Mastery vs Personality

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A few years back, I was at an outdoor concert in a park near the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta. The main act was Paul Revere and the Raiders. The opening act was three local guys (keys, bass, and drums, and they all sang) who, I now know the parlance, were killing it. The audience was screaming for more. So, Paul, waiting in the wings to go on, held up his index finger to the guys indicating one more song. These guys launched into Pink Floyd’s Brick in the Wall. The audience went insane with joy and sang along and it was incredible. As I often do, I watched everything that evening. The crowd, the band, and most notably Paul Revere and his band.

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Waiting in the wings, they kept looking from these three guys out to the audience and back again. They were dumbfounded. The song ended and four thousand-plus people jumped up from their chairs and blankets and screamed for more, more, more, more and would not let these guys leave the stage. Simply. Would. Not. Let. Them. Leave.

But Paul had a plane to catch (the tightly controlled life of a traveling entertainer cannot be easy) and pretty much had to get these guys off the stage so he could do his show and get to the airport. How was he going to do that without ticking off the crowd? Paul understood crowd control, and did a fine job of making the transition, so kudos to him.

However, what I remember most are the expressions of the three guys on the stage. This was the first time they had ever experienced anything like that. I could tell because they couldn’t move, stared at the audience, and were choking back tears.

Because their mastery of their art form was so good, and it was clear they were doing it for the audience, the audience couldn’t help themselves as they poured out their love. I’ve never seen anything like it.

That night Paul came out to an audience that tolerated him. He never got that energy back from them. Not that his show sucked. It was a great show and everybody laughed and clapped in the right places. But the audience knew the show was all about Paul because Paul was there to be Paul. The audience settled in to watch Paul be Paul and he got a proper send off, but you know he had to be thinking about what happened earlier.

And that, dear folks, is the difference between being a personality and being a beloved master.

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