Last night was the house concert in Sherman Oaks at the home of Hope and Laurence Juber (www.laurencejuber.com) We had a sold out show and everyone seemed to enjoy the show very much, but for me (and my wife and best friend support me on this) it wasn’t a very satisfying performance. I know that for me to say that sort of informs the audience that did enjoy it that they didn’t have as good a time as they thought, but I want to examine this so that we can all learn from it.
The setting was beautiful, an arbor by the pool in a beautiful private garden in back of the Juber home. The sound system was that Bose Single column that doesn’t even require a monitor. We placed it behind us and the house and the artist got the same sound. A wonderful idea as most times, the artist doesn’t really know how it sounds out there and is moving and performing in faith, just hoping that it sounds great.
There was adequate lighting to make the stage the visual focus of the event. The coffee and desserts were in an alcove by the house as far from the stage as one could get, so we had no activity between the stage and the audience. There were adequate comfortable chairs for everyone and both Hope and Laurence always make everyone feel like they are the Jubers favorite people, so everyone was happy and feeling very much welcomed.
So why didn’t I do the show that I’m capable of? What was wrong for me? I do know that I prepared for the week preceeding the date to put together two very impactful sets that included the arc, the momentum, the implication of destination and a finale arrival. I thought this would be the best show that I’ve ever done.
That brings one mistake right to the front. My expectations were such that I couldn’t even appreciate what did occur. I don’t know. I only know that I did not feel the connection with the audience the way that I almost always feel. But that is my perception. That isn’t necessarily what happened.
Here’s what is true. I can’t practice your comedy or monologues anywhere but on stage. So I haven’t done a formal date in at least a month or two. Rusty chops there. So I wasn’t the smooth raconteur that I tend to be after one or two dates on the road. As the kinks work themselves out, the show sets…like jello. So I was rusty.
There was also something else and this is something that I could and would have addressed had I noticed it at the time. We set up around 5 pm, outside in the daylight. We put the chairs around twenty five or thiry feet from the stage. Now that distance is not really far if you are in a two thousand seat hall. But if you have seventy people in an asymetrical arc around the stage, that distance is huge; at least it was for me. When I walked out onto that stage it was dark. There were lights on me, but the crowd seemed so far away that it literally threw me off.
I have come up in nightclubs, so I am accustomed to an audience literally at the foot of the stage. We could have easily set those seats up near the stage, but in the light in the yard, it didn’t seem important to me. It was, I couldn’t see their reaction to my work and I didn’t really hear it the way you would in an enclosed area.
So my feedback from the audience was, by my lights, diminished. And guess what? I did nothing spontaneous, which is one of the joys of solo performing. You can go anywhere. But I only went where I’ve already been. No excitement for the performer there. Even tho I performed as impeccably as I could and had prepared for, it’s not the same as just winging it.
I should have noticed the distance and I should have asked that the chairs be placed close to the stage. The Jubers would have joyously done that, but I didn’t pay attention.
There is one other major thing that threw me, as I think about this. It was always my hope that Laurence would play some and when he agreed to open the show, I was delighted as I knew that my people would be floored by his expertise. But I must admit, I was thinking he would do around twenty minutes and that I would do what I always do, which is one fifty five to sixty minute set, a twenty minute break and a fifty minute set. And that’s what I put together for the evening.
When I got there, and mentioned how I like to do it, Laurence said that he was planning on doing a forty minute set and that I should do one long set. So all my preparation for the gig suddenly, at the last minute, got changed.
What I should have done was talk with him about what we both wanted to do and then prepare for my part of it. My bad. I just assumed that things would be the way they always are for my solo shows. But this wasn’t a solo show. It was a duo concert. So always work out how the show is supposed to go as soon as you possibly can.
At the last minute, I had to take the two sets that I’d prepared and without hearing them or playing them, make one set out of it. And even that is weird for me. I usually just play what I feel like and then see what happens. If I had done that, I would have been fine with any changes that showed up.
I was, for some reason, up tight about this show and thought it to death. Didn’t trust my instincts or my experience.
Every single day we learn. What bothers me is that every thing I’ve ever learned in life, I‘ve had to learn again. Hope this helps someone…including me.