By Ron Onesti
Special to dailyherald.com
This past week we had two crazy, sold out shows with the legendary, German-born Michael Schenker, former guitarist from iconic rock bands the Scorpions and UFO.
The crowds went absolutely out of their minds when he took the stage, a “rock god” like few others, and we literally could not fit a piece of paper in the theaters!
What he does is pure rock guitar, no vocals. He leaves that to the talented singers who have surrounded him through his musical journey since the early 1970s. But he does “speak” through the countless licks, strums, picks and waa-waas that emerge from his guitar as if it was an animal he is trying to hold back from leaping into the adoring crowd.
His performances were jaw-dropping and infectious. His devout audiences were blink-less as their attention never wandered from the choreography of his skillful, agile paws. It was so intense as he allowed those focused on his performance to peek into the actual “relationship” he has with his axe.
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Schenker danced with his signature “Flying V’ guitar in a rock-ballet even fair-weather fans would be mesmerized by.
Then came the face-morphing that accompanied every individual note. His face appeared as if he was shifting around marbles in his mouth timed with each note played, showing to the degree that he was “feeling” his music. I noticed some of the audience members doing the same thing, not realizing it. The music AND the physical performance emitting from every pore on his body was ever-contageous!
Schenker is definitely a much appreciated extreme when it comes to “being” his music. But still, so many also do the same, in their own ways. And when you think about the many, many musicians who have been playing virtually the same set of music for 30, 40, 50, even 60 years, yet still have the vim and vigor of that same rocking band that played at Chicago’s International Amphitheatre performance in front of 10,000 screaming fans in 1977. It is a testimonial to the degree of professionalism these music icons possess.
That is probably what I love best about the genres of music I specialize in at my venues. Doo-wop of the ’50s, garage and psychedelic rock of the 1960s, classic rock and heavy metal bands of the 1970s, hair bands of the 1980s, and “heritage’ acts including Wayne Newton, Engelbert Humperdinck, Tony Orlando, Tony Danza, Paul Anka and others … these folks take the concept of making it a “Biz of the Show” in “Showbiz” to a level that touch millions on a daily basis.
The nervousness they still have as they are about to take the stage, their warm-up regimens and their preshow “focus” time are traditions that have been with them for decades. And its quite interesting to be behind the scenes during their rituals.
Blue Oyster Cult frontman Eric Bloom, now 78, slams his dressing room door shut until the moment comes for him to walk on stage (no, he is not tuning up a cowbell). Kenny G plays his alto sax for four straight hours before his performance. Jerry and Dewey from America belt out scales together from separate dressing rooms and Steve Augeri, formerly of Journey, is hitting high notes for a solid hour before his performance. These guys are serious!
But it is truly the way they engage with their audiences that excite me the most. We are entrusted with taking people away from the downs in their lives for a couple of hours, and the entertainers are the main part of that equation. The folks who spend their hard-earned dollars to purchase tickets walk in with the hope of being entertained. And all sides of that equation work tirelessly to take that needle and thread and stitch together a memorable experience for the fans.
Here is to the entertainers, not as much for their career accomplishments, but more for the commitment to their craft, and giving their audiences memories of a lifetime, from when they were 14-year-old budding music fans to today’s retired concert afficionados. They toss that “Hail Mary” pass into the audience with every song they play, then the crowd catches that pass for a Super Bowl touchdown.
At least, that’s how these true professional make the audience feel.
• Ron Onesti is president and CEO of the Onesti Entertainment Corp. and the Historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Celebrity questions and comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.