We are in Venice and have been since Monday. Sorry for taking so long between posts, but this is the first time that I have even seen internet access since we were in Amsterdam last week. Venezia is not known for it's high tech. Okay, here's what I have been thinking about that I can pass on to you.
Because I have a show on Saturday at the Old Town School in Chicago with Corky Siegel and Howard Levy, I have been playing the guitar every day and this morning started running an idea for a set. As it happens, I will be doing a thirty minute set, so I have been going over songs and trying to decide what would be most impactful. A thirty minute set must be constructed in a much different way than a two hour concert.
When I was Steven Wright's opening act for three years, I had the short set down to a science. I knew that my job was to change the people from a crowd into a responding unit. I knew that they were there to see the other guy and I knew that it was up to me to engage them in only thirty minutes. But now after literally ten years of doing two hour concerts, this is challenging to me. I have to consider the venue, the audience and the other performers; considerations that don't exist in the same way when you are the only act on the bill. Of course, I always consider the audience, but when I am the headliner, I know what kind of an audience is going to be there. I essentially know their politics and the kind of music they prefer--music like mine.
This time, Both Corky Siegel (www.chamberblues.com) and Howard Levy (www.levyland.com) are harmonica virtuoso's, so first off, I know that the audience is going to expect some exceptional playing. I have a new CD, The Eternal Contradiction, that I am supporting on tour this year, so it would serve me to do songs from that CD. So which songs of mine would appeal to a crowd like this? Secondly, they are going to be performing with other musicians and I will be performing alone, so what songs that I perform alone would these people appreciate the most? Thirdly, what do I want to have happen--I want to be hired back at this venue; I want to engage them to such an extent that they actually purchase CD's of mine; what do I want to say to this audience; and finally I want to do a show that not only brings them joy, but also does the same thing for me. I suggest that you always ask yourself these kinds of questions when you are putting together a show.
I also suggest that you be as prepared as you can be for each performance. Even tho I was doing a ten day tour of Europe with my wife, I took a travel guitar and I played every day. I have said this before, but I can not stress it enough. It is better to play ten minutes a day than one hour a week. I played some every day of this tour, even on the train from Florence to Venice. Firenza to Venezia.
--I wonder why we changed the names of these cities. Think about it. When you meet someone and they tell you their names, you don't decide that you are going to call them something else other than the name they tell you (hello, my name is Bob. Nice to meet you Bob, I think that I will call you Steve), but for some reason, we go around the world changing the names of all the cities. But, as usual, I digress--.
I will be traveling back to Los Angeles tomorrow and then flying to Chicago the very next day, so I will make this short and give you some longer posts when I get back to the United States. In the meantime, play every day; write down or record your ideas the moment that you get them; and finally listen to as much different music as you can. It all gets absorbed and filters out in your performing, playing and composing.