ROCKER: How to keep fans enthralled


In 2010, the thrash metal giants from the Eighties, Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth toured Europe, celebrating their 30-year dominance of the scene.

During the final act at the Ullevi Stadium in Sweden, Metallica played one of their less popular songs, The Memory Remains, from the band’s seventh studio album, Reload. Now this song wouldn’t make the top five Metallica songs of all time to many people. Not when there are jams like Ride the Lightning, Fade to Black, Master of Puppets, Enter Sandman, Sad but True and Nothing Else Matters, among many others.

That said, the crowd response to this little- celebrated song from start to finish was something like a high school musical movie scene. It was an unheralded moment in the history of on-stage performances.

The crowd, for at least five full minutes after the song was over, continued to hum to Marianne Faithfull’s chorus bit. Before James Hetfield moved to calm the fans down and thank them, the quartet stood in awe, listening to the feedback from their fans with admiration.

When most artistes are practising in their bedrooms, singing in front of their mirrors, they imagine a sea of adoring fans singing back at them word for word.

Very few people actually get to live out that dream. In fact, many popular artists who play live music in the industry experience the one-hit wonder syndrome where, in spite of having lots of recorded music, fans only relate to one or two songs in an entire set list.

It can get frustrating on stage when nobody’s responding to your stuff, so you soon get quickly disheartened. Crowd control is key for a rock and roll artiste. It is easier when you have a popular song; you know, when the fans know exactly what’s coming when and the words to each little bit. It becomes a fairly different situation when no one’s responding and you’re like a deer caught in the headlights.

Suddenly, you feel as though every single wrong note you hit is being carefully scrutinised by every person in the room.


It begins with your attire and physical presentation. People like something interesting to look at. I mean, just look at GWAR.

Their themed costumes are a big reason for their success. Half of the metal world has no idea what their music is all about but they will tell you about Oderus Urungus and what a legend he was before his untimely death in March 2014.

The tattooed bodies go a long way in playing up the unruly rocker image. Body art is meant to represent your ideologies, but it also gives those overly scrutinising fans something else to look at when the song isn’t popular.

It might actually make them pay more attention to you and the product you’re presenting on stage.

Vocalists are key in keeping the crowd hooked to the performances. When Wovenwar play, Shane Blay doesn’t come across as the most outspoken front man there has ever been.

Impressively, this is where Josh Gilbert on supporting vocals really comes forward and makes some jokes, commandeers the crowd to clap along to a riff or simply calls out the crowd to mosh. As a band, you need a vocalist who is willing to engage the audience.

Chad Kroeger has had a fair share of witticisms thrown to his fellow band mates during the mini interludes in between songs, which the ladies love. Which brings us to the next little pointer: don’t let allow any awkward gaps in between your set list. It is much better to play your jams without a breather in between instead of having awkward little pauses during which the guitarists decide to tune their instruments.

This strategy works for Metallica. They don’t have unnecessary gaps in their two-hour set lists unless they are walking off stage to change clothes and guitars.

This is despite the fact that they play crazy, fast riffs and Kirk Hammett’s fingers are bleeding half the time. The other alternative is to throw bears into the crowd like it’s half-time at the NBA All-star game.

Let the fans come on stage and karaoke to one of your songs. Do something but do not have quiet interludes and expect the crowd to stay hooked to your show.

These little diversions work when you are playing a show away from your usual fans, say in a different country with a different languages from those in your songs.

It is imperative to enthral the crowd with your performance, otherwise they won’t remember you once you step off the stage.