There Will Be No Encores

I’ve recently begun making a cautious return to seeing live music again, and I’ve come to realize something I guess I never cared enough to think about before: the encore is ridiculous. At this point, maybe we should just collectively admit that and do away with it. I’m not saying doing an encore was never a cool idea. I like to imagine a simpler time when it was an actual, authentic gesture only granted to crowds who cheered hard enough. Just end the show and then fuck off. The people who leave prior to the encore will find a new excuse to leave early. There’s always an excuse.

You bastards who perform live every week: are you still doing encores? Is it kabuki theater?

2 Replies to “There Will Be No Encores”

  1. I can no longer answer from a performer’s standpoint, but at the very occasional shows I attend, the encores do seem contrived. Bands often save a big number for an encore simply becuase they know there will be one.

    Most shows I’ve attended were in the 70’s. Encores were not guaranteed. Sometimes audiences didn’t want one. More often, audiences sort of wanted one but not enough to convince the band, who were either tired or ready to do something else. When audiences really wanted one, they had to carry on much longer than now while the band rested, took drugs, whatever (maybe hoping they’d shut-up). And sometimes the encore never came despite vigorous demand. The Rolling Stones had a strict no-encore policy; maybe they still do, I don’t know. Before them, the Beatles and Elvis never did encores. I saw Bowie three times in the 70’s and he didn’t play encores despite strong demand. I don’t know if that was his policy. I saw other encore-less shows.

    Then there were shows that weren’t completed. My older brother went to see Black Sabbath at the Shell (Memphis). They were touring in support of Paranoid, so they were at their creative peak. It should have been a memorable show. They started two hours late, then, according to my brother, in the middle of the first song Ozzy threw down his mic and left the stage, the rest of the band following. Others claim they got out two songs before leaving. An announcer came on and said that Ozzy was sick and the show was cancelled. My brother said he looked more pissed off than sick. The audience was very ornery at this point, having waited two hours for nothing. The police intervened and the crowd was dispersed. (An urban legend arose that the show was stopped by lightning, a sign of divine disapproval of Satan’s representatives coming into the Bible Belt.)

    There was also an Aerosmith show at the coliseum that went awry. At some point either Stephen Tyler or Joe Perry threw a Jack Daniels bottle at the other before storming off mid-set.

    I saw neither of those non-shows. One I did see was Sly and the Family Stone. I think Sly had developed a serious coke problem. He began very late, maybe two hours, and it was a tense, 50/50 black/white crowd in early 70’s Memphis. He then played a very short set, no encore. Everyone felt cheated.

    Rock stars were Gods back then and did whatever they wanted. Bands now are entertainers who must compete for your time against a vastly larger number of entertainment options. But it’s not just that. In between then and now, standards were raised by acts such as Bruce Springsteen, Kiss, and others who were always going to give you a show regardless of their mood. Led Zeppelin to some extent started that process early in the 70’s, extending the length of time bands were expected to play, and raising standards of musicianship.

    Times are different, but they’re only better or worse depending on your perspective. From my perspective, professional standards are vastly improved, but thrills are fewer. But then it’s easier to thrill a teenager than an old man.

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