A Study in Performance
Posted by MT on Tuesday, May 3, 2011
On Saturday, April 23, 2011, we got a tweet from David that he was at the Prince concert at the Forum. Now, we all know that David has a very broad range of musical interests, from Gospel, to Jazz, to R&B, and more. We all know that Michael Jackson is one of David’s favorite performers. But somehow I didn’t expect this one. I’ve never really been a Prince fan and couldn’t have named one song that he sang. So I watched a video of his encore from the concert David attended and did a little research. To my surprise, I was actually familiar with some of his songs. I remember hearing them on the radio. I just never bothered to find out who was singing them. I never really worried about who sang what, until David.
But I digress. What I want to discuss is Prince’s showmanship and David’s presence at this concert. Although I may never actually attend one of Prince’s concerts, I was impressed with his stage presence and certain elements of his performance. When playing the encore for this particular concert, he stood at the piano, he moved around while he sang, and encouraged audience participation, getting the audience to sing along. I was particularly impressed with his grace of movement and the expressiveness of his hands.
The David connection: In watching this, I couldn’t help but think about David’s evolving stage presence. It brought to mind songs like “Crush” or “My Hands,” where he too gets the audience involved by encouraging them to sing along or “Your Eyes Don’t Lie,” where he gets the audience to whistle. (That last one is a favorite of mine.) Even on some of the songs on The Other Side of Down, he’s been choosing places where fans can sing. There are also some more subtle moves he’s been making. I am of course, referring to the jump in TOSOD that he did during the NYE performance and the MJ move in the performance of TOSOD in Dallas. I also find that his movements are becoming more subdued and fluid, including his more relaxed and confident strides across the stage during a break in a song.
This made me wonder, was David at this concert just to enjoy it? Or could he have been there to study the performance elements of yet another established, successful singer, just as an artist would go to Paris to study with the masters of their craft? Perhaps it’s a little of both. But it follows that if you want to be the best, you need to learn from the best. I think perhaps this may be what David has been doing all along.
While we all realize that David is experimenting with his own sound in order to decide who he really is as an artist, let us not underestimate his desire to do well in his chosen field. No matter how naturally gifted he is vocally, he must surely realize that the performance aspect is a critical part of what makes or breaks an artist.
Most of us have watched David since the beginning of American Idol, Season 7. We have watched David grow as an artist, have been here as his voice deepened and became richer as he grew older. We have also seen his performances evolve. We’ve watched as he went from standing at a microphone during his first solo show, to walking away from the mic stand, and then moving around on stage during that first tour. We watched as David began to slowly incorporate a bit of rhythm and movement into his performances and we’ve seen him surprise fans by going down into the audience to sing.
Bit by bit, this young man who was once so shy that he didn’t know if he’d ever be able to move on stage has been overcoming his extreme shyness and developing his performance skills. With each year that passes and each new tour, David continues to surprise and amaze us with his growth as an artist and performer. And it’s only the beginning.
Recently, David Archuleta gave an oral report on some of what he has learned thus far to Truth About Music’s Harris Decker at the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Expo.
So while he may not be enrolled at Julliard, I do believe David is attending school, just not in the established manner. He’s learning what works for him and what doesn’t and how to adjust his course. He’s learning that sometimes you have to cut your engines and let the wind fill your sails. To trust himself.
If you think back to the concerts he has attended over the last few years, he has gotten quite a broad education in what makes for a successful concert and I think he’s been trying to slowly incorporate what he has learned into his shows. If you want to know how to put on a show that will bring in thousands, what better education than to watch in real-time a pro in action, observing the audience’s reaction to each element of performance?
Below is a list of some of the performers whose concerts David has attended, many of whom he has met and spoken with. Quite an impressive group of instructors! What could be better than learning from performers with successful careers, some that have spanned decades?
Although David may not be in college, I think he’s still studying (whether consciously or unconsciously) and his education never stops. David knows that there are artists who have been in the business and been a success for many, many years without being vulgar or pulling crazy stunts to keep their fans interested. They are still here today by being good at what they do and by engaging their audiences.
These performers are David’s teachers. And our Student Prince is learning fast.