Although I’m sure Webster’s dictionary has a more scholarly definition, I define “elation” as that feeling after you know you’ve done a good job on a show. This is where I am tonight. Maybe it’s lack of sleep mixed with the constant natural high from performance adrenaline, but it’s definitely a good feeling.
How can one describe the sensation of being onstage in front of a live audience where people (most total strangers) are literally yelling your name between songs? My little secret is that I do love it, as I think everyone loves being recognized in some fashion or another. However, I must maintain professionalism at all times on stage. Acknowledge via a smile or a nod, but never encourage the disruption of a show. Still, I think that personalization adds to the excitement of having a LIVE show. If people want to hear the music without disruption, they will get a professionally mastered recording and listen at home. But when they want to see, hear, FEEL the music, they go to a live show.
It’s a constant give-and-take between a band and its audience. The band feeds off the energy of the audience, and vice versa. I’ve done hundreds of gigs where the audience is having dinner or doing something else, and I’m just background. Those are fine, too, but I think performers perform best when they have an audience that appreciates it. Personally, I know I perform differently when I know people are listening and actually care about what they see/hear. At the end of a background gig, I love it when one of the listeners comes by and just says something small like “I love the music.” or “We really like what you’ve been playing.” It shows that you reached them somehow, in spite of the circumstances. That appreciation makes it worthwhile to the performer.
Still, it’s completely different when you have a full house cheering as you enter a stage, knowing what music you will be playing, but not exactly knowing what to expect. With the first strums of a guitar chord or a few riffs on the bass, the cheers and clapping begin as they let us know that they recognize the song and are completely excited about getting to see it performed live. Those songs may have a special meaning to them – perhaps it was their late dad’s favorite tune, or maybe it was their first dance song at their wedding. The music we are recreating is stirring up memories for those audience members, and they let us know. This encourages us to perform it the best possible way we can do it.
And when the final encore has been performed, and the final standing ovation is complete, I leave the stage with a huge smile, blow a kiss to the audience, and walk backstage with that feeling of pure elation.
I don’t want to ever forget that feeling.