Should Bands Play What We Want to Hear?

Then there are your Bob Dylans, who just don't give a shit. If you go see Dylan, he knows you want to hear Blonde on Blonde, but he's going to give you Together Through Life and Planet Waves. But once you've reached Bob Dylan's status, nobody is going to really call you out on what you're playing. They'll just be happy to see a living legend in the flesh.

Given that that's not the case for today's pop stars or next-to-one-hit-wonders, the case can be made that some bands should play what we want to hear, and others have earned the right to do whatever they want. Is Brand New one of those bands who has earned it?

Considering their rabid fan base, regardless of their own reactions recently, they are probably a band who can play any record and still not be cheating their fan base out of the Brand New experience.

It all really comes down to your status with your audience. If they have the right amount of adoration for a band, then all can be forgiven. I'd be happy just to see Prince, regardless of whether he plays a three-hour-long set-list of deep cuts in completely new arrangements like he typically does. However, last month on Rocks Off, we detailed a similar such routine when Third Eye Blind tested their audience's patience with deep cuts, which went over like a lead zeppelin.

Ultimately, it would probably be most accurate to say bands should play what they can get away with. Know where your bread is buttered, be in tune enough with your audience to understand how much they can take, and act accordingly. It's a give and take, like any relationship, and it's just as unfair to rob the fans of a good time as it is to rob yourself of being able to play what you feel like.


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John Lennon said that bands should play their recorded hits.  No screwing around.  End of discussion. 

MadMac topcommenter

Everything Mr. Bell said. And, fans need to know the act/show before plinking down the money. Clapton did an accoustic set in NYC.  He only played traditional blues. He charged a grip for this show and fans where outraged that when he refused to plug and further ignored pleas for "Layla." A quick once over the program--or even the promo poster would've told them all they needed to know.

I LOVE Rush. Until about "Roll the Bones." Then I sorta like them but not enough to buy a ticket. Until the Time Machine tour and the 2112--in it's entirety tour.


IMO this issue is made worse by skyrocketing ticket prices.  There was always a bit of an agreement at a fugazi show: you get in for next to nothing, they get to play whatever they want.  No 'Waiting Room?'  It only cost you $6.  You'll never hear much of anything other than total reverence when folks talk about their live show, but you'll likely hear that they didn't play some song or other.  That's how it was, and everyone understood. 

Maybe the new McCartney record IS awesome like Rolling Stone says.  But for $350, folks aren't gonna be in a mood to hear any of it played live - they demand 25 minutes of 'Hey Jude,' thankyouverymuch.  For artists of that level, I think Springsteen does it best; tickets hover around $100, he does general admission sections for front row Joes looking for a more intimate experience, he might not play 'Thunder Road,' or he might play Born to Run front-to-back just because he can.  

If you want to be a 'change it up every night' band (and you should), it helps to be a 'tours so often it doesn't matter' band too.  Before each show, Wilco actually reviews the setlist from the last time they played there to make sure each town gets something different from tour to tour.  That's the kind of consideration bands should be thinking about, rather than finding a magical balance of hits.

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