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

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

“He’ll be bowling for dollars — $30,000 to be exact. Matt Hancock, 15-years-old of Lake Cowichan won in the Coca-Cola B.C. championship finals and will now bowl in the international championship with a chance to win a $30,000 scholarship. Hancock will go to the international competition in Columbus July 10. He is coached by Karen Smith of Cowichan Lake and plays on the T.G.S. bowling team.” (Lake News/May 8, 1996)
Flashback: Taxes, school district amalgamation, logging licences and student news

A look back through the pages of Lake Cowichan’s history

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: Give me a brake!

It was clear that none of these drivers had done a pre-trip inspection

Robert’s column
Robert Barron column: Cameras on school buses a good idea

“I’ve seen kids have to run from cars”

Trying out a corn variety called “Midnight Snack, grown near Cache Creek, as well as my saved Bantam/Sunnyvee Cross (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Early sowing gets a jump on corn season

‘I’m planting three batches of corn, two weeks apart for a steady supply’

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Most Read