Encores can often be the highlight of the show — that moment where something special in the works might make an appearance like a guest (re last week’s post) or your favorite song was saved for last. Other times, the encore can lead to the longest…shows…ever. We know long distance marathoners like Bruce Springsteen lead the way on that front, but who else has gone past curfew, maybe overstayed their welcome or just jammed for what felt like forever, gracing fans with the best gig of their lives. Here are eight of some of the longest shows ever, all thanks to the encore.
1. Bruce Springsteen – July 10, 1988, Sheffield, England
Ok so we mentioned Bruce already, but it’d be hard not to start him at number one on the list. For a handful of occasions, Springsteen has played an eleven song encore broken down into two parts, most notably for his 1988 show in Sheffield where it started with an acoustic version of “Born to Run” and ended with the classic “Twist and Shout.”
2. Muse – July 27, 2013, Helsinki, Finland
Apparently the longest Muse show ever was at Olympiastadion, Helsinki on July 27 of 2013. It’s no secret that these dudes have stamina, but they played not one, not two but three encores. With 28 songs in total, the show felt like a supermassive black hole…sorry we had to.
3. Radiohead – June 17, 2006, Manchester, TN
Radiohead may not be the most social band around, but they are generous with their time. They’re probably rarely going to play “Creep” again, but they will pull out all the stops for their encores. The longest Radiohead show was at the Great Stage Park in Tennessee for Bonnaroo in 2006. The entire show lasted two hours and twenty minutes, with the set ending with Kid A’s “Everything in its Right Place.”
4. The Cure – April 21, 2013, Mexico City, Mexico
In 2013 The Cure played an insane four hour fifty song set in Mexico City. Celebrating his birthday, Robert Smith carried on with the show even after a 5.9 magnitude earthquake had struck the Foro Sol Stadium. The main set was twenty five songs, with the following four encores making up another twenty five that included rare solo performances Smith did of “Three Imaginary Boys” and “Fire in Cairo.”
5. Neil Young – February 19, 1991, Hartford, CT
In 1991, Neil Young embarked on his Ragged Glory tour with some unlikely supporting acts: Social Distortion and Sonic Youth. With the influence of these alternative openers, Young decided to end most songs with an explosion of feedback and noise. One particular show in Hartford, CT ended with a version of “Welfare Mothers” featuring once such experimental coda that lasted for what felt like days. Later in 1991, at the suggestion of Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, Young released Arc, a 35 minute live album of feedback, guitar noise and vocal fragments from various shows.
6. Pixies – October 13, 2010, Santiago, Chile
For their first ever headlining show in Chile on October 13, 2010, the Pixies played 33 songs as a tribute to the 33 miners who had been trapped underground for two months. Frontman Black Francis said, “We were so moved by this story, we played a special set, 33 songs for the 33 miners, the longest set we’ve ever played as a band. We found out five minutes before we went on stage that all of the miners had safely reached the surface. This was definitely one of the most meaningful shows we’ve ever played.” For their three song encore they played “Tony’s Theme,” “Rock Music,” and “Debaser.”
7. Grateful Dead – December 31, 1978, San Francisco, CA
One of the most famous of long sets and the longest set on this list is the Grateful Dead’s 1978 show in Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco. Actually it would be wrong to say it was only in 1978, being that it went into the early hours of January 1st, 1979. The set lasted six hours and included 36 songs. The concert was later released as a live album The Closing of Winterland. The album was an homage to the venue’s closing, with the band’s show being its last. The gig included two encores, ending with the fittingly “And We Bid You Goodnight.”
8. Javier Camarena – April 25, 2014, New York, NY
We’re going to end the list by steering away from rock and looking to the origins of the encore: opera. In the early 20th century, programs at the Metropolitan Opera read “Positively no encores allowed.” In more than 50 years at the Met, only three singers have sung encores, most recently in 2014, when Mexican tenor Javier Camarena came back onstage after a long and never-ending ovation. On top of that, Camarena was a stand-in for Juan Diego Florez, in Rossini’s “La Cenerentola.” For his encore, Camarena chose to repeat his bravura aria “Si, ritrovarla io giuro.”