Unless the crowd really demands it.
Mt Smart Stadium was a sea of color and noise last week. Handwritten signs, screams, singalongs and roaring appreciation of the main attraction by singing “Harry, Harry, Harry [contd]“. Amazingly, however, when Mr. Styles left the stage after about 70 minutes and said goodbye with a polite thank you, most of the crowd fell silent. Here and there there was applause, a whistle and gusts of wind. But compared to most shows before it, it was a library.
A few days later something similar happened in Western Springs. I wasn’t on My Chemical Romance, but according to a giddy gushing review from “maybe their biggest fan on earth” on RNZ, here’s what happened: “They hadn’t played ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’ so when they left the stage nobody called for an encore because why should we? We know they’re coming back to deliver the emo anthem of our time. So everyone just waited and chatted and cried for a few minutes.”
Why should we? You would, because the essence of an encore is the audience’s demand – the call for more. The alchemy of a live performance ignites in the interplay between audience and artist. And the roar of the encore is its climax. When everyone has scrolled the setlist-dot-fm and knows exactly what songs have come in what order for the last 20 dates, has memorized the main set and the encore and therefore decides to treat it like a break, take a break, Waiting and chatting, swiping away mascara or plucking bits of feather boa from your hair, an important part of the magic is gone.
Which might make you roll your eyes, I know, and say, come on sad Gen X man, the whole encore thing is a masquerade. The magic is an obvious illusion – everyone knows what to expect. Aside from a few smaller venues, the script is exit-cheer-encore, then the house lights come on and we all go home.
That’s right, yes, good. But it’s called a “show” after all. It is theatre, performance, an act of complicity, delight and floating disbelief. The important thing is that we all go along.
Some bands do without encores. The likes of Foo Fighters and The Strokes, for example, routinely forgo in favor of a nonstop snowstorm. Others, say Bruce Springsteen or Fleetwood Mac, seem happy to serve up several thousand encores in a single night, as if chasing the long-distance runner’s euphoric high.
Both approaches work. Good for you all. But if there are to be encores, they surely must end on what Maggie Rogers calls the “crowd as a tide.” Otherwise the whole glorious toleration collapses. Something, you know, has to be done. And that means holding the artists accountable. Yes, you, Harry, and you, the various Chemicals Romance (thanks for reading this far, btw) and all the cast – I hereby urge you not to do an encore unless the crowd is clamoring for it. For the common good. It’s the only way.
At least the encore hasn’t been hollowed out everywhere. “Big, strong encore singing from the Backstreet Boys audience,” confirms a colleague who was at Spark Arena last weekend. Thanks, Backstreet Boys folks.
I have a few more paragraphs to write, but if there’s no one around… No? … No one? Ah. There are the house lights.