In 1976, at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, The Band came together with an auspicious group of their friends to perform their final show. Thankfully Martin Scorsese's cameras were rolling so we can enjoy this glorious musical congress for eternity. Ok, so you probably get that I'm a fan of The Last Waltz - but that's it's own blog in itself.
At one point in the concert Eric Clapton joins The Band for perhaps the best version of "Further On Up The Road" ever recorded. About a minute into the intro Clapton's guitar strap breaks. Robbie Robertson (also playing guitar) steps in without hesitation and takes over. It's one of my favorite moments in the concert, and for me it's one of the many reasons why that particular version is the best.
These kind of moments happen to every artist. They happen to Eric Clapton, they happened to Prince, and they happen (probably more often) to me. Earlier on in my journey these moments had the potential to completely derail my performance, but as I've continued to grow I've come to view them as opportunities.
At a gig in Chicago a few weeks ago, I was playing my acoustic guitar and singing one of my original songs. Behind me I had my electric guitar leaning up against my amp (my first mistake). I'm halfway through the song and I realize that the guitar I have leaning against the amp is slipping and is about to crash to the floor. I also realize the audience is fully aware of what is happening behind me and are watching in fear. Mid song I reach down and lay the guitar flat and jump right back into the song without missing a beat. This even prompted applause from the audience.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that even an imperfect performance can still be a fantastic one. Sometimes I go for a high note and I don't quite make it - but I keep singing and if possible make it seem intentional. At the very least, having a sense of humor and not taking myself too seriously helps navigate these moments. When Miles Davis would make a mistake he would often repeat that mistake so the audience thought it was an intended part of his improvisation. That in itself is not an easy thing to do as you really have to be thinking on your feet. At the end of the day the show must go on, and how you choose to recover says it all.
See if can you spot Eric Clapton's guitar strap breaking at around around 00:38.