I want to impart you with a few quick wins for improving your live shows. This will allow you to compete with the world's biggest and most professional bands. Before diving in, I think it’s beneficial to check back on my previous blog where I covered how to rehearse like a professional band. I advised you to look at your set holistically and consider every single second you are on stage as part of the show.
Now, assuming you have done that, what else can you do in order to blow people's minds? How can you deliver an amazing live show that elevates you from the soup of thousands of other acts into the elite group of real contenders?
For this tip, I’m specifically talking about the production of your live show, now we have to bear in mind that unless it’s a headline, you may only have ten to fifteen minutes to change over. However, there is nothing stopping you pushing the boat out and elevating the production above the level of other bands.
For example, LIGHTING, in the age of cost-cutting, lights tend to be in-house rigs. They are a bit of an afterthought and its one of the things that I sorely miss from rock and roll shows. For me, I really miss the spot and the spot operator. I watch big bands and you can’t really see the singer or the featured soloist and there is no one operating the spot. I miss it, I understand it’s an extra cost but it makes a massive difference to the show, so, let’s bring back the rock and roll spotlight.
While we are on the subject of lighting, there are all kinds of outdated analog pieces of hardware that you can hire to look unique. For example, you could use a sixties oil wheel, where the oil is heated up and spun around giving you a “Pink Floyd” sort of effect. I’ve also seen a band projecting old super 8 films onto a white sheet and their t-shirts for a unique effect. This kind of stuff costs very little, it looks amazing and with some organisation can be set up in ten minutes.
Also, there is nothing to stop you from being creative with your stage layout, say you have a load of amps behind you, then, with a bit of imagination, you can make these things look unique. I’ve seen bands put up camo netting and even take the grills off their amps to make a feature of the speakers. There are all kinds of DIY stuff that takes a little bit of thought and will make your show come to life. It’s also worth considering smoke machines, bubble machines, pyrotechnics. Don't underestimate the right slogan on the right t-shirt, it can look really cool and reach the back of the arena with the right message.
So, watch your favourite bands, pick up on history and use these little tricks that cost nothing and can make an awful lot of difference to the show. What we are talking about here is going the extra mile and putting in that creativity, bands generally don't do this sort stuff. However with the bands that do you can guarantee they have put the same extra effort into their songwriting, lyrics, and art. It elevates you to be a real contender, attention to detail is what it’s all about, and there is no limit to this apart from your imagination.
You need to do this not once, but multiple times during the set. What doesn't seem to work so well is a list of all your social media accounts, people will not absorb it and it kills the vibe of the show. Have that on the Merch stand, get people over there and hand them a flyer. However, on stage, mention your name not once, not twice but at the beginning, middle, and end. Whenever you can tell people so they remember!
Don’t forget that you are not just playing for the room, but all the social media that happens whilst you are on stage. The minute someone in the band does something lary like holds a guitar over their head, the phones come out, it’s broadcast to the world. Play to the extended audience as there are probably more people out in cyberspace than the venue you are playing. Make the most of it!
Maybe we should study audiences and examine why phones come out? Whenever you do something crazy, like climb up the rig, wear a unique costume or have a really amazing stance, the phones will always come out. Work on those triggers and this will improve your show, you will find out what makes an audience excited and how to make them share that excitement. That is a good thing for your band.