What makes a memorable live performance? Is it sincerity? Showmanship? The sense of “moment”? An element of surprise?
Whatever the prerequisites, H.E.R.’s performance of Hard Place on The Late Show qualifies (see above). To substantiate my claim, I can point you to the phrasing, to the earnestness of the lyrical expression (“And if I have to choose, my heart or you, I’m gonna lose”), and to the cooler-than-a-polar-bear’s-toenails’ guitar riffs. But all of that feels slightly disingenuous.
Trying to put it into words—what exactly it is that makes it so great—is useless. It’s like trying to reproduce a Rembrandt by pissing in the snow. And, ultimately, that may be the hallmark of a great musical performance: the inability of the percipient to adequately express his or her delight.
My father sometimes jokes that, after the 1970s, no one has made any good music. Watching H.E.R. performing Bad Place on The Late Show, I want to lovingly rub his nose in it.
“Look, dad: refutation.”
And she’s only 21.