“It’s like you play the show – before you play the show. It doesn’t work”: Why Nuno Bettencourt doesn’t warm up before shows anymore

“I used to be so amped up, and sometimes I’d play worse,” says the guitarist.

Nuno Bettencourt on stage

Image: Mike Coppola / Getty Images

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Every guitarist has his/her very own pre-show ritual, and while that might mean going through the setlist for the 10th time and practising one’s solos over and over again for some, Extreme’s Nuno Bettencourt argues that the best warm-up for him is actually… not warming up.

Speaking with Rick Beato, the guitarist says that he used to take warm-ups so seriously that he would be left exhausted even before the performances began.

“I was telling you how physical our shows are,” Bettencourt says [via Ultimate Guitar]. “And we went from warming up and doing all these crazy things to the point where we’re just so exhausted.”

“It’s like you play the show – before you play the show. It doesn’t work. So we go up for the first time in my career [with] no warm-up or anything. You pick up the guitar as you’re walking on stage, and you’re already in that zone.”

He adds: “I read this thing about Lionel Messi, who I think is the greatest footballer of all time… He shows up, shoots a few hoops, things like that. And he goes on, and then he takes over the whole [field] – because he practises and preps all week for that. He doesn’t like to get tired before he gets tired, which makes a lot of sense to me.”

“I feel a bit better when I go up and I don’t sit there and do scales and warm up… And it leaves this sort of non-calculated version of the show, where you go up, and it feels like you’re a little bit on the edge.”

According to the guitarist, getting into a relaxed state of mind can aid in one’s playing a lot more than if you stress yourself out before going on stage.

“When you just relax – I used to be so amped up, and sometimes I’d play worse,” says Bettencourt. “Because [you think], ‘It’s so so important, you gotta go up, and there’s an audience…’ Especially if the guests come to the show; like, we play London, and Brian [May] shows up, and [it’s like], ‘Oh man, I gotta really [prepare]!’ Now, it’s just, [in hushed words], ‘Fuck it.’ You just sit back, and when you find out that you’re relaxed, you play even cleaner and faster.”

Bettencourt isn’t the first to espouse the values of ‘going in cold’. Blues legend Joe Bonamassa previously admitted to being “much more lyrical as a soloist” after he abandoned his long warm up routines, saying: “I‘ll soundcheck and I’ll [play] a song that has a decent solo and I’ll dig in a little bit and then I’ll just shut down until the show.”

“I found that my lyrical approach to soloing is better than if I spent a half hour [playing fast scales] because you’re kind of programming yourself that it’s your default,” he explained.

“If I go in kind of cold, I’m much more lyrical as a soloist – I tell a story. I find I’m speaking more with the guitar and making better note choices. Playing some stuff I don’t normally play – without warming up.”

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