Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The tyranny of the encore

I went to see singer-songwriter Michael Smith (not the "contemporary Christian" singer of the same name--this Smith is probably best known for writing "The Dutchman," covered by Steve Goodman and many others) over the weekend. He put on a great show; his funny songs ("Dead Egyptian Blues" and a terrific one, the title of which I can't remember, from an adaptaion he wrote of "The Snow Goose") are very funny, and the serious songs ("The Dutchman" being among them) are truly moving.

He concluded the show by saying something like, "This is the last song. And then I'll do an encore." And everyone laughed, as he intended, but all I can say is: Amen.

I hate encores. They are the least spontaneous "spontaneous" act i can possibly think of. I've been to too many solid two-hour shows that turned into endless endurance tests when the encores just wouldn't stop. I'm thinking in particular here of k.d. lang--I actually had to leave during her third (yes, third) encore or I was going to be waiting at Penn Station the whole night. And I've been to too many mediocre shows that became worse when the audience felt it simply had to clap till the artist came back, as if it were rude not to demand an encore.

I like the Michael Smith method. Plan the show. Do the songs you want to do. And leave before the audience is sick of you.


Clay Eals said...

Good to see your post about Michael Smith and your passing reference Steve Goodman. He often doesn't get his due. Thought you might be interested in an eight-year project of mine that is coming to fruition -- a biography of Goodman that will be published this week. Please e-mail me at ceals@comcast.net if you would like me to e-mail you a background sheet on the book. Or check my Internet site below for more info and how to pre-order, if you like. Just trying to spread the word. Feel free to do the same!

Clay Eals
1728 California Ave. S.W. #301
Seattle, WA 98116-1958

(206) 935-7515

Godismycodependent said...

I think I once saw a spontaneous encore. It was at the Knack conert at Carnegie Hall in 1979. They played a planned encore. Then as they were running offstage, one of them (probably Doug Figer) caught up to another (probably Berton Averre) and tapped him on the shoulder. He stopped, they conferred briefly, and then they came back and sang a second encore. Then they ran off and came back and played another obviously planned encore (reciting a verse of The Times They Are A-Changin' and then playing A Hard Day's Night). But I think the second one really was spontaneous.

The best encore attitude I saw was at a concert by Roy Orbison. He didn't do any running back to the stage after he'd said Goodnight, but twice during the show he got a big reaction to a song and so he sang another couple of choruses of it.

Gina said...

I am with you on this one - the planned encore irks me to no end!