This companion volume to the folk singer’s 2005 book On Songwriting comes across as a looser collection of thoughts on a career in music than that first book. Bob Snider built an argument for clarity and simplicity in songwriting in his first offering; here he recognizes the same fixed structure is harder to nail down when it comes to working on the stage. But that doesn’t make this a lesser book.
Snider considers every aspect of live performance, from pre-show rituals to post-gig evaluation. He breaks his instruction up into topical or thematic considerations, such as the importance of timing and the good use of humour. His gift in writing prose is the same as in his songwriting: starkly simple statements strike the reader with sudden clarity and wit. For example: “When a group of random people gather for a show they form an audience.” That’s gold! Snider follows with: “To make that audience his or hers the performer must unite them all in shared experience.”
Aside from the singer’s accompanying black-ink illustrations and the wonderfully tactile design of the book, the beauty of On Performing is that anyone and everyone who performs on a stage, whether in the boardroom or in front of a mic, can use the basic reminders provided.