Many times, when you see a group, or even an individual performer onstage, you can often “see right through” their persona, and really see their true level of professionalism. I guess I’d liken it to what I can do when a student comes to me for the first time, and I feel like I can read them like “the back of my hand!”
There are several things you can learn about and adhere to as a performer which will truly make a difference in your stage presence, as well as your overall impact as a performer. The first thing I always try to tell bands and they find the hardest habit to break is the stare, glare or sudden look they give a member who’s made a mistake! This is one of the most unprofessional moves a performer could ever do onstage, and can serve as a major embarrassment to not only the poor player you’re staring at, but also to the rest of you, as it glaringly exposes your lack of experience. Yet, it often happens so fast, we don’t have a moment to think and to consider our actions, so sometimes, even the best of us will suddenly shoot a stare at someone who’s hit a “clam”, just because we’re shocked by it!
I have witnessed many very slick moments of getting through tough times onstage, such as tuning problems, lyrics forgotten and many others, and one must certainly be the coolest and funniest certainly that I’ve been a part of! It was when I was touring with the singer/songwriter John Prine. I had developed a habit, which I still have today, of being very able to tell just what string or strings are out of tune within a chord.So when we’d be onstage, Prine would always be fiddling, often unsuccessfully, with his tuning. Sometimes I’d walk up behind him and very subtly whisper something like “your B string is flat”. After a while of this going on, John simply said to me, “Arlen, I don’t know what you’re talking about, so just feel free to tune it while I’m playing!” Well, that’s exactly what we did! As he would be playing and singing, I would sneak up behind him, and tweak the strings till they were as in tune as I could make them under the circumstances. It also became literally a “part of the act”, as the audience would find it funny, and totally enjoyed seeing this! To Prine’s credit, it’s also cool that he never felt his musicianship “insulted” by the fact that I obviously was completely needed to keep him in tune! Well, after all, this was a guy who used to say to me, “Arlen, could you teach me another chord, so I could write another song?!” Absolutely hysterical!
Make sure you look cool onstage, and mostly, look like you know what the heck you’re doing up there (even if you don’t!) Best of luck to you!