Thursday, September 16, 2010

performance: it's not "give AND/OR take"

i'm not sure how i'm going to say this, or even if i should. i can imagine how some of my friends will react.
such is life.
so i went to a house concert the other night. i love house concerts - don't you? so warm and intimate, no barriers of microphones and speakers between you and the performer. the banter, the give and take can be so much fun.
and the lack of such barriers means a lovely opportunity for the performer as well - a chance to share your art and stories with new friends.
"share" being the operative word: "to participate in, use or experience in common".
the best concerts, in houses or halls, are not so much monologues as they are conversations, even if the audience isn't actually speaking. the performer is somehow in touch with our thoughts, conversant with them. we are part of what's going on.
the best performers can do that - break down the physical barriers of props and stages and large spaces, share an intimate experience despite the surroundings.
many more can't quite reach that state in an auditorium but do very nicely in a living room. they welcome the change, and they welcome us. they talk with, not at us. perhaps they change their set list when they perceive a link with a new friend's story.
well, the performer on this night was of a third type: aloof, wary, and not conversant with the other folks in the room. which was something of a surprise, after an early comment that by the end of the evening, we would know her quite well.
but it turned out not to be true at all. sure, she told us some intimate details of her life in story and song, hoping we would be titillated and mildly outraged. she wasn't sharing them with us - we weren't part of the equation at all. it would have been the same show, no matter which 20 people in all the world were in that room with her.
and when some of us tried to start a conversation around her songs, she was taken aback and shot us down with a sarcastic "Oh - is this the audience participation part?" she managed to create distance where there was none.
i'm still not sure what i want to say here. it was mostly an observation i've been musing on and felt the need to share. i left immediately after the concert, as i had to be up before the birds the next day. so i didn't get to speak to anyone else, or to the performer, for that matter. perhaps i might have gleaned a reason for her style. or perhaps not. it may be a very deep reason indeed - who is to know?
it's a very difficult thing for me to understand. i love an audience, and the more intimate the better. i've tried recording studio-style a few times, and i can't do it. so i record live shows, and damn the technical torpedoes - tough on the engineer, but he forgives me much.
in a perfect world, this performer would be able to make a living playing the medium-size shows i can see her being most comfortable with - stage, props, a little safe distance. i daresay i would have enjoyed her show more in that type of setting. and our living rooms would be visited by those suited best to it.
perhaps my expectations of house concerts are out of whack - is it wrong to assume that i will enjoy an intimate experience simply because it's an intimate space?
i'd love to hear your comments. i think.