Stephen Thompson (of NPR Music and the AV Club) runs this column on NPR called The Good Listener. In the column, he answers questions that people send in, ranging from How do I name my band? to How do I learn to love country music?
So I recently sent in a question about set lengths for live shows. And Stephen answered! My email was a little long, so they shortened it on the blog site (and made some edits, what’s the deal guys?). Here’s what I originally asked:
I’ve got a two-parter question for Stephen Thompson’s The Good Listener column. 1. How long do you think a set should be for a headlining band on tour? 2. Should a band always play their “hits” at a live show?
I go to a decent amount of shows, and lately have been surprised by the shortness of sets. This week I saw Franz Ferdinand, and they were awesome. Their set started around 9 and was over by 10:30. I know it takes a lot of energy to rock out, but it surprised me that they were done so early. They also didn’t play “Right Action”. I wasn’t too bugged by that because I like other tracks more (which they played), but did think it was strange for a band to skip their current single.
Recently I won tickets to see Ani DiFranco. She also put on a great show, but played an even shorter set, maybe an hour and fifteen minutes. Since I got my tickets for free, I couldn’t be too upset about the length. But, I did think if I’d paid $30 plus Ticketmaster fees and was a long-standing fan, I might have been a little ticked she didn’t play longer. Especially since she has such a huge discography to work with.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how long a band should play, but is there a magic set length? Should you get a longer set if the show is more expensive? I’ll keep going to live shows, and will always pay to see a band I really like, but I hope shorter sets don’t become commonplace.
Stephen pretty much said, “It depends.” I knew I was asking a question that likely wouldn’t receive a definitive answer, but it’s nice to hear perspective from someone who’s been writing about music for awhile. And I was mostly just excited to get a response. Here’s the link to the post.
The thing about the two shows I listed in my email is, I actually won both those tickets. I’m really not complaining about the length of either because I’m not a crazy big-time fan of FF or Ani, but was more just surprised by what seemed to be a trend in shorter sets. I wrote about Ani’s show a few weeks ago.
So what do you guys think? Have you dropped a lot of money for a show and been disappointed with the length and/or song selection? Can a concert be too long or too short? (I say yes to both.) Do you have an ideal length?