by guest blogger Maya Rodale, writer of historical tales of true love and adventure
This summer, I was lucky to see a few great concerts. In the midst of all the rocking and rolling and singing along with the crowd, I discovered this truth: You haven’t really heard a song until you’ve heard it played LOUD in a stadium with 20,000 people singing along.
I also gleaned some insights about being an artist…or just getting a job done right…. And about writing kisses and love stories.
Be one with your audience. Be one with your message.
Kenny Chesney is a master showman. I’d never seen someone connect with his or her audience so expertly. For one thing, he looked like he fit in with the crowd in his ripped jeans, local football team T-shirt, and cowboy hat. (By contrast, opening act Tim McGraw definitely stuck out in his tight white jeans and T-shirt.) Everything in Kenny’s show—from the videos to the banter, the beer and the beach balls, and especially the songs themselves—was all about ONE thing: We were all there to forget about real life crap and HAVE SOME FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He wasn’t “performing” so much as throwing one giant party that we were all having fun at together.
Surround yourself with an awesome team
I’m not sure why, but I had this idea that Bruce Springsteen would be an aloof, angst-y performer singing his serious songs. But he was exactly the opposite: He was all over the stage; he was in the audience, touching hands, making jokes, dancing with girls onstage, taking requests, crowd-surfing. And through it all, the band never once missed a beat. The set list was long and included, upon request, a song they hadn’t played in 25 years…yet they launched into it and rocked it. Having played in bands myself, I have an intense appreciation for the connection the members have with each other—Bruce knowing his band is on it so he can work the crowd, the band watching the leader for clues and the countdown. Never mind the simple magic of a dozen people playing different musical parts that together sound awesome.
Play hard or go home
The Avett Brothers are so much punchier live than on their albums. The drum hits hard, the bass is heavy and velvety—Scott Avett broke a banjo string on the first song because he was playing so hard, and Joe Kwon played his cello while standing up and moving around. (I only wish I had seen a cello being played like that when I was a kid taking lessons! I might have stuck with it longer.) The energy these guys brought to the songs and their instruments had the crowd dancing, singing, and cheering like crazy. Energy is infectious. Bring the good stuff, bring a lot, and share.
Once more, with feeling
I saw Jason Aldean twice this summer. First I had tickets for the pit, and being short, I didn’t actually “see” the show. But then I was lucky enough to see him play Live on Letterman later that week, in a crowd of just 500. This time I had an awesome view. The band was loud, the energy was great (after all, it was just 500 SUPER FANS). Having heard him rock out to the same songs twice in one week, I had to appreciate the energy and excellence he and other musicians bring to the same old songs, over and over again. How many times has Bruce played “Thunder Road”? But how many times was it my first time hearing it? Every song matters, every time. Every show isn’t just another night on the road, but it’s a fan’s moment.
It all made me think about my own writing: How many times can I write a devastatingly sexy first kiss and still bring something new and passionate to it? How can I tell essentially the same story again and again, making it feel unique, real, and special every time? I realized it’s the same thing with all these rockers, playing the same thing night after night and—if they’re lucky—year after year.
And by lucky, I mean if they play it like they mean it every time, with a great team, and make the whole experience FUN.
No show was complete without some heartfelt “thank you’s” to the fans. I’ll add my own here: Thank you to my readers. I wouldn’t be here without you.
Now back to those kissing scenes….
Maya Rodale is the author of multiple historical romance novels, as well as the nonfiction book Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained. She has a master’s degree from New York University and lives in Manhattan with her darling dog and a rogue of her own. Her latest book is The Tattooed Duke. Learn more at mayarodale.com