Thursday, April 17, 2008

star quality

Showbiz is hard work, for sure. Business obligations carry on way after the singing, stringing, strumming, banging and drumming have silenced. People want a piece of you if you've been on stage. All those hands grabbing your groin, cameras in your face, body parts to sign, not to mention the drinking, dancing, flirting - or should i say networking... Poor rock musicians. What a performance!

On average, I mean "performance" literally. Most performance is average. Most performance is an act. A good deal of what we see on stage is an act of sorts - an offering to the gods of the celebrity pedestal, a testament to the adoration of minion masses pulling at their panties and tugging at their already unruly hairdos. Most performance is average. Most performance is put on. This observation doesn't double as a compliment, unfortunately. For me, real star quality is about catharsis, not the catwalk, and the superficial strutting is starting to bore me.

Some souls have the solitary gift of being able to stand up on stage and exude excellence and/or eccentricity without (looking like they're) trying. Helplessly Brilliant? Yes. These are the ones who pierce your peace and leave an indelible mark on your subconscious. Think Inge. Chameleon. (and please ask them to do a duet sometime) You might never remember their names but you'll never forget their presence, musicality and demeanour. These are the ones worth watching. Actually, these are the ones you can't help watching. These are the ones that might survive themselves. With a certain naked frankness, without seeming to mind that their person is displayed for the scrutiny of all, they climb into the light and shine with an honest expression of self, soul and talent. However bizarre or unusual that might be, it comes across as indubitably authentic and essential. Picasso, not Pavlov.

By contrast, good entertainers have crafted an act that puts them on the spot in the spotlight, something they perfect and explore, nip and tuck and tailor for the benefit of their benevolent audiences. The effort is admirable, and the craft brings laughter, awe, and enjoyment to many. The more hard working and professional the approach, the more evolved the entertainment factor, but it remains an experience based on premeditated charm and simulated (sex) appeal. If you're in the audience on the receiving end, the conjuring act on stage can never be yours the way it can in the presence of greatness. It won't penetrate your psyche, it won't surface in your dreams, it wont take you home with it. Why? Because when you watch an act, you're not consuming something innate, you're swallowing a carbon copy of an approximation of authenticity. With the right lipstick and lip sync, they become something more than they are. (and, it must be said, choosing the right audience is part of the formula. Performers are not the only ones in the habit of approximating authenticity.)

The very effort that separates entertainers from the ordinary (wo)man in the street divorces them from real stars. It’s the effortless ease that separates rising stars from hard working performers. Stars are just being themselves. Most of them probably can’t help it. It makes them unbelievably irresistible.

Sure, tastes vary, and we need all kinds of entertainment to forget the unanswered questions and unmapped roads. You might have a taste for a bit of thigh, banter on the fly, you might want half a stand-up routine before the first chord is played. You’ll get that, and you’ll probably enjoy it if it’s well done. The city is filled with frustrated divas just dying to be looked at. The stars wont’ do that. Or, if they do, they won't do it for that reason. They’ll climb up on stage and sing, scream, swing their arms around, stand silently or pull faces and insult your mother because they can’t help themselves, and they don’t want to, anyway. The stage is one part of a process of becoming and embodying. They’re here because they must. And whatever it is they’re giving to you on stage is NOT a performance, it's a gift. and believe me, they need you to receive it. That doesn’t mean they can’t improve their rapport with their public, or that you shouldn't be mad when they are out of line. In fact, that's where these definitive boundaries of star and performer merge. That’s perhaps where skilled performers could give stars some quick and handy tips. Both approaches do good work, and both bugger it up, at times. A respectful exchange could make the world of difference to enthusiastic, discerning audiences everywhere.

Problem is, a true star is not going to take anyone’s word for it until s/he sees it personally. That's what makes them impossible and important. And that is why we believe in them. Because it’s real.

Some local stars : (front men and women to watch)

Sannie fox.
Mamma Know Nothing - the former Black Betty

Joshua Grierson . impassioned singer/songwriter proving that there IS a potential for audience-crossover between the Watery Front and seedy bars.

Le-Roi Nel.
Foto Na Dans forever. even if he's keeping mum at the mo.

Jaxon Rice.
Diesel Whores. first prize for being the only person I’ve heard and met who is more interesting OFF stage than on it. (and no, he's not boring on stage. he's brilliant, self-effacing and sarcastic.)

Inge Beckman.
(The former) Lark's lass, and currently planning the next big thing. Everyone has a million synonyms for Inge's on stage presence, but the truth is that there aren't any.

No comments:

Post a Comment