Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Boss and Encores

Yesterday was Bruce Springsteen's 60th birthday. Let's play with a question I thought about for my contribution to Bruce Springsteen and Philosophy.

Bruce is famous for leaving it all onstage. His shows don't end when the shows end. Anyone who has ever been to see the E Street Band knows that the encore is not just one hit held back to throw out before hitting the bus, that for Bruuuuuuce, the encore is virtually another set.

But what is an encore? Joni Mitchell, for example, is well-known to not play encores if she thinks the crowd was not sufficiently accepting of the show, if they weren't quiet enough at the quiet times or rowdy enough at the rowdy times. If you bought a ticket to her show, do you have grounds to be angry for not having gotten your encore?

On that view, the encore is like a tip the band gives to a hard working waitress. Is that what it is, a thank you from the band that is gratuitous, that is not expected, but appreciated (don't open the tip conversation back up please...) Is it a standard part of the rock show format which fans have a right to demand, a ritual that is not what it may seem at first glance? If so, how much of an encore do fans have the right to expect?

Happy birthday, Bruce.