In all the shows that I go to see I always pay close attention to the way the bands interact with themselves and, of course, the audience.
In the over 90 bands that I’ve seen, they’ve run the range from seasoned professional bands, to little baby bands on their first tour and every thing in between.
The pros are not always the bands who have been together for a long time, but it does help. Sometimes its decades, but for some it can be half a century - which is not hyperbole, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band who I saw twice this year have been together for over 50 years.
Bruce is an expert band leader, and The E-Street Band are an expert band. The chemistry that they have is rare in rock and roll, especially given their lengthy time together as a band (most of the core band have been together for over 50 years - Max Weinberg and Roy Bittan having “only” been in the band for about 47 years.
Bruce is the conductor, and the band watches him intently for cues, like when he’s going to call an audible and change up the set list, which he has a long history of. Or, when the song is ramping up, or right before the big finish.
Dave Grohl and the rest of the Foo Fighters have a very similar chemistry and on-stage presence. Dave is the conductor, and Taylor (RIP) kept them going with his drumming - but Dave is always calling the shots.
Some of the younger bands that I’ve seen have put on great shows, but they don’t have that same chemistry - they can’t yet. That’s not a knock against them - just an observation.
But besides the band leaders leading the band, it’s equally important to lead the audience. To pull them in and build up their energy and then you both feed off of the reciprocal energy.
Bully put on a great show when I saw her a few years ago, and the crowd was really into it, but it didn’t feel like a shared experience between the band and the crowd. They happened to be playing their songs, and an audience also happened to be there.
Dave talks to the audience. He screams for you to sing along. The same cues that he’s giving to the band, he’s also giving to the crowd. Bruce is also a talker. He tells stories about his songs, about the shape of the world when he wrote them.
The last 30 or 40 minutes of a Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band shows the lights come up in the arena. It’s no longer a concert, it’s a house party with 20,000 of your closest friends. The energy is contagious. People sitting around you - and let’s be honest, at this point of a Springsteen concert you’re all up dancing and singing along as the band keeps pulling out fan favorite after fan favorite to close the night.
This month’s playlist features Marietta, The War on Drugs, Fiona Apple, Ratboys, Widowspeak, Band of Horses, and more!
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