The Modern Encore


I like to believe encores used to mean something. I have a misty image in my head of a crowd shouting at an empty stage, stomping relentlessly, hoping their mass would call the band back from the liquor and drugs and women they’d begun consuming as soon as they walked off the deck. I envision instructions blaring out of loudspeakers informing concert-goers they’ll be arrested for trespassing if they don’t leave right now. Then, after an hour of chanting and Refusal To Admit It’s Over, the band comes out and kicks ass for The Fans Who Love Them So.

I wonder if my image of what encores should be ever existed. For the whole of my concert-going life an encore from the main act was a given. When it’s expected by both band and audience, an encore loses meaning. Call it what it is: a second set.

On Friday, at the Uptown Theatre in Kansas City, I felt AIR, rocking French electro duo extraordinaires, stamp out the last shred of patience I had for the modern encore, and any hope that it might return to its sincere ancestor.

Extra lights flashed, the song was one of their hits, they said thank you and left the stage but the house lights didn’t come up; okay, I thought, hurry back, and don’t make us clap too much before you finish your show. In a swift minute they were back on stage. They were fantastic.

[Repeat last paragraph, they left and returned second time.]

Yes, a second band-induced encore.

I don’t mind ego or swagger, but leaving the stage and keeping down the lights is begging the audience to call you back – it’s masturbation. To see a group I have so much affection for fall so low, to jerk off on stage, twice, was disappointing. Because they are French and talented, I forgive them, but my patience for the modern encore is gone, and they are to blame.

Performers: If you need a break, tell the audience you’re taking a minute to grab a drink and sit down, but don’t make us half-heartedly clap to see the rest of the show. You know we know, and we know you know, so give it up and play your guitars. Let meaning return to the encore.

Filed under Commentary on April 29th, 2004