Stage Presence: Jim Reid vs. Freddie Mercury

I love analyzing stage presence. It tells you a lot about how the performer relates to the song, the music, and the style of their band. Obviously, it will vary by genre, as we’ll see.

I went to the Jesus and Mary Chain concert when they were in NYC a month ago. Aside from me freaking out the whole time (ohmygosh! my favorite band! i got to see them! etc.), I loved watching Jim Reid sing. He’s not a shy performer, but he’s very self-contained: he didn’t move around at all, and just stayed tight to the microphone. Every so often he would say a simple “thanks”, and when the show ended, he said “thank you” again and just waved as he and the band walked off the stage. The concert lighting helped underscore how Jim sings. It was a total color wash of magenta and yellow lighting that obscured the backup band, keeping the focus totally on Jim.

The most interesting part was when they sang “Just Like Honey.” It’s probably their most well-known song, so as soon as those opening Ronettes-style drums kicked in, everyone pulled out their phones and iPads to hit record and take photos. I watched Jim the whole time, and I noticed that he retreated even more into himself. He looked almost annoyed, like he was trying to get the song over with as soon as possible.

You have the opposite extreme with Freddie Mercury. When you watch that Live Aid concert, you notice just how much of a showman he is. He has complete command of the stage: he’s in constant motion across it, even as he sings. While Jim did not engage as much with the audience (or, for that matter, with his own bandmates), Freddie often leaned out into the audience to encourage them.

No style of performance is better than another, of course. It just helps underscore what message you’re trying to get across through your music. With JAMC, the message is a very introverted one, so it makes sense to have an introverted frontman. Queen, on the other hand, is all about flamboyant self-love anthems. That’s why they had a lead singer who once said, “I always knew I was a star. And now, the rest of the world seems to agree with me.”

Who are your favorite performers, and why?

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