The power of contrast and variety.

Working in the entertainment business, I often hear performers say to their audience “let’s shake things up a little bit.” It’s amazing how much that “little bit” can make such a huge difference in a show. It can absolutely bring the house down, or cause a bustling crowd to quiet down and listen intently.

Anyone who has performed a song set knows the importance of taking the audience on a journey. You’d be hard pressed to keep a crowd interested if you were to just hit the same note, or play the same song over and over again. (Though I have to give it up to Kanye West & Jay-Z for making the big exception to that during their “Watch The Throne” tour. “N***as in Paris” is too killer to perform ONLY once per concert.) There has to be a roller-coaster ride of sorts when it comes to music performances. I tend to use the common “start off with a bang” and then in the middle of the set, I slow it down, and then end with something that will stick in the audience’s head as they go on with the rest of their night. Tonight, I witnessed, for the first time at this particular venue, a performance that provoked a hush over the crowd.

I had the pleasure of being part of one of the opening acts for the lovely Sara Wilkinson. Tonight was her first performance with a full band backing up her arrangements. It was a very entertaining set, and even more impressive when it was revealed that, all together, Sara had two rehearsals with that band. They played an amazing “two chords only (and sometimes three)” medley that consisted of four songs using only two chords (and sometimes a third). Of course, me being the huge 6/8 fan — I’ll explain in another post, for you non-music muggles (hah) — I was head-nodding through the entire medley, falling in love with every turn they made in the unique mash-up. But what was truly amazing was that, at the end of the set, the crowd chanted for an encore, and Sara essentially silenced the busy bar with her voice and her guitar. I’ve played at The Central a lot over the past few years, and I’ve never seen that happen. It was magic.

But why was it so? Obviously the talent and beauty of Sara’s music and performance had a large part of that, but it was also because of contrast and variety. The band added highly-entertaining layers to the performance and when you strip that away and just have a voice and a guitar playing an engaging song, you get the crowd leaning in, all ears.

That’s the power of contrast and variety. You can reel in your audience with one act and really hit ’em in the feels with another. It’s like one of my professors in university — and personal life-mentor and role-model — once taught us about using comedy to deliver a message of importance: “you open up their mouths with laughter then stuff the lesson down their throat.”

A kind of offensive image, I know, but hey, I had to mix it up a little bit, didn’t I?

P.S. Leafs beat the Habs 6-0 tonight. What massacre did I miss?

– Mickey

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