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]