Encore Encore

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 27th September 2011.

I was fortunate enough this weekend to catch the sold out Tom Burlinson show, Now We’re Swingin’ at the Civic Theatre. Accompanied by a tight eight piece band, Burlinson was in fine voice and proved why he was chosen to provide the voice of Frank Sinatra for the Australian film The Night We Called It a Day.

After two acts of smooth swing standards, Burlinson took his final bow to a rapturous audience, walked off the stage and then immediately returned for an encore. Although well deserved, it was a little disappointing to not get the opportunity to clap, roar and make some noise to at least feel as if we demanded the encore.

Traditionally, the encore was an unplanned event. In olden times, the appreciative audience at an opera, Shakespearean play or hanging would holler and scream until the performer returned to give them some more.

Nowadays, modern audiences expect an encore and it is most certainly planned as part of the set list. Have you ever wondered if it is really possible that your favourite artist has forgotten to play their most popular song, said goodnight and wandered off to their tour bus for an early night in? And then the concert venue staff have neglected to turn the house lights back on?

I’m pretty sure that an encore is part of the contract for most rock and pop live performances. If it is inevitable, why bother with the charade?

I once left a school dance early to check out 90’s indie rockers Ratcat at Patrick’s Nightclub in Pennant Hills. I was already eighteen by this time, but none of my friends were, so when my mate Clive was turned away at the door by security, I ventured in to the club on my own. Towards the end of the set, lead singer, Simon Day, announced that they were obliged to do an encore but, with the audience’s permission, would just play a few extra songs. Nobody objected.

Apparently Elvis never played encores. The cliché, “Elvis has left the building” was the announcement made in concert halls to let audiences know that The King was not coming back. I guess that extra song or two would be a waste of good eating time, especially when fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches are involved.

The not-so-spontaneous encore is not limited to pop and rock acts. During the most recent Australian tour of The Boy From Oz, Todd McKenney would emerge following the curtain call in his dressing gown and not much else to sing a Peter Allen tune as himself, not Peter Allen. With a mostly grey haired demographic in the audience, it obviously went down extremely well. There wasn’t a dry seat in the house.

The modern encore is an outdated performance tool which has grown stale. I guess that says a lot about live music nowadays. With mega light and sound shows controlled via computers, there is not much room for spontaneity. Would you like to read more? Too bad, I’ve left the building.

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