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(also published in iO Pages)
No performance is the same. Yes, the same band, the same numbers. However, there are substantial differences, partly depending on the chosen location and occasion. There are roughly three types, with all kinds of intermediate shapes. The theater, the pop hall and the festival.
A theater, where the audience usually sits, is the most comfortable for the artist - due to the fact that it usually starts at a quarter past eight and therefore also stops at a reasonable time. There is never a disco in the same room, which must be cleared immediately. Sound-wise it is usually there for each other, there are spacious dressing rooms, an iron and a foyer with perhaps someone behind the bar pouring the drinks. The disadvantage, at least that is how I experience it, is the seated and overly obedient audience that hardly dares to move a fin. What more could you say, people who listen? Well, that it gets a little loose in such a hall, and that is usually a tricky compared to pop halls. It is a different discipline, also on stage. Silences last a very long time. It remains a bit stiff, such a remote sitting room.
No, then those pop halls? Hm. Well equipped nowadays, for sure. Better in terms of atmosphere, but not everything. In some of those halls it is a hell of a job to get above the buzz and drivel of the audience, which for the most part really doesn't seem to come especially for you. It is even worse in those rooms that are usually located on somewhat flatter land with a cafe-restaurant in the front. Very nice, but you sometimes think: what did I come here again? And regularly you have to struggle through the audience to the stage because the dressing room (usually a sort of converted guest room) is above the cafe, all the way on the other side of the building. The alternative is to walk outside, through a meadow. But it usually rains there.
A completely different genre is the festival performance. Just finding the way to the podium and changing rooms along all kinds of guards and volunteers is a challenge in itself. For the band often a leap of faith, because it is not always possible to conduct a sound check. A line check to see if everything works, it is. And the curious thing is: it often turns out to be sufficient and the sound is no worse than in all those rooms where you get two hours to test everything. This of course depends on the skill of your sound mixer and the rest of the crew.
As far as I am concerned, these are the least direct and least personal concerts. Oops, 30,000 men, do you hear, should we get nervous now? More nervous than that 300 in that pop room? Not at all. The audience is usually far from the stage, separated by crush barriers and some walking space for photographers and staff. That crowd of people down there, that's not 3,000 or more spectators, but that's just one, or so I experience it. A performance in a small hall is much more exciting, not only because the audience is so close that you can almost touch you (and smell it when it is warm), but because it works both ways: the contact is much more intense, you immediately see the reactions, and the expressions on the face. And family and friends.
Well, to illustrate that, a short festival anecdote. In 2015 we played with Camel at a festival in the South of England, on a huge site with two stages. On the other side of the field, programmed with us, were the Scorpions. For those who don't know them: they play hard. Very hard. Camel can do that too, but the repertoire also has many softer and more subtle moments. Unfortunately, the wind was heading our way, and we heard, even while we played, that the Scorpions had not forgotten. It must have been terrible for the audience, two bands mixed up. What idiot would have thought this out? It was disturbing and laughable at the same time. It got so bad that at one point Camel guitarist Andy Latimer announced, "And now, our next song by The Scorpions, and it is called: Ice!"