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GIGS 2012

Friday 13th April 2012

Deja Vu, Reading, RG1 2LG

Bohemian Night Showcase hosted by Rob Sowden

"What Do You Think Of It So Far?"

Okay, so everyone was supposed to cry "Rubbish" when I asked that question as I launched into doing the preamble (commonly known as the "Sympathy Routine") for Can't Let Go. At this point, there was a very large imaginary drum roll as the tension built: would I blow it again this time by going blank on the first verse's lyrics? (See the last post and possibly every video of Can't Let Go). You have to remember that this is me (yes, Andrew Shearer, the one that got disqualified for doing front crawl in a butterfly swim race that he was favourite to win; the one who turned off a small African country's whole mobile network; the one who is still in litigation with Rowan Atkinson over the genesis of Mr Bean). Yes, of course I blew it!

It didn't help that when everyone was supposed to cry "Rubbish", they said "Very good". I didn't expect that one. It kind of put my off my stride a bit. To be fair, up to that point, it hadn't been going too bad, although I didn't think I was singing or playing particularly well (in hindsight, I suspect I was rushing things a bit.) However I was pleased with You've Got The Magic Back, very rarely am I satisfied with the performance of that song but the segue from Perfect Day seemed to give it a foundation on which to build somehow.

Anyway, what of the blind spot? Let's talk seriously. Are audiences forever going to be denied the first verse of Can't Let Go? (Okay, I know, no one has given it a second thought but go with me on this.) What's going on there? I think I know.

Basically, I think I've accidentally "programmed" myself to forget the first verse. It happened on the very first time I played it live and that forged the template. I have no problems in rehearsal and I think I could practice it until the cows come home and still potentially forget in front of an audience.

How do I break the program? Forge a new template? I guess it's like all habits, you have to consider the triggers. I think there are three in this case. The first is that there's an audience - I can't do anything about that. The second is the Sympathy Routine which I'm using to try and interact with the audience, usually with some success, but it does mean I'm taking my eye off the ball with respect to the song. And thirdly, because of previous experience, there's the voice in the back of my head going: "You're doing the Sympathy Routine, YOU'RE GOING TO GET IT WRONG!"

So, what to do? Well obviously the song is the priority, so perhaps I've got to stop the interaction with the audience for a while. If I just concentrate on getting the song right and get my confidence back such that I remember the words then perhaps later I can clothe it again with the routine. Don't be surprised if Can't Let Go is played at every open-mic from now until eternity.

Blimey, I don't half bang on don't I? I've just spent the last hour writing about something which barely took 3% of the set's time. However, in my defence, I find the psychology behind this fascinating. I've mentioned Timothy Gallwey's Inner Game books in the past and I guess it's also to do with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Neural-Linguistic Programming (NLP). (Yeah, I know, you only wanted to find out how the gig went!) Anyway, perhaps what I've written might help others' (I was going to say "performance problems" but that could be misinterpreted to be a completely different field! So I'll opt for:) stagecraft.

I think generally my set didn't go too badly. It wasn't mind blowing but nor was it hopeless and I think within the set for me there were notable high points. Perhaps it was thinking about my introduction to Crackerjack (which is probably what everyone will remember my set for; either that or 'Dream Home) that made me think of my training days: rarely did I think things had gone really well but customers always seemed to go away happy (cost me a fortune in bribes). Actually, there's an important nugget in there: I always used to feel the training took off for me and the customers when there was interaction rather than me just lecturing - when I would respond to a question and tailor the course accordingly. I would quite like to evolve my performances now so that I can play any of the songs in response to how the audience is and how I'm feeling; I think that would be quite an important development.

Anyway here is the video of my performance.

I'm glad I made the effort to film (it is an effort and hassle actually especially when I should be concentrating on performing but setting up went surprisingly smoothly this time) because I managed to capture what for me were the highlights of the evening. The two duets, between Phil and Maija, and Phil and Paula, were just sublime. If you do nothing else, watch these:

Finally, as always, a BIG THANK YOU for those of you that came to see me specifically. It really is very much appreciated that you continue to come and see this clown and I hope you enjoyed yourselves.

My Set: