As many of you are transitioning from studio singers to performing live, there is more to consider what a great show actually is. I can tell you that it is more than you standing still, singing your songs and constantly saying in-between songs, “my next song is….” YUCK! I watch professionals do this and it makes my skin crawl. Some basic rules that can be applied when performing live.
Dead time on stage is death.
Spend time with your band in stringing your songs together. This is something that Seattle Women and Detroit Women had down. We created medleys within our sets leaving three different moments for me to talk. I was managed by Dick Waterman who managed blues greats, Bonnie Raitt, Maria Muldair, Son House and more. His advice to me was don’t talk until after the fourth song. That’s when I would introduce the band, welcome everyone and introduce the next song which is where I would place my ballad.
Humor is everything. When I introduced the band I had a routine that constantly morphed when I would get to the piano player, Susie Woodman, I would announce to the audience that she was looking for a husband. Someone would always shout out “I’ll marry her” which was a perfect set up for one liners. I would begin with “Well, that might not work, because she wants someone that has a job, or has his own teeth or whatever…..But the audience warms up to you and of course is being entertained.
Know your keys and tempos
Do not string together songs in the same key one after another. Bores the crap out of the players and creates a sameness in sound. Most singers don’t even consider this. Make sure you have more uptempo then ballads unless your act is a bit theatre and you can carry that mood. But most bands can’t.
Two of my singers that really get the show part of entertaining are Sofi K and Jackie Torgenson (Cash for Gold). Jackie even took belly dancing lessons and is often veiled approaching her dreamy music with an ethereal element. Jackie is rare as she has vision. Sofi K is another one. This gal knows how to entertain. Sofi and I spent hours putting her setlists together. She just gets it. Every time I see Sofi on stage I can’t believe that she hasn’t been doing it her entire life.
What is your vision?
How are you different than everyone else? What are you trying to convey. If you are going to just stand there then what is going to draw people to you. Jazz greats Abbie Lincoln and Billy Holiday knew the value of standing perfectly still drawing the audience to them. Never making eye contact – but looking past the audience with a faraway look in their eyes – drawing the audience to them. This takes a lot of internal dialogue. Again, most people think they have to move around – but it’s more about intention then just wandering aimlessly on stage (which by the way, drives me nuts)
Most people don’t have vision. So you might have to cheat and come up with what makes you different. Yes, you might be talented but so are millions of others. Do your homework. I know I did which lead to over 40 nominations and /or being a recipient of multiple music awards including Five Detroit Music Awards for “Best Live Band.” No small potatoes considering the competition in Detroit.
That’s it from me… Check out what some of you are up to, and catch you next time! I wish you nothing but the best