I never wanted to be a front man. When I was young and getting into playing and writing music I never saw it as part of my personality, my ambition, or what I wanted to do with my life. But things change.
While some people spend years singing into the mirror, lifting stage moves and banter from their idols, I was concerned with writing. For some reason I believed that I would be able to craft and push some kind of musical vision into the world without acknowledging that essential connective tissue between artist and audience. Thinking back I was probably just listening to too much Do Make Say Think and Godspeed You Black Emperor.
For a period of time while we were first really developing our process and aesthetic we had someone else singing in our band. However it quickly became clear that pushing our desires through another individual was both extremely difficult and totally exhausting. After that relationship reached a breaking point, it was clear what my new role was going to be. All of the sudden I wished I had spent all of that time in front of the mirror, and the concept of being a front man that I had discarded so many years ago became a major interest to me. I realized that if I wanted people to connect with the music we wanted to make, I had to find a way to make myself a conduit into our world.
Here are a couple of memorable videos of great frontmen doing their thing. Also feel free to watch any live Queen video you can find.
Tom Petty – “Breakdown” (1985).
Swagger. Tom is a legend in so many ways but this really encapsulates his sheer confidence and enjoyment of performance. No doubt they were “partying” pretty hard around this time, but I don’t think that should detract from how wicked this example of audience participation and general coolness is.
Radiohead – “Idiotheque” on SNL (2000).
We get a lot of flak for the whole Radiohead thing, so lets just be open about it. This is fucking amazing. Its like Thom is channeling the song and the decay of the entire universe through his voice all at once. There is nothing more chilling than watching someone get entirely lost in a performance. Plus the way he slams the mic down at the end is badass.
Beck – “Debra” (1999)
Is Beck is the coolest guy ever? Here he is at his best, just going for it, having fun and selling the shit out of it.
D’Angelo – “Send It On” (?)
Can this guy sing? I can’t tell. Oh yeah, he is also beautiful. We like D’Angelo, ok? Give us a break.