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Lockdown Blog 57: Audience-less performance

I’ve been watching the restart to the English Premier League in the past week or so. As a fan of Manchester United, it’s been nice to watch them again and they’re starting to play some good footy. As the camera pans around the empty stadiums I’ve been wondering what it must be like for the players. Many clubs have got pictures of fans around the stadium which is cool. Man Utd put together 40,000 pictures of fans in an amazing mosaic and, like many clubs, have been using audio technology to replicate fan noise throughout the game. Until fans come back, I actually prefer watching without fan noise because it’s so interesting hearing what the players are constantly shouting to each other and hearing the coaching staff give advice and encouragement. Normally you can’t hear a word they’re saying and I can’t imagine the players always can either!

It got me thinking. What might it be like to sing a concert to an empty hall? So much of the joy of live concert-giving is about that dialogue you have with the audience. The initial applause as you walk out sets the scene. Your first song and then someone speaking an opening few lines in the local language to continue building that rapport with the eager listeners. ‘Please forgive me if I continue in English’ which draws a few chuckles and maybe another round of applause. Or my favourite, when we’re in Finland: ‘That is the finish of my Finnish!’ An oldie but a goodie.

As the concert progresses, you start getting a feel for what they are like and tailor your announcements accordingly, putting in the occasional gag if you feel they might respond well. Ideally, at halftime, you’d love there to be a bit of buzz around the place and the chatter to centre around, hopefully, fulfilled expectations and enjoyment at how the first half’s gone and excitement about what’s to come. If all’s going well, a barometer is the applause at the start of the second half. Comparing it to what you received an hour or so earlier is generally reassuring!

By the time you’ve got to the encores it’s completely down to the audience. If they want more we give it to them. So far the record whilst I’ve been in the group is five encores which has happened twice. It was ridiculous and I’ve never forget those moments. You didn’t want the gig to finish. Or perhaps there were people that did and were getting more and more exasperated that the audience kept on clapping and we kept on singing!

I must admit, that situation seems a long time ago. Looking ahead to September and beyond, if we’re presented with an either or situation: either you perform to no one or don’t perform at all, then for me it’s a no-brainer. Obviously I’d rather sing. I’m desperate to be back on stage. That said, if it becomes sing to 10% of the audience for 10% of your concert fee, well, that’s another question. I’m not  mercenary but we might need to have a chat to airlines and hotels and see if they’re happy to respond in kind! Discounts all round!

By the time I next write I’ll have had my haircut which is rather exciting! It’s lasted this long but it’s time to look more like me aged 35 and less like me aged 19. I used to love my long, shaggy hair. I probably thought it was surfer-like but given I’ve never surfed (does boogieboarding count?!) I’m not sure I can convince anyone that was the inspiration behind it.

Perhaps the most exciting news since lockdown is that we’re rehearsing for the first time next week! Can’t wait! Will be good to see the guys again and see what it’s like singing socially distanced. Hope the voice can hold out for a whole day of singing. Might need to build up the stamina again after such a long time without really using it a great deal. Wish me luck!

Anyway, hope you’re well wherever you’re reading this. Be good, be kind, be careful.

Bye for now!

 
 
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