Last week, The Huffington Post reported on Jack White’s disappointing show at Radio City Music Hall. Abandoning the stage after only 45 minutes due to a technical grievance, he angered pretty much everybody from casual observers to dedicated fans. While the “prima donna rock star” is not a new phenomenon by any stretch (the two may even be synonymous), the story got me thinking seriously about what performers owe their fans. Now, as both a musician and a fan, I have to admit I’m a bit torn. I know firsthand how emotionally taxing it can be to perform; I also know that when I pay to go see my idols perform, I expect them to be gracious in return for the time and money I’ve sacrificed to be there. If you don’t respect your listeners, you may as well go sing in front of a mirror. No fun? Exactly! Music isn’t just about creating—it’s about sharing those creations with as many genuine listeners as possible. Fans are an essential part of the music ecosystem, and no matter how large or small the fan base, musicians owe it to their fans to get out on stage and do “whatever it is they do” to the best of their ability. Yes, a performer might have a mediocre night, or he may be dealing with “sound system issues” (à la Jack White), but fans will always forgive their idols an occasional bad night so long as they’re trying. If anything, witnessing a bad night makes us appreciate someone’s talent and tenacity that much more—if they’re willing to stick it out on stage, that is. This responsibility does not lie only in the pop/rock world, but with everybody who makes the decision to perform. I recently saw one of my idols, jazz pianist Brad Mehldau, perform solo at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Allen Room. It was an experimental set, which I enjoyed tremendously, but there’s no question that some of the listeners in that small room didn’t understood any of what he was doing. I’m sure that some of the people there may have heard only his most mainstream trio album and were expecting the show to sound like that—which, as amazing as it was, it didn’t. Through gracious stage behavior, self-deprecation, and visible effort on stage, he was able to win everybody over. Even the most novice listener left feeling musically nourished because he gave everybody in that room 110 percent. We owe it to our fans, and anyone who pays us to do what we do, to give them a maximum effort every time. Things aren’t always going to go as planned, and sometimes we may leave feeling disappointed in ourselves. Surrendering to a mediocre performance isn’t what art is about, though. It’s about the struggle, it’s about the joy, and it’s sometimes about the pain. A performance isn’t some static production that we can abandon like we abandon a painting when it turns out ugly. It’s an action—it’s a living, breathing moment of nakedness and honesty that we promise to a paying public. To honor that promise is not selling out: It’s jumping back in the ring and finishing the fight. David Ecker is a sophomore in Columbia College. Slightly Off Key runs alternate Fridays.
Slightly Off Key: The music must go on
May 23, 11:57am
Do you have opinions? Do you like to express said opinions through video, graphs, gifs, or even just old-fashioned words? Do you enjoy deep conversation about issues at Columbia and... Read More
- 1 of 3
- next ›
welcome to our new site!
we hope you like our new site, its pretty dopeFeedback form