The other night I was watching an old 1964 black and white television presentation called "The T.A.M.I. Show" and noticed during the James Brown segment (which is very hot) an interesting occurrence.
James Brown's backup singers, three guys in matching suits, singing the fills to the leaders song. As James Brown stepped back in line with the three and started to dance, the backups mirrored his moves.
They were in complete unison, all but one. The second from the left started adding twirls and swivels the others did not. His actions did not match the leader and quickly fell back in line with the others.
I don't know who this guy was or if he had a job after this show. He may have been a great choreographer, but when you are a backup, you stay a backup.
Now James Brown was out front for a reason, and he showed why he was the leader. The quick moves by the backup did not compare with the energy and sensation James Brown gave the audience.
I also noticed the band member playing to the exact tempo and when not play, waiting for their turn. There was no jamming or experimentation or variance from the theme of the show.
That is what the "backup" group does for the star of the show.
In another segment, I watch the band as the camera cuts between cuts. Here is a trombone player, probably union, playing off a sheet of music. Dressed in a suit with hair neatly combed, he played his part then stood still. He did not look at the camera. He did not attempt to put in his own notes. He waited for his next cue to add his pre-planned part to the performance. He did not get the spotlight or the applause or the accolades from fans that the star got, but he was part of the presentation.
I performed and never wanted to be the "star" (or so I rationalize to my limited ability), but as a musician, I could not justify to myself to go out every night and play the same notes in the same order.
The reasons for live music or art is the variations that take place in each performance. Sometimes it doesn't work, but sometimes, when everyone "clicks" together, it is memorable to the audience and the performers.
But don't try to do James Brown. There was only one and no one could out "James Brown" James Brown.