‘ … your last gig,’ so they say. But it’s not necessarily as straightforward as that. Listeners don’t in practice tend to distinguish between members of a group, so unless you perform solo – really solo, regardless of what the credited act name is – then you’re only as good, for everyone in the crowd that hasn’t seen you do another performance quite recently, as everyone in your band. If one of your bandmates has a crisis of confidence in the middle of her feature solo, or messes up the words to a song he arranged, then that failing attaches to you almost as much as them.
In fact, to the average punter, there isn’t really a separation between performers and technical setup either. So if your guitar is cheap and has a nasty tone; or the PA at that gig has a duff level control on the channel that had your bassist going through it; or the guy riding sliders simply ran with typical guitar rock band assumptions and left the violin so low in the mix the solos were inaudible over the rhythm strumming; all of that still reflects back onto you, any one of the performers, more or less (partly because any non-human element, and almost equally the sound engineer in the dark at the back, is invisible and the performers are very visible).
And if you do a performance which you think didn’t sound good – or you reckon the audience didn’t think sounded good – regardless of whether you personally did anything wrong or could have done anything better, this can be disheartening.
But you’re ultimately not only as good as your last gig; you’re as good as your ability, dedication, stagecraft and experience multiplied together. And if you don’t consider that to be the objective truth, there’s no way to pick yourself up and try your darnedest to make your next performance better reflect how good you are.
This is what I keep telling myself anyway.