Who Has The Best On Stage Conversation?

Written by | January 8, 2018 12:35 pm | No Comments


Watching an up and comer a coupla nights ago, I was impressed by everything except her ability to talk to the audience. I don’t mean stage presence; stage presence is something else. I mean stage comfort, the way a performer connects one on one with an audience in its multitudes. For instance, Paul McCartney is greater than Mick Jagger on record, and the equal in concert, except Paul is awkward with the audience, it is all canned stories for the 100th time, while Mick reacts to the reality around him, when you hear Mick speak you know he knows where he is and why. He actually, you know, holds a conversation.

It is an art form as such, and these grades are based solely upon stage conversation. I have seen live in person  every artist I mention.

Arcade Fire – In interviews Win Butler is an ass but on stage he is a friendly and masterful MC – B+

Aretha Franklin – Pulls you into her orbit while you watch her, when she sits down at the piano it is as though she is talking one on one – A-

Bjork – Because she is a performance artist, she is one removed at all times – C-

Bon Jovi – By which I mean Jon, he is as sincerely pleasant in his words as possible – C+

Britney Spears – Appears to be on a different plane entirely, dancing and lip-syncing her heart out – D

Bruce Springsteen – Is somewhere between schtick and heartfelt but if you watch his Broadway show it is obvious how much of Bruce on stage in concert is off the cough – A

Charlotte Gainsbourg – Is like a deer in headlights, terrified – C-

Chrissie Hynde – Mean spirited and bad mannered, but very real – B

Cliff Richard – With a lifetime of experience to draw on, Cliff is very friendly on stage and more than willing to explain where he came from – A

Courtney Love – The last time I saw her this wasn’t true, but when she was with Hole she treated the audience like her best girlfriend and spilling the dirt on her exes – A-

Eagles – Glenn and Don are OK when discussing heir history, and when tributing lost friends, but otherwise don’t have much to say – C+

Elton John – canned all the way – C

Elvis Presley – So constantly amused by where he is, his good humor and bemusement rubs off – A-

Eric Church – His business is the audience, and he maintains a close connection to the realness of the moment – B+

Frank Sinatra – So comfortable in his own sin that there is no appreciable distance between man and artist – A

Garth Brooks – “Peooooplllleeeee…” Total bullshit – C

Jerry Lee Lewis – Not now, but when he was younger, seemed to see no difference between talking at home and talking to his fans, a great conversational performer – A

Jay Z- All that “I see you up there in the red shirt” shit is beyond condescending – D+

Janet Jackson – danced so hard when she spoke her words sounded like a gasp of joy – B+

June Carter Cash – She was a master storyteller with a lot of stories you want to hear (I mean, if you were in the market to hear stories from a woman who had dated Marlon Brando and Elvis Presley) – A

Justin Timberlake – Too many moving parts to talk well on stage, his attention is on the next set up – C+

Kanye West – Leaves a half hour space in his shows so he can lecture us about whatever is on his mind, otherwise not a thing – C+

Kings Of Leon – Don’t say a word to you – D+

Laura Marling – Talks while she tunes her guitar in different keys, very funny but also somewhat canned – B

Loretta Lynn – As comfortable as Jerry Lee, she never lets you lose sight of her humanity and has an instinct for what the audience wants to hear from her – B+

Leonard Cohen – Can (er, could) go on and on – C+

Madonna – Is the theatre of the real, if she is in a mood she will tell you about it – B

Morrissey – Chatty as he puts his foot in it in interviews, he has nothing much to say live, a sardonic quip here and there – C+

Noel Gallagher – Say what you will about Noel, he is a better talker solo than Liam ever was leading Oasis, Noel is in a state of perpetual amusement – A-

Ray Charles – Ignored us entirely – D

Ringo Starr – Seems thoroughly indifferent to his audience and speaks in clichés – D+

Smokey Robinson – One of the greats is clueless when it comes to stage conversation, before you know what hits you Smokey ends up with audience participant shout outs, aka the bottom of the barrel – C-

Smokepurpp – Invites all his friends up on stage and screams at us – D

Stevie Wonder – Another guy given to hectoring – B-

Taylor Swift – Superbly personal and connected to the core audience of young girls, she understands her audience and her audience understand her, and while a lot of it is canned what she is saying hits to the heart of the matter – A

The Clash – Three men and Strummer who wants us to know he cares – B

The Fall – Mark E. Smith is like a rapper where it is hard to know where the talking stops and the singing begins – A

Tomas Doncker – Gives off an we’re all in it together vibe and if you aren’t with him, he’s disappointment. A smart move, it respects the audiences intelligence, but a bit of a gimmick – B+

Tom Jones – cold as ice, and don’t dare throw your panties at him.

Tony Bennet – The man is self-effacing to a fault, he has a history and then some but leaves it on the backburner – C+



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