A Performance They’ll Never Forget

Last night I was fortunate enough to be one of the few people who scored tickets to the Radiohead concert at the Shrine. I’ve seen them play at Hollywood Bowl and Coachella, but this was a much more intimate setting, in a theater that fits barely 6,000.

I’m a huge fan of experiencing live music. As a songwriter and musician myself, and having played with various bands over the past two decades, there’s nothing quite like the communal yet highly individual experience of witnessing music as it’s being created.

I suspected Yorke would be doing something different from their normal Radiohead shows, considering the smaller venue, and was delighted with the end result. Rather than a huge spectacle, this was all about the music, and quite unlike any other concert I’ve been to.

Consider this:

  • Between each song, the lights remained up as techs came out switching instruments and band members prepared for the next number.
  • Their new album was played in its entirety.
  • Most of the selected songs would be considered “B-sides” to a regular “fan” … Maybe three or four singles were played in the entire 2 hours with the band instead playing songs that have rarely — if ever — been played live.

It felt more like you had been invited over to a backyard barbecue where the band was playing the songs they never get to play, just for their real friends. Highly intimate and an experience unlike any other.

(Check out this performance of “True Love Waits”)

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Now I’ve been to quite a few concerts this year and last, and I love comparing the differences between shows.

For instance, a good friend of mine gave me one of his tickets to the U2 concert when they last came around, and we were able to get right up next to the stage. Again, an experience unlike any other. Bono gives so much to his audience, the entire concert I felt was about making a personal connection with every person present. And he’s probably the only artist who could truly accomplish such a lofty goal.

IMG_0142[1]But as I was driving back from the show late last night, my thoughts were turning between these highly unique, unforgettable yet completely different experiences.

The key, I believe, is that in both cases these bands presented who THEY were, not who others want them to be. They’re unashamed in the stories and creations they want to share, and in that lies the beauty of their performances. Honest. Real. And something anyone who was present will never forget.

As an author and a reader, I feel this truth is sometimes overlooked. Too many people are trying to be The Next “Fill-in-the-Blank” … from Stephen King to J.K. Rowling to Michael Chrichton to Dr. Suess. (Not really, that last one … but wouldn’t that be interesting?!?)

Instead of trying to imitate someone’s voice or create a story “in the vein of” someone else, which even I’ve been guilty of, write what only you can write. Find your own voice and let it be heard. Thom Yorke doesn’t need to sing like Bono, and if he did, quite honestly, their songs wouldn’t work.

It’s only in being completely honest with your work or art or story or music or spreadsheet (okay, that’s going too far) that you can give a performance that will never be forgotten. Something that’s truly your own. That can’t be captured and recreated. Those are the performances we, as an audience, connect with on a much deeper level than the mass-produced garbage that’s created by business executives masquerading as producers or visionaries.

Auteurs.

People that see the world a little differently, that hear melodies no one else hears, and aren’t afraid to share what they envision. Celebrate every one you come across. But don’t try to be like them. Be the you others will want to be like.

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