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Wed, 01 Oct 2008

Art of performance

The art of performance plays tricks on people - not only the audience who can be taken somewhere, but also the performers themselves who can seem to trivialise their own work or at the other extreme, get lost in a spotlit fog of bombast or twee artistic pretension.

Rock has some traditions here - polished moves are for ballet. Precision is for pedants. The story is one of immediacy of emotion and action - a juvenile story in some ways. Reach beyond your grasp! Grasp the darkness beyond your ken! The story is regularly forgotten of course, and then remembered again when things get too smoothly formulaic.

I was thinking about this the other day while watching a journeyman type rock outfit go through its paces. In normal mode they were a slight shambles but the spirit was right and the noise was fast and rebellious and it was all better than OK. And we gave them extra marks because the mix engineer was asleep at the wheel and didn't seem to hear anything. Maybe she'd been given a message to never touch the faders. Who knows?

Then a guest singer came on and, in the space of a few minutes, went through every loose-limbed mic move known to man. Had it been like a surf contest where the judges tot up the number of tricks you did in your alloted time, she would have got some kind of medal for sure, but as it was, she got a big "huh?" from the people paying any attention... so, one moment, the glory of a rock cellar, and the next a kind of reality check - a phony check.

This reminds of a show years ago where first Blondie came on and slouched her way through a number with that throw-away sort of style of hers. She was followed by Olivia Newton John who did a kind of aerobics workout where she hit a bewildering series of stage points with pinpoint accuracy and where these points exactly corresponded with musical points as well. The applause was deafening! The crowd went berserk! ONJ then sent a look towards Blondie that said something like "take that!". Blondie's look, which was echoed by anyone with any kind of Rock soul was "huh?".

That other thing was Show Biz of course - fine its own way, and on its own day.

So what's it all about then? Maybe it's about audiences and artists giving themselves regular phony checks. Maybe it's about pure water in a polluted world. Or maybe it's about learning to lighten-up. (thunderfinger)

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