The concert speech

May 12, 2020

What's the best way to transition between songs at a concert?

Of course, the exact technique varies and should be adapted to each individual artists... But, my dear great singer, the reason why you start talking for a transition between songs is the always the same, right?

In my view, the scenario is simple. You must build up your relationship with the audience and set up the emotional context for the next tune.

I've very very often seen these moments be lackluster. And I think it's perfectly understandable, it's normal. Why would you have to worry about small transitions when the bulk of your show is the music? Is it really that important when you can easily get away with "It's great to be here in Romania!" and "The next song is called Banana Pancakes"? Probably not, but getting the non-musical elements right definitely shows care, and passion for your performance.

In what I have experienced thus far, I haven't really paid attention to these transitions. At best I would get pumped a bit if the performer was great at prepping the emotion. But that all changed since I started practicing public speaking. Most notably, several weeks ago I saw Leprous do a brilliant job at this.

The setting is simple, the music stops, and the band stands around attempting to look cool, while the lead starts speaking about himself. It feels a bit cheesy, but I'm already 3-4 songs in and have gotten a taste of what the band can do. Generic start, "nice to be back to Romania" & "I never know what to say during these speeches". After 40 seconds the tone changes. He appears to be more confident, and continues:

I want to try something I've never done before. Do you guys want to be part of it? [cheers] I'm going to do a live poll. We've done polls online, but I don't think we ever tried to ask this live in the crowd. I want to know, which one of our albums is your favorite?

This continues for several minutes, going through albums one by one showing great poise and engagement wit the crowd... He's praising the sole participant who said the first album was good... He's using self irony to joke that the first 2 albums sucked... He's telling us the 3rd album is the one where it felt like the band started to have their own sound... And he's even implying we should lie that we like the last album most...

It is a beautiful element introduced skillfully to the performance. It completes the experience brilliantly. I had never heard the band before, yet after a mesmerizing concert, somehow I still remember that speech more than most of the music (and the glorious uncountable 11/4 time signature they ended the concert on for 4-6 minutes straight... don't get me wrong, if the music was bad I wouldn't care about the guy talking).

Here, it happened to be a speech, but every once in a while, a different nugget of experience true to the whole performance may be the element which sticks with me and inspires me.