Write Now: Front Man Makes Being On Stage Look Easy
The front man is back.
In some ways the front man never left at all.
I refer to a lead singer of a band as the front man because it’s usually the lead singer that connects with the audience. Whether he has a guitar slung over his shoulder or he just commands a presence alone from behind the microphone, the front man is from whom the audience members take their cues.
He directs them. He asks them to sing along by pointing a mic in their direction. He asks them to clap by raising his arms and bringing his hands together. He sometimes plays one side of the venue against another by asking which side has more cheers.
And they listen.
Over and over.
And they hang on his every word.
When the band finishes a song, it’s the front man they look to for a comment, a story, or to announce the next song.
Sometimes he is silent, and they wait for him to speak or sing.
And it started with Elvis Presley. Whether live in concert, in film or on radio, he commanded his legion of fans. If you can go to YouTube and watch old videos of him, you will see what I mean. People could not get enough of him. They still can’t.
He set the stage (no pun intended).
So in rock music, the front man definitely has a place.
And in recent weeks an iconic front man made a return to music. You probably hear his voice once a day because it’s his voice that you hear on the anthemic “Don’t Stop Believin'” that rumbles through speakers at stadiums, bars, and headphones.
Steve Perry made a return on Oct. 5 with “Traces,” his newest release in more than a decade. Again, if you watch YouTube, then you probably have seen his new videos associated with the new release. I’ve seen the videos and I like them, but I admit, I am biased. I have been biased since 1981 when I first heard “Who’s Cryin’ Now” off Journey’s E5C4P3 (Escape) release. How could I not be? When you hear his voice, you may want to sing like him, but few singers can. In 2017 Journey was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and he was right there with them.
Recently, he told Robin Roberts on Good Morning America about his heartbreak and loss that led him back to music and its healing powers. In 2011, he was in a relationship and was connected to his then-girlfriend Kellie Nash, but sadly in 2012 she died of cancer. “The record is full of all sorts of songs. It isn’t just about loss. It’s about rock ‘n’ roll. It’s about reunions.” But Perry made a promise to Nash that if anything ever happened to her, he would go back into music, and not go back into seclusion.
He told The Associated Press that he was in the doghouse and Nash gave him an ultimatum: he had to sing for her.
“I said, ‘Come on, you know I don’t do that, I haven’t done it in years. You know that,'” he told The AP.
To salvage the relationship, he had to sing “Open Arms.”
“I started singing it to her. And after I was done, she said ‘Okay,'” he said. “So I was taken off the hook for it.”
His new music speaks volumes.
But another front man who died of AIDS in the 90s is about to have his story told on the silver screen.
Freddie Mercury’s story “Bohemian Rhapsody” will be in theaters on Nov. 2, and it chronicles the singer’s life in his band Queen. He had a voice, and you instantly knew it was Mercury’s when you heard it. Powerful, yet seductive, his vocal range was massive. In my opinion, what gave Queen its sound was how the music was orchestrated. And Mercury hand a hand in that. Rami Malek is portraying Mercury.
One front man who was very charismatic and definitely made the audience part of the show was David Lee Roth. During his prime with Van Halen, he was smiling, and always had some quip to make one think. MTV was very good to Roth.
MTV was also very good to Steven Tyler, the front man of Aerosmith. He is a very talented singer, and his voice is also very unique. I have seen Aerosmith perform twice, and in each performance, Tyler was awesome from the first song to the last. It’s not easy being on stage, but he makes it look easy.
Robin Zander is another front man who played it cool. While guitarist Rick Nielsen is busy playing his zany lead guitar for Cheap Trick, the handsome Zander is center stage keeping everything in check as the band’s focal point.
Not much needs to be said about Robert Plant. The front man for Led Zeppelin has always commanded the audience. Check out Zeppelin’s concert film from the mid-70s, “The Song Remains The Same,” and you can see why he commands an audience. His curly hair, and boyish good looks keep adoring fans looking at him. Even when the band stopped playing because of drummer John Bonham’s death on Sept. 25, 1980, Plant was still revered during his solo years and now. Remember the songs “Big Log,” “Burning Down One Side,” “Little By Little,” and “In The Mood.” Although they wouldn’t find a drummer to replace Bonham, any talk of a Zeppelin reunion is good talk.
Another curly-haired Englishman, Roger Daltry, also sang his heart out. As the front man for The Who, all eyes were on him, especially when he whipped around his microphone. It often looked like it would come undone and the microphone would fly into the audience. Watch The Who’s iconic film “The Kids are Alright,” and see how the audience gravitated toward him.
And then there is Jim Morrison or Mr. Mojo Risin’. Do you think he would have broken away from The Doors if he were still alive today? Would he still be in command of audiences around the world? Because of his poetic lyrics, I think so. He was ethereal, and seemed like he had a disregard for authority which made him the classic rock icon. He had a lot to say even when he was silent.
What can I say about Mick Jagger that hasn’t already been said? In one of the most popular, and successful bands of all time, The Rolling Stones, he still struts across the stage at age 75. And people still pay to see him do it. If anyone has a true command of his audience, then yes, Jagger still does and probably always will.
Please keep in mind that this doesn’t represent a complete list of front men. It is a list that has influenced my listening habits, and continues to do so.
If you think of front man that did not make the list, please email me with your thoughts.