Performance - Tina TurnerTINA TURNER 50th Anniversary Tour – Sportpaleis – Antwerp, Belgium – April 30, 2009

My taste in music is quite eclectic. At times I have a hard time explaining people how one person can like both Madonna and Leonard Cohen and Florence + The Machine and The Rolling Stones, all at the same time. Truth is, I have a hard time understanding this myself. Okay, I guess there are some common denominators. Most of the acts that I like are quite old (often retired or dead). Musically, what makes me tick is rock music with a touch of soul, or soul with a hint of rock. But there is one quality that all my idols share: they are great performers.

Now in the age of Gaga and Bieber, being a great performer is sometimes (unforgivingly) confused with wearing the craziest outfit, firing off the most fireworks or showing the most nipples on stage. This is a terrible misconception. Yes, lights, video screens, outfits and fireworks might all enhance a performance (look up: David Bowie). But a truly great performer will still captivate an audience if you strip all of that away: a microphone and a spotlight will do nicely, thank you.

A Performer with a capital P is somebody who is always there in the moment, who truly lives a song, who connects with the audience on a higher level. A magician, a method actor. You can recognize one when he or she enters the stage. Goosebumps, adrenaline rush, teary eyes are the indicators. A Performer owns a room, whether this room is a smoky club with a hundred spectators or a football stadium with eighty thousand fans.

To prove my point, I compiled a short playlist of six videos. Six performers who don’t need to be introduced with their last name. Yes, there are some big ones missing here (Freddie, James, David) but I limited myself to those I have actually seen with my own two eyes. No special effects, no fireworks nor video screens. Just an artist and an audience.


This is Tina Turner before her big comeback as a solo artist. Playing small clubs and theaters with a show consisting mainly of cover versions, she survived purely because of her reputation as a live performer. In this video you see why.


“I’m transforming, I’m vibrating. Look at me now!” The essence of a great performance. Nothing more to add, Nick.


Okay, she might be wearing a crazy hat. But the strength of her performance comes from the expression on her face, her posture and personality. Fierce!


Ever seen Sir Mick Jagger nervous? Well this is him completely out of his element. No Stones backing him up, a stiff audience (well, the President is in the room) and he fucks up the lyrics too. But at 2 minutes 10 seconds into the video, he recovers himself and by the end of the performance, he’s got The White House in his back pocket.


Now this is a man believing every word he’s singing. Even though everybody in the audience knows the lyrics by heart, they respond to every line as if they hear it for the first time. Talk about delivery.


Bruce is the ultimate feel good performer. Playing such a big field in broad daylight must be a nightmare for any artist, unless that artist is Springsteen. See how he manages to reach even the last row?!

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