Bringing The Spirit


On this just completed month long Europe tour Rob and I talked about our friend named Kale, a great musician who has toured as part of my band in the past. I was thinking of him because of something that he said once on one of my earlier Europe tours.

I had just finished a long concert in a small club where every table was full by getting back up on stage alone with acoustic guitar. The audience was asking for encores and the band didn't know any more of my songs, so I was going to do the encores solo. I hadn't expected encores so I had to think of songs to play on the spot. 

I was very moved by their appreciation that night. I felt very strong because of their encouragement. I sang alone, three more songs, each time encouraged to continue by the audience. No one was talking. No one was leaving. The staff was all lined up at the back of the bar facing me, listening.

When I got off stage, I was very emotional. I went to where Rob and Kale were standing at the back of the club. He and Rob both said that even they had been moved to tears. Kale then asked me why the hell, if I'm capable of that kind of performance, that I don't do that every night. I laughed it off. "Ha! I can't do that every night! This was a perfect set of circumstances that came together and made those encores possible. I can't just get up anywhere any time and make that happen! It's impossible."

Well, on this tour, I didn't do that every night, but I did it with much more consistency. Most shows were like that. Most of the time I got on stage at the beginning of the concert and I thought right away, it's here. The feeling is here already. I've got this one. We are all going to love this night.

Why am I thinking this way now? How am I able to make what I thought was a fluke and a miracle into a consistent outcome?

To some degree I have more acclaim now so my reputation precedes me and people are already prepared psychologically to sit down and listen carefully for two and a half hours. This is sort of true at least some of the time. Or at least there may be a few people who come prepared and they set the tone for the audience, even to the point of telling the non-believers to shut up...which they do from time to time.

The venues are better because I'm getting some traction in my career. This is also only sort of true because we did play some small cafes or bars that literally only accommodate like twenty people tops so it isn't the size of the venue that is significant. Better venues can refer to the culture of the venue, whether the owner sets a precedent of quality listening when there is live music being performed. If the owner of the club or cafe or restaurant comes up to the microphone and introduces me in the language of the area, there is a much better chance that people will be good listeners, for example.

So the external circumstances matter. If the sound is good, I'm more inspired. If the sound tech is good and also encouraging and excited to be working with me for my show, I feel more honored and I act accordingly. If people are already seated and they stop talking when I step to the microphone, well, that makes it easy. 

My days are hopefully over of playing places where no one really wants to listen to a songwriter play heartfelt original material. I have hopefully payed my dues at that level of anonymity. At first you just play where ever you can play to whomever or to no one even.

But now I have a new sense that once I'm given the platform so to speak, I had better be prepared to take full advantage of the opportunity. And this is where Kale's comment that night really comes back to me. I want every performance to have the same glorious outcome. So how can I ensure that?
 My idea today, after talking with a true friend for long hours here in Minneapolis, and after talking with true friends in Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, over the past month, my idea now is that the answer is the spirit of God and it's within me. I bring the belief that I can summon the spirit of God, like the Holy Ghost or something, summon that spirit to the sacred space where I'm performing. Whether it's a bar or a church or someone's back garden, I will summon the Holy Ghost by my intention and my belief and my own reverence for the music and the lyrics and the story that I am telling. I am telling some kind of profound story in the way each song is chosen for that evening and the way that each song is introduced, what is said and what is unsaid. The way I look, the way I act. My tone of voice in singing and in speaking. These things communicate a clear and undeniable message to the audience. I reveal more of myself than I can comprehend. The audience takes what they want, rejects what they don't want. The audience is unable to connect with the spirit if I cannot lay it all out in a meaningful way for them. 

The responsibility is one hundred percent mine. If they don't care, I have not made it possible for them to care. If they aren't listening, I have not cut through the noise and the chatter and the meaningless drivel and presented them with something to care about. 

Some people I know in the US tell me that I'm "big in Europe" because people are different there. I'm not any "bigger" any where in particular. That isn't true. And people aren't different either. Human beings all understand the profundity of the spirit of God.  Young and old, all nations, all walks of life. All religions. Even disbelievers know the truth of deep emotion.

So I wonder now whether I can stand and sing alone, without back up singing and drums, without Rob when he can't come out on the road with me. Can I make the magic happen every night in every town, alone on stage with just a guitar? Is it possible? Will the world prove me wrong or will I be able to give the gift of the spirit, one performance at a time?

I'm going to set up a series of solo shows and head out to discover the truth.



B. Charles April 08, 2018 @11:34 am
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