There’s no feeling in the world like truly getting up in front of a crowd, and leaving them wanting more and more. I love getting on that stage, and really letting loose, and while always keeping the music first and foremost, I do enjoy and love to interject a good deal of “showmanship” into the equation for sure! This is something that gets learned at a very young age, and to this day, my brother says I wouldn’t have become a performer had it not been for the “sunken living room” we had in the apartment in the Bronx, enabling me to say good-night to everyone, and to put on a little show to all those folks “down there” in the living room audience!
Probably a lot of truth to that, as this was during the time I loved to do my Elvis routines with tennis racquets as guitars, etc., and I was already learning to “ham it up.” There are many levels and types of showmanship, depending on the artist, and last night I saw one of the most incredible displays of this I’ve ever seen. I got to go to a performance by the great Pat Metheny, along with his bassist, and while much of the show was his soloistic Jazz work, a little on the “harp guitar” and some on classical guitar, as his final number he pulled out “all the stops” with an amazing display of many sonic devices and instruments triggered by his guitar. What was so cool and easily related-to by the audience was that he was triggering “real” objects, such as a series of bottles filled with water to create various notes, an accordion (slightly humorous part), and even a drum set! As if he were a magician, he would start to yank off the cloth covers that were over these various devices as they were being musically introduced, and it was like watching something out of an 18th century carnival “traveling show!”
Also what I loved was how as flamboyant and as crazy as this “Rube Goldberg setup” was, it was all about the music first, and the incredible sonic blast of creativity we were all being treated to! I always like to interject some humor into my playing and into the shows in general, and even do some crazy things onstage, like playing “Sleepwalk” with both regular guitar as well as Lap Steel, and sometimes a nice accidental joke is when I can’t get back to the steel fast enough for the famous harmonic lick, so I point at the Lap Steel, as if to say “take it!” This happened to me the other day, when I turned the fact that the mike onstage was about 40 feet from wherever I seemed to be at the time, so I’d have to do this wild “run” up to the mike, always just in time!!!
So, in actuality, though many folks plan things out, the real “showmanship” often comes from an accidental discovery such as these last two I described. So be prepared for whatever may happen onstage, because you’ll never know just what may work itself into the act!!! Have fun, and always be a showman!!