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Raise your hands

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A. R. Samson

Fence Sitter

Raise your hands

To lift energy levels including their own, performers and lecturers who also feel like rock stars, usually at the middle of the routine when they want to rest their throats, engage the live audience to jump in. This is called “audience participation” in which somebody who has paid to watch an event is asked to be part of it — do you know this song — raise your hands? The fat lady in balloon pants, come on down!

Foreign audiences (at least in the televised, and edited, versions of concerts) seem game enough to come up the stage and be a prop to magicians (Here, hold this live snake for me). Filipino counterparts tend to be more reticent, even as they applaud loudly when others are put on the spot. This is like vigorously pointing to a seat mate to dance with the roving dance instructress at a wedding party.

The reluctance to be singled out to be in the spotlight, even if only for a few minutes, is more pronounced among the older set who watch shows sedately. Performers come down from the stage to accost aging couples to relate their most romantic experience, maybe fifty years ago. (The fog of distant memories and emotions intervene.) This stunt can draw a blank and the man with the mike resorts to making others laugh at the couple’s expense — do you still remember her name? (Is he comatose?)

Performers in solo concerts feel obliged to talk between numbers. They narrate their humble beginnings, and the significance a song (I wrote this when I was living in a cart) and who designed their clothes.

This mix of patter and singing seems now standard concert fare, especially with shows without dancers and special effects. There is a supposition, usually groundless, that the audience is lapping up all the trivial details. So, a singer who can’t string sentences together (she failed to submit her thesis on Edgar Allan Poe) seems at a disadvantage.

It is this compulsion to involve the audience to provide comic relief that adds unnecessary stress to the front rows that paid the most money to watch the show. Why are Filipinos who can’t be asked to sit down at a karaoke party and hand over the microphone to the next in line so reluctant to perform on stage with a concert queen? (I still need to practice.)

While the performer is careful not to embarrass a paying spectator, the latter feels on the spot anyway. Since no performer is willing to be upstaged by an amateur — guess who will look good in this segment. The mind-set of the mature concertgoer is to watch a live performance with no plans of doing two lines of a song with the performer.

Maybe rock concerts (I’ve been to a few) have a more participative audience on hand who think nothing of standing on their seats and being moved by unseen hands while in a prone position. The whole stadium is rocking. The lights are going crazy. There is the anonymity in all that orchestrated chaos. Even in retro concerts, reticence is thrown out the window. (Hey, these are all old people like me.) They’re there to rock even if they don’t hear their lip-synching idol seeming to strain his vocal chords over the primeval screaming. The oldie finds himself screaming with the others for the refrain — I can’t get no satisfaction… hey, hey, hey. That’s what I say.

The crowd in a lecture hall is more diffident. True, a few may raise their hands when the speaker asks how many here have heard of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) as international reserves. Don’t be shy. Nobody? I can’t believe how you got into this lecture.

Most audiences shun being singled out to perform in full view of others who know where they work. Spectators, after all, are only supposed to watch and not be part of the show, certainly not the one where they may be booed off the stage for staying too long.

There’s a reason why the stage is lit up and the rest of the place is in darkness. Audiences would rather stay anonymous and be entertained or enlightened, and not be subjected to bad reviews… and having to pay for it.

 

A. R. Samson is Chairman and CEO, TOUCH xda

ar.samson@yahoo.com