Saying “Never Again” To The Compulsory Encore

May 17th, 2007 // 30 Comments

In the Guardian blog today, Dave Simpson has an argument against the ritual of the encore, from the waiting around in the dark for five minutes while musicians freshen their beers to the perfunctory nature of song choices during the after-set portion of the show:

I don’t know about you, but the crushingly predictable encore ritual is the bane of my gig life. Very few of them are spontaneous. If you stand next to the mixing desk you can usually see that the band have their entire set list written out, including the songs they’ll play as an encore. It doesn’t matter whether the audience screams loudly for them to come back. Or even if everybody stands in total silence. They’ll come back on and play those songs, exactly like they planned it. What’s worse is that the audience knows this too.

Maybe we’re just old people who need to get home to our stories, but we’re pretty sure Simpson has a point. The expectation of the encore has resulted in too many shows we’ve attended being split up into two parts, with the dividing line being an awkward, drawn-out interlude that starts off with wild applause before devolving into chitchat and the occasional catcall, with people who are bored mainly standing around because they want to feel like they’ve gotten their money’s worth by hearing the “big hits.” This “planned encore” problem has plagued shows at every level, from the smallest clubs to the biggest arenas (admittedly, it’s probably more plotted out at the latter type of venue because of logistic requirements, but it turns getting out of suburban venues’ lots into a nightmare), and while we figure that this low-level plague has persisted because it became codified into the concert experience a few decades back, we think that the time to start fresh, and just give the people what they want–and, crucially, leave them wanting more when the show is over–is now. (That is, of course, unless a singer really needs to take a much-needed “lozenge break” without anyone in the audience really noticing.)

Encore? Encore? Enough of this crushingly predictable gig ritual [Guardian Unlimited: Arts blog]

  1. drinkingmilkshakescoldandlong

    When I saw The Boy Least Likely To last year they didn’t have an encore planned at all. It was their first show ever outside of Europe, and I guess the band hadn’t expected much of a reception. They had no more songs left by the end of their set so they simply played their first song over again. As expected with a band like TBLLT, it was, you know, cute.

  2. joemono

    Pearl Jam has taken it to the next level and will sometimes play double or triple encores. Those aren’t always a given, so sometimes it [i]is[/i] a surprise.

    On a similar note, I feel the same way about “hidden” tracks that are advertised on the front of the album.

  3. AcidReign

    …..I’ve seen several near-riots when a band didn’t do the encore dance. Once, it was at a Ted Nugent show. Bon Jovi, the backup band, canceled, so Ted came out and put on a nearly three hour show, which I thought was a damned impressive thing to do! No encore, and you’d have thought the world was going to come to an end.

    …..I wouldn’t mind seeing a band publish how many minutes their show is. That way you wouldn’t pay mega bucks for a ticket to a show like the Tampa Led Zepplin show back in the 1970s where they played three songs and left because of a little rain.

  4. RepentTokyo

    @Audif Jackson Winters III: instead of encores, sometimes you will see DJ’s overstaying their timeslot…but the thing is, in the electronic music scene, performers are contracted to fill a specific amount of time, and rarely do more than they are paid to do. T

    here is also usually a modicum of respect for the other acts on a bill – if someone goes long, another act won’t get to play. So generally you only see the most egotistical overstay their timeslot.

  5. coolfer

    i agree…kind of. yes, the encore is a patronizing, routine way to finish off a concert. it can seem forced, especially when nobody is clapping and cheering for more.

    but…it’s a settled tradition at this point. a band may do more harm than good if it didn’t play an encore. most people *expect* an encore. period. bands can look lazy or selfish if they don’t play one.

    when i saw the stone roses in ’95 (or whenever the second coming tour was) everybody knew they wouldn’t play an encore. the band was very clear about it before hand. what happened when they didn’t play an encore? the crowd turned angry.

  6. pchcowboy

    The Supersuckers have the patent-pending Fake Encore. They pretend to leave the stage, the audience pretends to cheer, and the band pretends to come back. A model of efficiency.

  7. Al Shipley

    I’m OK with encores generally, I mean, yes, it’s kind of a facade, but it’s pretty harmless. That might be partly because I’ve been going to a lot of small shows where bands don’t do it unless it really is spontaneous. I personally think it’s nice to have a 5-minute breather if the band’s gonna play for more than an hour or so. But if it’s a big band with a lot of hits, they probably should just play two sets with a brief intermission in between. That whole “they played four encores last night!” thing is kind of a sham.

  8. mike a

    We’re going to have reverse encores at my imaginary music venue. If you are clearly sucking or are having an off night and no one’s into it, you have to leave the stage two songs early.

  9. mike a

    Otherwise I agree with the MoB approach. There are very few bands that can keep up the momentum for an entire set; it’s pleasant for everyone if they can have a 10 minute breather.

  10. revmatty

    Manic Street Preachers are another band that’s had a no encore’s policy since at least the early 90′s.

    I have nothing against encores, but the 10 minutes of audience noise on the bootlegs is irritating.

  11. ghostyhead

    I saw Belinda Carlisle (yes, yes, I know) touring for her first solo album, and when she came back out for the “encore” she said, “We don’t know any more songs, so we’re gonna play ‘Mad About You’ again!” Ugh.

  12. valido

    The same with Europe in 1986. After a six songs set they came out saying “We don’t know any more songs, so we’re gonna play ‘The Final Countdown’ again!” (I’m basically joking, but I’ve been told that Europe really used to repeat ‘The Final Countdown’ on every encore…)

  13. zibby

    @coolfer: I guess they learned their lesson because they did a one-song encore when I saw them on that tour.

    It was still a lazy, crap show though.

  14. Airsank

    The Strokes’ strict no encores policy may be the most original thing the band ever did. Although that may have had more to do with Julian’s being too drunk to make it back to the stage than it did with taking a firm stand against perfunctory rock and roll bullshit.

  15. darl

    I also am very tired of the perfunctory encore. I’ve seen We Are Scientists and Arctic Monkeys do no-encore shows in the past few months, both of which were greatly appreciated. Of course, the best show I’ve ever seen was a four-encore one by Elvis Costello and Steve Nieve.

    The best “yes, yes, we’re doing an encore” I’ve seen was Blink 182 (I was there to see Bad Religion as the opener, I swear!) telling the crowd, “We’re going to play one more song, run off stage, you’re going to clap for about 5 seconds and we’re going to run back out and play three more songs. Then we’re done!” and then do exactly that.

  16. Cassiel

    If it hasn’t been negotiated with the venue beforehand, Chuck Berry requires extra payment to do an encore. He literally stands backstage at times after his set and strikes a deal before going back out.

    Pere Ubu have a list of “protocols” on their website (a more interesting read than you’d think) that includes their thoughts on the practice:

    “The way on is the way off. If circumstance require that we have to walk onto the stage from the audience we will walk off the stage thru the audience. We will not hide in a cupboard off-stage waiting on the silly encore ritual.”

  17. mackro

    Mission Of Burma (today) probably take the best approach. They play two half-sets. They play for a long while total, but they pre-announce a mid show intermission. Sounds smart to me. That way, you avoid the “encore” while the band gets to rest in between. More bands need to have half-times and less encores.

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  19. valido

    No one can beat Yngwie Malmsteen. He was fourth to last in a festival (played at 5pm), so he was not entitled to an encore. But he wanted to do it anyway. So he waved goodbye, got off the stage, then quickly ran back again immediately (you know, before the dj put some music…), played “Burn” by Deep Purple and smashed his guitar. Ridiculous. But that’s Yngwie.

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