Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Stop! Oh, you guys are too kind!

"I hope I'm not being too forward, but do you mind if I chew on your butt?" Weird Al croons to a clearly enthused spectator.

The Grammy-winning musical satirist appeared at the Ozark Empire Fair in Springfield, Mo. on Monday night to entertain a few thousand audience members in the sticky evening heat.

I attended this event with my brother-in-law, an avid Weird Al fan, and was pleasantly surprised by the performer's energy and wit as he performed nearly nonstop for two and a half hours. When I was younger, a couple of Weird Al CDs had circulated through the players of my household--the ones featuring sweet tracks like "Dare To Be Stupid," "Fat," and "Eat It." In recent times I've lost touch with Al's exploits, so the blast from the past was pretty entertaining.

Further research also reveals that Weird Al has directed music videos for various artists including Ben Folds and, most surprisingly, Hanson. Maybe they were wooed by the hair.

Attending this concert got me thinking about about the "weird" tradition of the encore. According to Wikipedia, "the encore is an additional extra performance of a musical piece at the end of the regular concert, which is not listed in the event setlist. In most circumstances it has become quite standard for most rock and pop groups or artists to give an encore performance, especially in large setting such as stadium performances."

While I love the idea of the encore, I do wonder about the impact of the practice becoming so standard. At one point in time, it apparently used to be a novelty--a special occurrence, called for after a sensational performance. Additionally, at its heart, the encore is a way for the performer to thank an especially appreciative audience. Now, it's almost expected (by both the performers and the audience), and I think that it's possible that some of its original uniqueness has been lost. 

(One popular performer who was known for his consistent refusal to perform an encore was Elvis. The immortalized tag line "Elvis has left the building" was originally conceived as a way to inform the audience that the star would not be returning to the stage.)

In order to combat the expectedness of the encore, audiences will sometimes applaud for a really extended period of time, at which point the artist might return for an impromptu encore. I think this is more at the heart of the matter, but it's interesting that the original idea of the encore has basically been incorporated into the standard performance.

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