Don’t Over Rehearse. Play Through the Mistakes.

On September 17, 2010, in Advice, Concerts, by Magnolia Guitar
Conversations With Rock Stars, Part 29

U2's The Edge says, "Don't over rehearse."

I have the music blog “Play a Little Guitar” subscribed in my Google Reader and the author has this ongoing series called “My Conversations with Rock Stars” in which he picks out a quote from a famous musician and comments on it as, well… if he were having a conversation with them. (And who’s to say he isn’t?)

At any rate, these convos are funny and entertaining and this recent one featuring The Edge of the band U2 is particularly supporting of something I’ve been saying all along:

Mistakes are a part of the performing musical experience.

I think live music is the purest form of musical experience. I love watching a performer play their heart out and loving every minute of it. I also love when that person makes a mistake and takes it in stride and turns it into a wonderful moment that can only be shared by the people in that room on that evening. I teach my students to play through their mistakes, because most times people don’t even notice the little mistakes. And the big ones? Well, if you embrace them, they become almost magical in their own right.

I understand why many Top 40 entertainers create these overblown, over-budget Hollywood-esque touring productions. Many of their fans want to hear a recreation of the recorded song or see a recreation of the video.

Following the fast-food marketing plan, these productions are planned and timed down to the second and intended to give every audience member in every city the same high-quality performance no matter where or when you see it. Every fan can count on having the same experience. It’s neither right or wrong, it just is. But is music meant to be equal?

The people who attended Woodstock in 1969 all shared a magical moment that could not be recaptured or recreated, despite promoters attempt in trying several times after. It’s not that festivals don’t work, they do. Look at Newport, Bonnaroo or MereFest. But at these events, people are always trying to catch that magical moment of discovery. That small, nearly empty stage where the next amazing band is going to perform, kn0wing that the next year, the main stage will be packed with people trying to see the same band.

At these events, it’s not about recreating the old Newport. It’s about cultivating the environment to create a new Newport every time.

When I go see a live show, I’m happy to be handing over my cash to an artist who wants to share the evening with you through story, laughter and of course through song. A performer like that changes their performance from show to show and city to city, for their audience and for their own piece of mind. How would you like to play 20 songs exactly the same for 30 weeks in a row. By the end of the tour you might be really good at it, but you’d hate your songs too.

And possibly the best part of the live concert experience is sharing with other fans. Connecting with fans who may have seen the same show, or comparing with fans who’ve seen a completely different show. Sometimes hearing your favorite song performed a new way or being privy to hearing a brand new song never before played. You can’t experience those moments if you don’t go to a live show. And you can’t experience them unless you go to a certain kind of show.


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