Never underestimate the value of the audience. These are words that have been told to me my entire life and that I have repeated many times these last few weeks. But what exactly does it mean? The size? The type? The ability to interact with the musicians/performers? All of these factors do play a role and impact every live performance.
No two live performances are ever identical, no matter how much we as performers strive to have it perfect every time. Yes, we are humans and not robots, so we do perform a bit differently each time. My voice may be a bit clearer one day over the next; my violin may have had more humid conditions on this show compared to last show. However, I believe that the greatest contributing factor to every live show is the audience.
Many times, I perform for very small audiences for weddings and convention groups. I am not the main reason for their attendance, but I do create a background and setting for whatever the event. Sometimes, the audience is not fixed at all as they are moving from one location to another and just hearing the music as they pass by. This happens a lot with those musicians who perform in theme parks and outdoor street venues. I can tell an immediate difference in the playing when one person actually stops to watch and listen. The musician(s) immediately respond by giving it something extra as a “thank you” to the listener. Then when that person moves on, I can tell the performer changes again until a new listener comes along. It can be frustrating and challenging in these situations, but the rewards are truly up to the performer’s perceptions. I love the interaction with the small audiences and love bringing smiles to their faces when I play their favorite tunes.
Last week, I had the ultimate pleasure of performing several times that week to the best audiences I have ever seen! On Tuesday, Violectric performed for a small group of VIPs from the MPI WEC in the Lennon Room at Hard Rock Live Orlando. We were originally to be outside, but the weather was just too threatening (Florida summers). So we set up inside. It was VERY tight, but it was extremely intimate with the audience. We were able to talk with the guests while we were playing since the sound was balanced perfectly for the room. We played a show, and it was wonderful. Then something magical happened. We came back from break to discover that ALL those guests had gone downstairs to bring up more guests (I’m talking hundreds of people!) We were packed like sardines, and they even opened the doors to the outside terrace to accommodate everyone. But we still were able to talk with the guests while performing. They were able to have a conversation not even three feet in front of us without shouting. We were playing very familiar music, and many started to sing along! The connection was there, and that’s all it took to make us “step it up” even more. We already “had” them; we just kept steering them along with us through our musical journey and brought them back safely and happily.
Yes, we performed well the first set, but that connection from the audience made the second set even greater. For our third set, all those guests went downstairs and brought even MORE guests back with them. I am told (after all was concluded) the elevator operator had to limit the number each time due to the interest and demand. Wow! We were the only entertainment in that room for the entire evening, and everyone wanted to see us. You can only imagine what we were feeling when we learned this AFTER the shows were complete. It actually took security clearing out the venue to get everyone to leave. They all wanted pictures with us, as well as our booking information. Incredible! I owe it to the venue (thank you Hard Rock Live!) and to the intimacy we had with our audience as to the success of those shows.
Later that same week, I was performing with Classic Albums Live. We performed the Pink Floyd album “Dark Side of the Moon” in two locations. On Friday, we performed at the King Center. That particular audience is a group of die-hard CAL fans who did an entire grass-roots campaign to have us return when the King Center canceled the series a few years ago. Almost every time we return, we sell out or come pretty close to it. Friday’s show was no exception. There were fewer than 100 seats empty, and the audience was engaged the entire time. I think it is the only venue where people actually TAILGATE prior to every CAL show! Now that’s dedication! During the show, I knew they were hooked from the first note. People were singing along and moving their heads with the beat, and I even saw some smiles mixed with tears. This music, our performance, causes the memories to flood their minds, both good and bad. When the last note was played after the 2nd encore, the band received another standing ovation. Another show for the history books.
And yet we got to do it AGAIN the next night at Hard Rock Live Orlando! Completely different audience, different venue, different vibe. It was MY BIRTHDAY show, and I was so happy to spend it with this band doing this show! The place was entirely sold out with standing room only, and even the standing room was only standing with no room for dancing. When the band took the stage, every person in the room was alive with electricity and excitement! And when Craig did the introductions, he said some of the kindest, warmest remarks about me and the band, and wished me a happy birthday. I was so happy I cried! But that was not the end – we did an entire second half of show. I love this part when the audience gets to come up the edge of the stage where we can actually see their faces. I can see their reactions immediately to our performance, and it fuels us to give it yet another notch on the meter when we thought we had already hit our best.
Yes, we sincerely appreciate the standing ovations as recognition, but I mainly like to see the faces of the audience and know that our performance brought them joy in a way like no other. THIS is the value of the audience.