When you’re on stage performing, sometimes perfection is your enemy. You’re goal is to sing the song. You want to get the idea across so you go for it and you don’t care if you miss a note or hit the wrong fret. You’re selling the sizzle…not the steak. But sometimes perfection is an admirable goal. Sometimes you want sizzle and steak.
Georgia and I played our Wednesday night Stageit show last night and this morning we were talking about how we each thought the show went. We started comparing notes on how each of us strives or doesn’t strive for perfection. It’s not as if you’re singing the second verse and you’re thinking about what you want for lunch the next day. But we often watch the show, after it’s over, and say “Yikes. That was rough. I thought I played that song better than that.”
That made me think of a little game my friend Rudy Guess and I used to play on stage when we played with Carole King on her Living Room Tour.
We tried to see if we could be “perfect.”
There were songs in the set list that were the ones where “anything goes.” Songs like “Locomotion” and “Smackwater Jack” were written to be played with wild abandon. The three of us would roam the stage, inciting the crowd, setting fire to our guitars.
However, there were songs in the set that demanded that Rudy and I attempt to be perfect. When you are playing “Up On The Roof” or “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”….and you are playing the song with Carole King herself….the song deserves to be played perfectly.
That is much, much harder than it sounds.
Rudy and I would try to achieve it every night. On the classic songs we would each try to play the song perfectly. Not a sharp or flat harmony. Every guitar part nailed. If one of us succeeded in that goal, we would let the other know by whispering one word as we went back to our stools to switch instruments or to sit down… “Perfect” one of us would whisper.
Do you know how often that happened? We toured Japan. The US. Australia. New Zealand. Everywhere.
We heard “Perfect” maybe five times. Five times out of a thousand performances.
When you’re trying to do justice to a classic song, you are very hard on your self. “Perfect” had to be unquestionable. Undeniable. The fact that neither Rudy nor I said it for the first hundred shows or so tells you how hard it was to achieve.
Rudy passed away a while ago. As a guitar player and friend, he was pretty perfect. I cherish the game we played. He made me a better performer by challenging me that way. If there are any Youtube videos up on the Intraweb of us, with Carole in the Living Room Tour…check them out. Maybe you’ll catch one of the “perfect” songs.