Three hard-earned lessons concerning concert performances

I’d always been a big fan of the Lovin’ Spoonful, so when John Sebastian played the Troubadour to promote his first solo album, I couldn’t have been more excited.

He sang Spoonful songs; he sang terrific new stuff from his new album (“Red Eye Express,” “Rainbows All Over your Blues,” etc) that I was hearing for the first time and loved immediately.

(not from that performance, obviously)

In the middle of his set, he broke a guitar string. As he was putting on a new one and tuning up, Sebastian started fooling around a bit with a melody that I suddenly recognized as the guitar solo from one of my favorite rock and roll oldies.

“Party Doll!” I yelled out, very proud of my expertise at spotting spontaneously rendered guitar solos from old Buddy Knox records.

Sebastian grinned — as he tended to do a lot anyway — replied “Yeah!” and launched into what I was thrilled to see: an impromptu set of classic rock and roll songs from the era; “In the Still of the Night,” stuff like that.

Not just for that, but because I so enjoyed the whole show, I went back a few nights later.

He sang Spoonful songs; he sang terrific new stuff from his new album that I was now hearing for the second time and sill loved.

In the middle of his set, he broke a guitar string. As he was putting on a new one and tuning up, he started fooling around a bit with a melody that I again recognized as the same guitar solo from one of my favorite rock and roll oldies. And he followed up with the same set of classics as he had earlier in the week — and, I’ve now little doubt, the nights I wasn’t there, as well.

Ever since then, I’ve appreciated showmanship on a somewhat more sophisticated level than before — he still made the routine look absolutely spontaneous, which itself is an enviable talent — but I haven’t let myself be fooled again. Usually.

Don Lanier demonstrates “that” solo.

[Bonus lesson: if  an act has a bunch of hits to its name, hasn’t performed them, and calls for audience requests, you’re going to hear most of those hits, no matter what the audience asks for — which will for the most part will consist of those hits, anyway.]

[Second bonus lesson: If you’re going to save your biggest hit for an encore, be damned sure the audience is going to want an encore and isn’t leaving the theater during “Lucretia MacEvil”]

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