The Show Must Go On

Recently I’ve noticed big time artists breaking one of the fundamental rules we learn as performers: ‘Don’t. Stop. Playing.’ In live performances, we’re taught, there’s no opportunity to stop and go back to the beginning to get something right. But if you ask Adele or Patti Smith, they might disagree.

What happened?

If you watched this year’s Grammy Awards then you probably saw Adele’s tribute to the late George Michael. What really shocked me was that a professional like Adele would actually stop the song in order to go back and have a do-over.

Similarly, Patti Smith, in her role as a surrogate Bob Dylan at the Nobel Prize ceremony, stopped mid-song and asked the band to go back to an earlier part.

What’s interesting about these two experiences is that both artists broke the ‘rules’ of live performance. You’re not supposed to be able to get a second chance.

Why they got away with it

Both of these performances were under very unique circumstances. In both cases the song was written by someone else. In both cases the situation was not a typical gig (i.e. both were at awards shows). Adele mentioned that she “can’t mess this up for him” and Patti Smith was nervous because, well, it’s the Nobel Prize Ceremony, who wouldn’t be!? (It doesn’t hurt that Dylan puts so many words in his songs that it stretches the memory of even the best performers to remember them all).

Most importantly, what I think these two performances did, was to humanize the performers. It showed their own weaknesses and vulnerabilities. It also showed that they wanted to get it right to respect the people they were honouring, whose songs they were playing.

So, while they may have broken the ‘rules,’ can you blame them?


What did you think of these two performances? Let me know in the comments below!

Leave a Reply