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Saturday, June 10, 2023
June 10, 2023

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Obligatory encores on way out

Fans fine with skipping faux concert endings


DETROIT — At the band’s recent sold-out show at Little Caesars Arena, Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus dispensed with concert tradition and cut straight to the point.

“That was the end of the show,” he said, following their gigantic hit “What’s My Age Again.” “This,” he said, pointing his hand downward at the stage for emphasis, “is the encore.”

He and his bandmates proceeded to play three more songs — “First Date,” “All the Small Things” and “Dammit” — without ever leaving the stage and making fans sit through the fake farewell and awkward hello again of the most tired staple of the concert playbook, the encore.

Let’s have more of this, please.

There’s evidence that maybe there is more of this encore dismissal brewing concert industrywide. Taylor Swift isn’t doing encores on her current Eras Tour. She’s doing all the songs you want to hear in her regular set without the pretense of a false goodbye baked into the proceedings.

When she played Little Caesars Arena last year, Billie Eilish didn’t do an encore, either. And Adele’s Las Vegas residency doesn’t feature an encore; she ends her shows with “Love is a Game,” rather than playing the game of pretending her show is over and then, surprise!, reappearing for two or three more songs you knew were coming anyway.

And to fans, that’s just fine. Do we really want to do the thing where we cheer extra loud and pretend to bring the artist back out to the stage just so they can play their biggest hit to close the evening? What, like Janet Jackson’s not gonna play “Together Again” on her Together Again Tour? Let’s jump past that part, like we’re skipping the intro on a streaming show, and get to the good stuff.

Attending a show is hard enough these days anyway. Modern fans are armed with pre-sale codes and have to sweat it out in virtual Ticketmaster waiting rooms, which are about as fun as sitting in a police interrogation room, just to get their hands on tickets. Swifties had to fight off live jackals for the opportunity to see her live. The hard work is in just getting to the show. The rest should be easy.

Elvis never used to do encores, but they’ve long been standard practice at concerts, an accepted part of the implied contract between audience and performer. We’re gonna go backstage for a minute, goes the routine, and you’re gonna cheer while the lights flicker, and then we’ll be back out on stage to wrap, ever so conveniently, just before curfew hits and we start being charged for extra time. You’re not really getting anything extra, it’s all a part of the show.

Post-COVID, after we experienced having the live concert experience ripped away from us, is a good time to revisit the things we do and why we do them. And maybe the concert encore is one of those things we do away with. Yeah we get it, but can we not? Let’s get on with the show, as they say.

That’s not to say there isn’t room for a real encore, an actual encore, on those nights when the crowd and performer are so hot that no one’s ready to go home, not yet. When the final song of the night just isn’t enough, and fans refuse to let go, and they cheer through the house lights coming up and demand one more song, and the artist has to pull out a B-side or a cover or something they weren’t expecting to play. Those are true encores and those are special, and should be reserved for special nights. But the automatic encore, the built-in encore? We don’t need it.

Oddly, the encore seems to have jumped over to the movies, where post-credit sequences — which have become a standby of superhero films and mega-franchise fare — have fans sitting around in theaters through the credits, waiting for more. It’s arguable these can be done away with, too.

As the summer concert season revs up coast to coast, there are no doubt plenty of encores in store for audiences. But for those brave enough to buck tradition, we see you and we salute you for not making us play pretend. It’s an honor worthy of a standing ovation.