Fan Fare

Entertainment behind the scenes

Play it again, Sam?

August 25, 2009

We’ve all been there — sitting at a rock/folk/country concert, politely waiting for the band to get through its new songs and start belting out the reasons we came in the first place. But if we do that, do the performers then have a responsibilty to deliver the oldies? And in a form we want to hear?

A couple of recent performances have underlined the issue. As Fan Fare noted recently, Yusuf, the former Cat Stevens, left some fans disappointed at the recent festival in Cropredy. He delivered a fine bob1set, but primarily stuck to new songs and some obscure old ones. He was unprepared to give the crowd the big hits it was hoping, indeed asking for.

Meanwhile, a review in R2 (the former Rock’n'Reel) magazine of Bob Dylan’s gig at the O2 Arena in London was scathing. Critic Rychard Carrington wrote:

“The set included many classics from the 60s … but all in radically revised versions. On paper this sounds interesting, but in practise I felt half-cheated — I was excited that he was playing an old favourite, but frustrated that what I was actually hearing felt like a different song.”

Carrington also reckoned the great man was rude, not saying anything to the audience apart from introducing the band members and mainly playing towards the band.

“Doubtless some will see enigmatic integrity in the lack of communication, deep signficance in the revisons of old numbers, but for the less-devoted fans the concert succeeded only in the narrowest of musical terms.”

It is easy to understand why a musician might get sick of banging out the same songs for year on end. Fans, after all, change the CD when they get bored. But for the most part the hit songs are why the artist is there in the first place. As singer-songwriter Don McLean said of his mega-hit:

“I have  always sung ‘American Pie’ for my audience and would never think of disappointing them since it is they who have given me a wonderful life and untold affection for almost 30 years.”

So should fans be upset when they do not get the big hits?  Or should they defer to the artists sensibilities and vision?

(Reuters photo: Lee Celano)


30 years ago I was dissapointed at an Aerosmith concert when they didn’t play their biggest hit “Walk This Way”. I never bought another Aerosmith recording not went to another concert. Do they care? No. They went on to huge success, so did Dylan. Oh well.

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