Compare & Contrast: Passionate Frontmen and the idea of “Charisma”

25 Mar

Two following performances by two bands, both for TV.

Both contain what could be considered seminal performances by the singer/frontmen.

There are similarities in both performances. The lack of conventional charm. A certain uncool “dorkiness.” The arresting movements that are linked to their music (intense, twitchy, spasmodic Vs loping, sweeping. “bopping”). A disregard for the norms of what is considered the standard rules of performance.

There are words that could be used by people to describe these performances –  intense or passionate. But the most likely one would be charismatic. It’s interesting, we’ve been looking at school into star personas and the idea of charisma and Max Weber’s Idea of charismatic authority, with special attention to the likes of Brando’s early performances in films such as “On The Waterfront” (It’s actually unnerving how much Future Island’s frontman Samuel Herring actually looks like early Brando!). the idea that you can win an audience over mere by the force of their personality that is greater than mere talent or charm. Weber defines charisma as thus

[A] certain quality of an individual personality, by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader […] How the quality in question would be ultimately judged from an ethical, aesthetic, or other such point of view is naturally indifferent for the purpose of definition.


Charisma knows only inner determination and inner restraint … and [the leader] demands obedience and a following by virtue of his mission. His success determines whether he finds them. His charismatic claim breaks down if his mission is not recognized by those to whom he feels he has been sent. If they recognize him, he is their master—so long as he knows how to maintain recognition through proving himself.

There are differences in the intended charisma of these two though. Curtis has got that impenetrable distance in his body language, before he explodes at the end. Those eyes giving off that “Thousand Yard Stare” into nothingness that, even before his journey to deathwish oblivion, is slightly unnerving. Herring though is all about the masculinity and the physical expression of his passion. The chest beating, the tightly held fist, the reaching out into thin air. The way he smiles and nods, has shades of the evangelic preacher about the nature of the performance as he bares his soul and beseeches the audience

This could be also due to the song itself which compared to “Transmssion” is lacking that sense of urgency. It’s as if Herring is doing the emotive heavy lifting for the entire band, injecting that urgency through the passion his performance alone (Joy Division in this respect come across more as a unit of totality). He’s sweating buckets by the end.


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Posted by on March 25, 2014 in music


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