Encores have become a given at live shows. For the audience, even though we’ve learned to expect them at the end of a performance, it’s the suspense of what the song will be, what special guest might appear, and exactly how many times a band will reappear that keeps the tradition lively and intriguing.
But we’ve learned that in recent decades, to some artists and critics, the concept of an encore is polarizing. A quick search on Google about encores will show critics speculating, what’s the point anymore? To some bands, encores are a hackneyed cliché; Peter Hook of New Order, for example, has infamously denounced them. With the potential of being perceived as gloating, answering the burning question of will-they-or-won’t-they amongst the crowd and thus dissolving the mysterious rockstar facade, or simply succumbing to chants against their will, some artists refuse to give the crowd exactly what they want, and have sought creative ways to tell hopeful fans to go home. Though all we’ve ever wanted was to hear more of their songs, we trust that these artists have good reasons for not coming back onstage. Here’s a roundup of some of our favorite performers’ ways to tell a crowd that the show is really over.
The phrase, “Elvis has left the building,” inspired both a Frank Zappa song and a film of the same name. Often used as an idiom, few know its origins. In the 1950s, Presley had a contract to perform at the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, Louisiana, but his rising popularity beckoned him elsewhere, and after the 49th performance in the span of two years, he needed an out. After paying off the venue almost $10,000 for shows he would miss, Presley’s run at Shreveport culminated in a final 45-minute performance that left the crowd literally screaming for more. When the audience refused to quiet down and disperse, Louisiana Hayride founder Horace Lee Logan uttered what would become the classic phrase, “Elvis has left the building,” adding that Presley had gotten into his car and driven away. The phrase was used throughout Presley’s career to signify the end of a set.
Here’s a clip of The King being escorted to his car after a show:
Here’s an interesting one: English icon and Rock N Roll Hall of Fame inductee Declan Patrick MacManus, AKA Elvis Costello, liked to ensure 100% that crowds wouldn’t linger in anticipation for an encore after the show was finished. His solution? His manager would blast an unpleasant sound through the loudspeakers at the venue to clear out hangers-on.
Watch the video for “Radio, Radio” by Elvis Costello and the Attractions:
Beatles’ fans are among the most diehard. It’s a well-known fact that because of the chaotic crowds, the band quickly exited the stage after performances for their own safety. There’s only one instance in collective fan memory in which the band played an encore: in 1965 during their European tour, the brit-pop behemoths played two shows at the Palais des Sports in Paris, France. After the second show, Paul McCartney came back onstage after the set had ended to play “Long Tall Sally.”
Check out a clip from the famed evening performance:
We want to think of our heroes as flawless and ever-passionate about their craft, but sometimes we must consider that this is their job and jobs can be tiring. In the exposé-style book Live at the Fillmore East and West: Getting Backstage and Personal with Rock’s Greatest Legends, author John Glatt talks about a memorable performance by The Who at The Metropolitan Opera House in New York City in 1970. The band was scheduled to play their album and rock opera Tommy for the last time. After the performances the crowd lingered for 15 minutes demanding an encore. When show promoter and Fillmore founder Bill Graham knocked on Pete Townshend’s door to get the band to come back to the stage, Townsend demanded Graham tell the audience that the show was over and to go home. When Graham refused, Townshend took on the task himself. “I threw my mike stand in the pit and walked off,” Townshend says in his autobiography.
At the time, Townshend was resentful about a misunderstanding at The Fillmore East in 1969 that led to his arrest. In his biography he noted that Graham later redeemed himself when he gifted the band with three klieg lights at the Berkley Community Center, after a show he’d arranged to patch things up with the band.
See a clip from the Who’s performance at the Met here:
The ‘90s alt-folk darling who’s advanced beyond her hey-day as an accomplished and evolving musician, Fiona Apple keeps her performances short and sweet. Known for being a shy and extremely private person (she’s even performed from under her piano), Apple has had a contentious relationship with the media in the past, and at times with her audience. Apple and her band rarely play encores, something she now announces from the start, so as to lessen the tension.
Here’s Fiona Apple performing “Not About Love” live:
The boundary-pushing, witch-house electro queen is known, among many things, for her transparency when performing live. Famously she’s said that returning to the stage after an applause is, “awkward,” and she carries this mentality throughout every show. Often Grimes’ “encores” are additional songs played without much time after the last song on the setlist to alleviate the burden of the audience to ask for more.
See a clip of Grimes performing “Kill V. Maim” from her latest album Art Angels in Berlin: