Ry Cooder has a new live record out. Alec Wilkinson has a thoughtful post about Cooder and performing live over at the New Yorker:
Absent disabling cases of stage fright, emotional reversals, or predatory addictions, performers who withdraw from performing—who liberate themselves straight into a private life—are rare. One of the few popular musicians I can think of who has done so happily (besides George Harrison) is Ry Cooder. Perhaps in Cooder’s case it isn’t surprising since he began his career as a studio musician, when he was still a teen-ager—he grew up, that is, in a context where music was made in rooms with only a few people present, not on a stage for an audience. He once said that the people who want the applause should have it, but he wasn’t one of them. He didn’t like being watched. He didn’t like the pressure of having to deliver a performance—as opposed to just playing music—and he didn’t like being analyzed by the guitarists who stood as close as they could to try and figure out what he was doing. The whole experience was draining. After a concert, he once said, he felt like a withered balloon under a chair at the end of a children’s party. About thirty years ago, he reached a point where he could no longer go out on stage and say one more time, “Ladies and gentlemen, and especially you ladies…”
…Another reason Cooder didn’t tour is that in middle age he felt he could no longer perform many of the songs he had recorded when he was younger. Some of them had relied on a jauntiness he no longer felt.