No. (should I end the post there?) Ah, fine. So I know Meshuggah just performed without their singer due to illness. I actually saw Job For A Cowboy perform at the Tuska Festival a few years back without theirs. Hell, one time my singer couldn’t travel with my band to a show in Rochester, New York and it felt completely awkward to play without him.
So should bands actually perform without their singer? Without their frontman? I don’t think so. It’s one thing to replace a bass player (a dig on myself?) or even a guitar player if that guitar player isn’t someone like Dimebag, I’ll even go as far as to say that replacing your singer is still better than playing without one. Maybe the question is a little to broad in scope to encompass bands of every shape and size?
Let’s break this down. Take a band we all know with a memorable singer like…. Iron Maiden. Pretty much everyone into heavy music can name the members of the band and several albums and some songs, even if you’re not a fan. If anyone in the band gets ill, they will very likely cancel the show. Now let’s take it down a notch to someone who can sell out big venues but not stadiums like… Lamb of God. Randy gets sick, they’ll probably cancel the show, but if a guitar player is say, having a baby, then you bring in Doc from God Forbid to thrash with you on tour with Metallica and all is well.
Now lets take another step back. Bands like Job for a Cowboy, Meshuggah, Hung. (can I do that? eh, why not) I guess as you work down the chain, you will slowly realize that you can actually perform without a singer, without several members, or if you’re like that band we played with up in Albany New York 5 years ago, you can be one dude with a recording of a full backline, rocking out like you’re at Madison Square Garden even though you’re only playing to the other bands and your wife. (and it was their anniversary)
But back to the bigger question then; should bands perform without their singers? I still say no. Indeed you can get away with it as Meshuggah & Job for a Cowboy had shown, but to me it feels like a cop out. Even as my own band was on stage without our singer the one time it happened I felt like the focal point of the band was missing and that all those people watching were getting something less than what we are.
Often times bands are put in a situation where they need to figure out what to do with a singer who is conflicted with some other thing, be it illness, babies or a gambling problem. We have to accept that in a few rare occasions we will see something that we hadn’t anticipated. For seasoned concert goers this is probably alright since we’ll see that band twice on the next tour. I definitely feel bad for the people who go to see one show a year and save up money to buy the tickets, only to be left in disappointment when someone they idolize isn’t even there. Yes, I understand that it’s impossible to make the date up if you’re performing in Atlanta and you’re from Sweden, but it’s not the show people paid money to see.
Additionally, I feel bad for everyone involved when that shit happens. It sucks for the band who needs to play the date to get paid on a tour where every date matters, not to mention they don’t want to disappoint their fans. It sucks for the fans who wanted to sing along side a singer they love. So what is really the answer? I stick with, “no, bands should not perform without their singers… unless you have to.” And that’s what I think is where Meshuggah was at with Jens being ill. It just doesn’t feel the same way without the frontman on stage.
So singer, stay healthy, and bands, play with a full lineup. For a lot of people, it’s the only first impression you’ll ever get, and you want it to be awesome.