It’s easy to dismiss superstitious beliefs – Stevie Wonder famously sang about it in one of the catchiest songs of all time. However, performing a ritual before a stressful task – like playing a sold-out show, for example – can actually help alleviate anxiety, helping promote a good performance, a study by Harvard Business Review found.
During the study, researchers conducted four experiments during which the participants performed a ritual before completing stressful tasks, which included singing “Don’t Stop Believing” for an audience and taking a math test.
They concluded that performing a “ritual” before a high-stakes situation can ease feelings of anxiety, allowing the ritual-performer to do better on the task.
Many famous musicians have pre-show rituals to help them perform their best. Here are some of them:
The Rolling Stones
Don’t touch Keith Richards’ Shepherd’s Pie! The legendary Rolling Stones guitarist has a rule that he must have a pre-show Shepherd’s Pie (an English pub favorite) and that he’s the one who breaks the crust. “Nobody touches the pie till I’ve been in there,” Richards wrote in his 2010 autobiography Life. “Don’t bust my crust, baby.”
Led Zeppelin was famous for their hard-partying antics during the band’s heyday – but the remaining members have calmed down a bit. During their reunion show in 2007, lead singer Robert Plant requested a special spot to iron his shirts. He explained that the task of ironing his own shirts helps to get him into the mood to perform.
These rockers get ready for a show by listening to Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall album and downing some Jager bombs (aka “David Lee Roth juice”, lead singer Dave Grohl said in 2007.
The British band has a quiet moment and a group hug together before they perform. Lead singer Chris Martin has some additional rituals of his own, including brushing his teeth. “For me, there are about 18 things I have to do before I can go out to perform—most of them are too ridiculous to repeat!” Martin told Clash Music in 2009.
Triskaidekaphobia, where? Any true Swiftie knows that Taylor’s lucky number is 13, and the singer/songwriter used to write the number on her hand or body before each performance. She doesn’t appear to do this ritual anymore – but she now has the most number one albums by a woman in history, so maybe it worked!
Mumford & Sons
Before a show, the members of Mumford & Sons light some palo santo wood, a type of wood native to South America and used in ritual purification there. Lead singer Marcus Mumford has said that the fumes of palo santo seem to be the only thing that can help his pre-show headaches.
The late singer/songwriter used to prepare for shows with a whiskey and a Latin phrase – “Pauper sum ego, nihil habeo”, meaning “I am poor, I have nothing.”
Do you have a pre-show ritual? Let us know what it is in the comments!