If you’ve been keeping up with music news lately, you’re probably already familiar with what went down at a Death Grips show this past summer. Instead of playing their much-anticipated set at an official Lollapalooza aftershow in Chicago, they simply decided not to show up. Instead, fans eagerly awaiting the critically acclaimed hip-hop duo were treated to a recording of their music with a suicide note serving as the stage backdrop. The stunt was labeled as “not cool” by fans and haters alike, and severely damaged the group’s status as an excellent live act. Why would they do this, you ask? No one really knows. What we do know, however, is that similar incidents in the past have gotten the same kind of reaction from concertgoers. Just ask MF DOOM, who sent impostors posing as him to some of his gigs. Believe it or not, a live performance can make or break both an artist’s fan base as well as their reputation. But what defines a good concert?
Personally, I believe that to put on a truly great show, a performer has to meet three requirements: energy, intimacy, and fun. If an artist or a band doesn’t seem to care about whom they’re playing for, the crowd will have the same type of attitude towards the performers. To speak from personal experience, every time an opening act tops a headlining band in terms of friendliness and energy, at least at all of the shows I’ve seen, they get a much better reaction from the audience. It doesn’t matter that the headliner has the more popular songs, or the more talented members – a lesser-known band that’s great live always beats out a well-known one that seems tired on stage. (A good performance doesn’t hurt the merch sales afterward for the opening act either).
Of course, for a band that doesn’t meet the requirements, the consequences can be harsh. Lost fans, bad press and falling ticket sales are just some of the things a band can face if they don’t live up to expectations. It just goes to show how easy and yet how difficult a live performance can be, and how essential it is to a band’s status in the music world.
Unfortunately, today many artists underestimate the power of the concert. Even after so many great performers rose to fame through shows alone, lots of bands today just don’t realize how important they are. Many others like Death Grips don’t understand the concept of a concert at all, disregarding their fans’ interest in hearing and seeing them actually perform. In short, the art of the live show can be broken down into two concepts: fulfilling the expectations of the fans, and providing them with an experience that complements that of your recorded work. If a performer can do at least that, the crowd will leave the venue not only excited about what they just saw, but in anticipation of the next time the artist comes to town.