I’ve lived, I’ve loved, and I’ve rocked. And I like all three of those things quite a lot, so I plan on more to come. Music— and being on stage, specifically— has taught me a few things about love. And I don’t just mean being in love, but I mean the act of love in your everyday world.
1) Connection is crucial
During a performance, no matter the size, if you’re up there and disconnected from the audience, it’s never going to work. You have to look, feel, and be a part of everything that is happening. Can you remember seeing a show with performers who weren’t connected with the audience? I know I can, and whether you like their music or not, it’s quite off-putting.
The first concert I ever saw was The Cars at Southpark Meadows in Austin (with Wang Chung opening… oh yeah, that’s right), and what an utter disappointment Ric Ocasek was. He didn’t engage at all and barely said two words. In fact, I think he only said two words: good and night. When, months after, I saw The Fat Boys (I know…!), they were so much better than that, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was that indefinable connection that was missing with The Cars. When a performer connects, and works to make sure they are with you, there, in that experience… you can’t help but love it. Whether it’s your thing or not, it works. I remember when I first saw Bret Michaels perform, just a few years ago when we played a corporate gig with him. He should have been a has-been, washed up performer. But no- Bret has an infectious energy, and no matter how you feel about him, you’re going to have fun and enjoy it. (I’ll refrain from the obvious pun here.) And even if some of his audience checks out during the show, he keeps at it and keeps working at a connection and bringing his best to what is, essentially, a relationship.
It’s the same when you love. It’s crucial to stay engaged and stay connected to what’s going on, to stay in touch with what you are feeling and what’s happening with the other person. Sometimes, they’re checked out, but that doesn’t mean you give up. You stay in it, present, and continue to love. Maybe they come back around, maybe they don’t. But you’ll know that you have made every effort possible, and you won’t look back wondering if you could have done more.
2) Focus outward, not inward
Once, in the old girl band, we left the stage knowing we didn’t sound our best. It had been a rough set. We had been nervous and stressed over the show, but we still tried. As we walked off, one member sensed the vibe, and I’ll never forget what she said at that moment. She pulled us all into a huddle and said, “When we walk off the stage, we need to lift each other up.”
She couldn’t have been more right. I am all too guilty of beating myself up after a show, and I was focused right that second on my own issues. But I loved those other members, and I didn’t want them to feel that way, especially when I knew that they had tried their best. I let my own inner voice drown out all else, and in turn, I wasn’t lifting anyone else up.
Focusing inward too much can cause serious issues when you love. When you shift that, be it with your kids, your partner, or your friend, that means listening and lifting up. It means caring and giving a shit and being present. And that’s what love is all about.
3) It’s never perfect and never the same twice, so roll with it.
Rock and roll has the “roll” in it for a reason. You can play the same song over and over, and music takes on a life of its own. I have been surprised to learn in my times recording that guitar solos are a very fluid thing. They aren’t set in stone like in the recording. Rather, they go where they go in that moment, and that’s the beauty of a live show- you don’t really know where it’s going to go. And you roll with it. And as a result, there is no such thing as “perfect”. It just is what it is, and then it rolls forward and becomes something new.
It’s the same way in any loving relationship. As moments pass, we develop. There is no way to keep a relationship exactly as it is. There is only value in that particular moment and it builds upon the last. You must be there, and you must feel it, and let it roll over you and bloom into its next moment. It’s lovely and tragic, all at the same time.
4) Love yourself, and forget the mistakes.
I recently went to ACL and saw Billy Idol blow up on stage. It was hard to watch. A seasoned veteran such as himself couldn’t find the first note of a song he’s done for thirty-some years (Rebel Yell). He stopped the band and started over three times. It was agony. I felt like I was in physical pain watching it. But then, he got it. The crowd cheered as he nailed the song. And we all still loved him. We didn’t care, and we didn’t beat him up over it. It happens. And all I remember is a great set and dancing my ass off with my friends.
I myself have blown up many a time on stage, and when I exit, people always, ALWAYS, say, “What? I didn’t notice!” It’s truly amazing. No one really notices our mistakes the way we do. So you have to let it go, or else it can gnaw at you and hinder your ability to trust in the love of others. Others really don’t care about our mistakes as much as we do. It’s likely, too, that they’re thinking about their own! So cut yourself some slack, set those little snarls aside, and smile, relax, and love.
Here’s to a lot more love and a lot more rock ’n roll!