Concentation The Main Thing For British Singer's Show
Many people who attended Robert Palmer's concert had never heard any songs performed by the English rhythm and blues singer before coming to the ballroom Friday evening.
When the show was over and the lights turned on, the audience was aware they had just seen Robert Palmer giving his best. They were impressed to say the least. Palmer said he was excited about the show for several reasons.
"Tonight was fascinating! We've been playing in these massive halls lately and this was a nice switch. It was the last gig of our tour and it was the first night in eight weeks that we hadn't opened for Gary Wright," Palmer said.
The 28-year old has been an opening act for concerts nearly half of his life. "I used to open for the Who when I was 15," he said with a sense of pride.
And today, with several albums behind him, Palmer believes he is coming into a period where everything will be going his direction. He feels more at ease inside himself when he is on stage.
"The main thing to do is to concentrate when you are putting on a show so that you entertain the audience with your idea of how to be more precise about your ambition. The events dictate what happens. All you can do is try to remain some kind of constant between the events and the audience and try to remain contemporary without adopting attitudes, which is very tempting."
A couple of traits Palmer has acquired over the years are singing with his eyes closed and avoiding talking to the audience in between songs.
"I sing with my eyes shut because I'm trying to imagine the possibilities in what's happening. And the reason I don't like to waste time talking is because I've seen other groups doing it too much where it becomes just too indulgent.
"It's very confusing at times when you are trying to concentrate on your idea of the music you make and there are distractions like the audience being suddenly confronted with somebody else's imagination of what they are trying to do and then coming to terms with it. Unless you are pretty severe about what you are up to it's very easy to be misinterpreted or misrepresented.
"To a certain extent I have a fear of being misinterpreted. It's horrible playing to an audience where you walk on stage and there is a lot of girls screaming before you've even played because you might not as well do anything. You've got to demand more than that and if that's a side effect then again it's difficult to concentrate over and to get over what you are trying to do.
"It's just that I want to get it right. I mean I don't feel like carrying on and represent that my music is burning and red hot. I know my music is good and if I do it right it will communicate the idea that it is hot stuff.
"I get off more on communicating my criteria when I'm singing and that involves where my music taste is coming from. I mean that's really what my style is... it's a musical ear. It's a way of hearing music rather than a way of a sound. I mean I don't just put things through synthesizers and stuff to make a sound or put gimmick things on it. I try and make the music itself have a certain mood and have a certain approach."
Palmer said he sings the type of music he enjoys without copying the style of any particular singer. He praised Marvin Gaye's latest album and said Gaye's music heavily influenced his career along with Otis Redding's singing.
"I'm getting harder on myself. My idea of what I can do becomes more and more focused and more and more precious. It makes it bigger, even though it's focused, because it's not such an unwieldy thing that threatens me anymore. It's something I can do... it's something I've got.
"Things do close in as you become more and more of a commodity. Down the road from me lives Peter Frampton. He's got three million advance orders on his album and he hasn't written it yet... that's pressure! That's a big accident. He couldn't look for that happening to him and now it's happened. He'll come through if he disregards the pressure."
In his spare time Palmer enjoys photography and goes snorkeling in his backyard - Nassau. Another true passion he has involves his marine snorkeling companions - dolphins.
"I believe in being reincarnated as a dolphin. I assume if I impose my will on anything, I can attempt to come back as that. Why shouldn't I have a fantasy to that extent rather than wanting to be happy or somehting like that?"
One almost wishes Robert Palmer doesn't become a superstar.
Certainly he has the potential: a flashy stage presence behind his sleek, well-tailored suits; a total dedication in his performing that is both sincere and powerful; and a pronounced talent at penning tight rhythm and blues songs despite his years as a British rocker.
But even with three albums under the belt, one wishes Palmer doesn't become a big rock star because audiences wouldn't be treated to the intimacy of a concert like the one sponsored Friday at the Student Center by the Student Programming Organization.
He strode out while his band was in the opening strains of Got To Get A Grip On You and sang nearly nonstop for an hour, by then drenching with sweat, his smart suit jacket long disgarded.
Palmer's art is total concentration. He closes his eyes while he sings, moves his body constantly, and while the audience claps enthusiastically for his songs, he steps back in the shadows, beginning to strut and shout the beginning of the next tune.
Palmer frequently sings songs in groups of two, one leading into another. His most famous song pair, coming from his first album, Sailin' Shoes/Hey Julia, was among the more well recieved portions of the show.
Palmer depends heavily on backing rhythms in his songs (or his versions of other people's songs), enabling him to construct melodies out of basic building blocks, so that a Jamaican song like We Got Love can include a soul chorus and a sizzling rock guitar solo.
But sometimes the rhtyhms can be overpowering and abrasive, as was proven in the encore performance of Some People Can Do What They Like.
Used to playing huge impersonal auditoriums, The Nebraska Dining Room, filled (but not packed) with several hundred fans (or converted fans), proved as fine a music center as an intimate nightclub. And a unique and rare setting for an unforgettable show. No matter what we do, it'll be tough to keep Palmer becoming a biggar star.
R. Catlin (Gateway, a University of Nebraska at Omaha Student Publication - mars 1977)