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Boo to Encores

April 24, 2012

I often hear people in this country complaining about how pointless the standing ovation has become in a performance setting. Here in the States, an artist need only walk on stage, belch, and walk off again to witness an audience jump to its feet in rapturous applause.

But audiences aren't the only party involved in a public performance that's to blame for overdoing things that might be better left underdone. I'm thinking specifically about the tradition of the end-of-show encore in a musical performance: Few shows merit one, and yet the habit is ubiquitous.

Last night, I had a conversation with a music journalist friend of mine, Matt, about how annoying and often unnecessary encores can often be. Generosity is as lovely trait in any artist. But a musical performer shouldn't always, or indeed ever, feel compelled to provide a "musical chaser." The encore is as ingrained in the concert-going experience as waiting in line for the ladies loo. But I don't think audiences really want them in most cases. This is true regardless of the quality of the performance.

Best case scenario: The concert has been meticulously planned like a delicious meal and is fantastic. When a chef gets it right, we're often sated when we get to coffee and mints. The same goes for the concert experience. It's the "One more wafer thin mint," as the saying from the famous Monty Python skit, that sends us over the edge.

Worst case scenario: If the performer is not really delivering, we're more than ready to get out once the main set is over. Having to sit through an extra track turns an OK concert into something more memorable for its mediocrity.

 At the end of the day, it's always better to "leave 'em wanting more." An encore should always be a pleasant and unlikely surprise, only to be pulled out on rare occasions in the heat and inspiration of the moment in response to the specific vibe in the room. It should never be expected and endured.


  • I thoroughly agree, Chloe. The best performances i have ever attended (or indeed have been involved in offering) are concerts in which the only fitting response was lingering of satisfied and fulfilled silence before a thunderous applause of appreciation. What could follow such an audience response?

    By Blogger songs of a soul journey, At April 25, 2012 at 11:49 AM  

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