The gig economy

The gig economy

Performers very often lack that intuitive understanding that, when it comes to a live performance, the audience is more important than they are

Friday, 13 October 2023, 17:08


The second best concert I've ever seen was Elton John at the Liverpool Empire in 1762 or thereabouts. I hadn't paid much attention to his music beforehand, to tell the truth, but, man, what a show! It was so good that I almost forgave him for I'm Still Standing, which was foisted upon an unsuspecting public some years later. Almost.

The worst gigs I've seen were Bob Dylan (risible on both occasions), Mark Knopfler (crushingly insipid) and Van Morrison (grumpy lumps), although to be fair to the Morrison's van man, another concert of his that I attended would make it into my top five.

If I were a half-decent writer, at this point I'd let the readers struggle to the end of this article in order to find out which was my favourite gig, leaving them to half-suspect that I'd forget to mention it, but I'm not so I'll tell you now - the Scottish singer-songwriter Dougie Mac- Lean at Malaga University a good few years ago, and not just because it was free.

This was a masterclass in performance art. One bloke who didn't speak any Spanish with a guitar, an audience of - I'd guess - about three hundred students who didn't know much English and a bunch of self-penned songs they'd never heard before in their lives. Employing a magical mix of self-effacing humour, elegant musicianship and warmth of spirit, by the end of the gig, MacLean had managed to bring the entire audience to its feet, every man jack singing along to various complex choruses in unison. Like Elton John, he understood perfectly what his job was - to make the people in the room feel more alive than when they first walked in - and performed it to perfection.

We have an open mic night at the pub every Friday and most people who get up to sing a song take it for what it is and harbour no further pretensions. However, there are also those who would like to take their performances to a higher level, which is great. The only thing is, they very often lack that intuitive understanding that, when it comes to a live performance, the audience is more important than they are and, for that reason, most will probably get no further than the occasional pub gig.

Knopfler and Dylan can afford to be oblivious to the public's wishes because they've already done pretty well for themselves but if you're just starting out it's probably not the wisest of moves to neglect to connect with your audience no matter how good you are technically. Nor is it my place to mention it to the musicians concerned but I sometimes do anyway just to see what happens. Mostly, it has little to no effect.

Oh, I nearly forgot - Whitesnake at the Royal Court Liverpool were surprisingly good too. An honourable mention for them.

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