PUP performs during the 2019 Polaris Music Prize in Toronto on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Encore no more? Musicians debate if forced concert callbacks are out of style

Punk rockers Pup have banned the encore from their setlists

Punk rockers Pup insist there’s a time and place for concert encores — but it’s not usually at one of their shows.

Shortly before the start of their 2019 tour, the Toronto band made a pact to stop playing into one of live music’s biggest charades. They banned the encore from their setlists and didn’t look back.

“An encore’s supposed to be when something really special happens,” said Pup’s lead singer Stefan Babcock.

“You go above and beyond, because people need to hear another song.”

Babcock can’t stand the farcical nature of process, how at some point, what used to be an impromptu stage call turned into a faux finale starring both the performers and the audience.

If you’ve been to a concert, you know the drill: the band leaves the stage, everyone cheers, while the auditorium sits in the dark as the applause continues. The crowd waits, and waits…and waits.

Once they’ve milked the applause, the performers return to the stage to knock out a few more tracks. One of them is usually their biggest hit, which they conspicuously didn’t play during the set all but certain they’d need it for the big finish.

The tradition is so deeply ingrained in the DNA of a modern concert that Pup felt it was necessary to explain why they didn’t want to participate, in hopes it would extinguish any false theatrics or potential disappointment from their fans.

“We don’t need our egos to be stroked,” Babcock said in reflection. “People clap after we play songs; that’s good enough.”

The banality of encores has long been a frustration for some musicians, but in recent years a growing number of notable acts have taken a stand against performing them at all.

Grimes, the electro-pop artist from Vancouver, has told audiences she doesn’t like the pause between her main set and the inevitable return to the stage, so she’s simply eliminated it in favour of a longer performance.

Alessia Cara nixed encores from her latest The Pains of Growing Tour because she “always felt weird” about dropping the contrived expectations onto fans.

“I like ending where the show’s supposed to end,” said the Grammy-winning pop singer.

“They know it’s done and we know it’s done, rather than an: ‘Ah, tricked you.’ We all know that it’s going to happen… so it’s kind of like what are we really doing this for?”

Saving the biggest songs for last can also unexpectedly backfire, like it did for the Jonas Brothers at their Toronto show last August. The trio ran into what they later called an “unforeseen technical difficulty” that caused them to leave the stage and not return for an encore, which would’ve featured their hits ”Sucker” and “Burnin’ Up.”

Some concertgoers responded angrily on social media, while others posted videos of fans singing their own encore.

Arkells frontman Max Kerman believes there’s a degree of awareness that performers must have to pull off a successful encore. If the crowd isn’t feeling the show, he said, it’s better to just sign off and turn up the lights.

“You should know before the end of the set if you’re going to have an encore,” said the Hamilton singer, who sometimes dons a shiny gold jacket with “ENCORE” written across the back in sequins.

“Sometimes we’ve got to the end and I’ll say to the guys: ‘We’re wrapping this up, no encore.’ And then I’ll say to our sound guy ‘Dave, this is for real, the last one,’ so he knows to hit that P.A. music.”

But artists aren’t always so lucky to have full control of their shows. Some event promoters will build into their contracts that each musician plays a certain period of time, followed by an encore.

“That’s when it feels artificial,” said country singer Tim Hicks. “The encore should not be an automatic thing. The encore is for a crowd that gives as much as you give as a performer.”

Tom Cochrane, a grizzled veteran who’s played his hits “Life is a Highway” and “Big League” on the Canadian tour circuit for decades, considers the encore “a necessary component” of the concert experience.

It’s “the ultimate tribute,” he said.

“An encore is a big part of what we are. The curtain call is an important thing. It’s always been an important thing in theatre and important in music… I love doing the encore.”

David Friend, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIA Rail lays off 1,000 unionized workers across the country

Northern B.C. route Jasper to Prince George to Prince Rupert is not affected by VIA Rail layoffs

Sunflower Highway, art initiative to connect Fraser Valley, Thompson-Nicola and Okanagan

Sunflowers made out of reclaimed materials will be installed on public art trails

Residents warned to stay away from flooded Cache Creek park

Water might look shallow, but is several feet deep in places

Ashcroft receives grants to get new hot tub and lift station

‘The hot tub is a major benefit for many residents’

Cache Creek gets funding for improvements on Old Cariboo Road

Work will help to mitigate damage from water and debris flows during flooding

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

VIDEO: Vancouver Island cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

COVID-19 cases identified in Kelowna, after public gatherings

Those who were downtown or at the waterfront from June 25 to July 6 maybe have been exposed to COVID-19.

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

National Kitten Day aka the ‘purrfect’ day to foster a new friend

July 10 marks National Kitten Day, a special day to celebrate all things kittens

Lower Mainland YouTubers claim to be Kelowna display toilet ‘poopers’

RCMP can not speak to legitimacy of video, will be investigating

Haida matriarchs occupy ancient villages as fishing lodges reopen to visitors

‘Daughters of the rivers’ say occupation follows two fishing lodges reopening without Haida consent

Most Read