You've just spent over an hour singing, swaying and screaming at the top of your lungs as you watch your favourite singer/band rock it out. Suddenly, and all too soon, it's the last song, and you give all you've got left in you for this closing crowd-pleaser that brings the house down. The song ends with a “Goodnight New York/LA/Omaha/insert city name. Thank you for being such a great audience!” The singer exits the stage, the lights go down, and that's when the shrieking really starts. Why the sudden commotion? Is everyone present in the audience afraid of the dark?
Nope. You have just found yourself at that hallowed part of the show they call the Encore.
Musicians measure success by record-breaking sales, albums going platinum, Twitter followers and Facebook likes, and concerts selling out in under 30 seconds (ahem, Bieber). I don’t think it’s offensive to say that a common characteristic of most musical artists is a healthy dash of egotism. But all those measures of success I mentioned? They are all markers of popularity that occur completely removed from the artists themselves. You can’t really soak up adulation from a blog post, magazine blurb or radio interview.
The Encore is different. In the few moments before the artist re-emerges, the audience becomes desperate. Pleading, “If we haven’t been an enthusiastic enough audience, we promise we’ll be better if you just please play a few more songs. And also, haven’t you not yet played your current biggest hit? This can’t yet be over, right? Right?????”
There has literally never been a concert in history that has not had an encore. Ok, that is hyperbole, but it also has to be kind of true. The ego of the stereotypical music artist needs The Encore too badly.
Every time I have participated in encore-shrieking, I think to myself, “Here we go again.” You learn as you grow older that in purchasing a ticket to a concert, you are giving unwritten consent to play your part in this grand masquerade. You agree that when the artist has left the stage, followed by their band, and the lights have gone down, you will beg, borrow, and plead to do anything to get them back for just One More Song.
In return, the artist will leave you in a few moments of deliciously tantalizing suspense where you begin to question if, maybe, the show is actually over. This one’s easy: you can judge by the houselights. Once the lights have come back on, there will be no more music-making that night. There has never been an encore to the encore in history once the lights have gone up (again, hyperbole, but, again, also true).
So you cheer, you yell, you suddenly start to spiral into desperation that you are that much closer to having to go back to stupid real life where no one is singing the song in your heart because no one cares or understands you quite like your favourite musician. And then, just as quickly, all is forgotten when the band returns to the stage, the music starts up again, and you've been granted a momentary reprieve.
Honestly, I suspect that the encore is partly invented as an excuse for a much-needed bathroom break. If you'd been jumping around for over an hour, and drinking water/beer/hard liquor of choice, don't you think you'd have to pee as well?