Opinion: Art mArtyr – Push-Up Performances, Or When Support Sucks

December 6, 2014



The concept of an opening act is one that can be seen as a positive or negative aspect of any show, depending on your perspective. This idea is meant to offer much-needed exposure to up-and-coming performers, as they can piggy-back on the reputations of more established peers.

This means the opening act can polish their act while warming up for their own dedicated audience one day if they impress in the present. The situation also works as a testing ground for wet behind the ears artists who think that all they need to thrill a crowd is talent.

For example, while on stage, logistics – such as a malfunctioning mic or a rickety chair – play a huge role and can either make or break an act who are not aware that knowing how to improvise is an essential skill. This is something that even hours of practise cannot begin to prepare them for.

The audience also reap some benefits from support acts, as when the crowd purchase tickets, they only have the main act in mind and often view the extra acts as “freebies” – and who doesn’t like freebies?

Depending on just how desperate/passionate the opening act is, there is also the issue of receiving some sort of payment in the form of getting the crowd worked up in anticipation of the main act.

But the biggest reason why established artists have opening acts is so that they can assist them in making it to the level of the more experienced group, and that happened last week when kasi soul a capella phenomenon The Soil were introduced by Mozambican singer Isabel Novella. She wowed the crowd at The Lyric Theatre with her rich voice and her interpretation of world music and African-inspired pop, jazz and soul.

Unfortunately, opening acts are not always that outstanding. Though it’s not always the artist’s fault. Too many performers tell horror stories about not being paid or being paid less than what was agreed initially.

From the crowd’s point of view, opening acts do not always hit the spot, for various reasons. Sometimes they are not aligned to the main act’s target market or they are not yet ready to perform on such a grand stage. Audiences can be temperamental and, instead of warming up a crowd, opening acts can have the opposite effect.

The world of weddings suggests to brides who thought that guests are only interested in the most high-profile décor, vows and the wedding gown that if they get one of the lesser factors wrong – the food, say –  their entire efforts might be deemed a complete failure.

The same effort and thought that goes into booking main acts should be invested into the supporting acts, as they can enhance performances or leave music enthusiasts with a sour taste in their mouths.