decibelles were great, and you should catch them if you ever get the chance, but sadly, the band that opened for them, the house band, was impossible for me to enjoy.
At one point in the set I closed my eyes in fatigue and annoyance and was surprised to discover that with my eyes closed I was able to authentically enjoy the music. I have had similar experiences with actors but it had never been as clear cut. Why could I enjoy these performers when I listened to them but not when I watched them as well?
The answer came to me when I opened my eyes: the music was their performance and what they were doing while they played, the closed eyes, the cupping of the mic, the saxman rocking back and forth and slinging his bell skyward , etc was a pretense. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t a necessary part of playing the music, it was something that was put on top of the music, or better said, something that was put between the audience and the music.
Do not get me wrong. I am not suggesting that the house band should have stood stock still like ciphers during their set. What I am advocating is that they leave out is the bullshit. I don’t want to see what they think musicians look like when they are really ‘into’ performing, I want to see what musicians are like when they are really performing their music. Doing that, rather than pretending to do that will take a performance to the next level, rather than prevent the full engagement and enjoyment of the audience.
Performers, here is the take-away: your pretense will never trump performance. Do the doing.