Bringing encore back!

DelcoTimes – Rock Music Menu
By Michael Christopher

By this time Saturday, we’ll be one day closer to everyone ceasing to quote such an inane concept meant to shift CD units. It’s time to move on to someone trying to bring something much more pertinent and needed back to the musical landscape: the encore.

In recent years, let’s say the past decade or so, the concert encore has become the most predictable and least rock and roll part of a concert. OK, so it’s 10:45, the venue curfew is 11:00, your favorite band left the stage five minutes ago, and they still haven’t played the hit song. What do you think is going to happen next? The band is going to come back out from the backstage area, the audience will cheer, and the track everyone came for gets played. Cue house lights, pump house music through the speakers, go home.

The problem is, the encore has become too expected and therefore too bland. It’s gotten to the point where a band leaves the stage, and the audience mills about with hands in its pockets until the final songs of the night are played. The days of yore when a crowd would stomp its feet and scream itself hoarse until the rock group du jour returned to bask in the lights one last time has long since passed.

That is, unless you’re a Twilight Singers fan. Led by the sometimes petulant but always fair Greg Dulli, the band swings through town Monday night to play the TLA for a second time this year in support of the sensational “Powder Burns” CD and just released “Stitch In Time” EP. Along for the ride to lend vocal support is fellow indie-rock legend Mark Lanegan, formerly of The Screaming Trees, and now for all intents and purposes a full-fledged Twilight Singer, with his presence all over the band’s recent forays into the depths of depravity.

This combination alone should have any fan of music excited as Saddam Hussein on a planet full of people who can’t tie knots. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case last Friday at the Southgate House in Newport, Kentucky, which is just across the river from Dulli’s hometown of Cincinnati where he made his mark launching critical favorites The Afghan Whigs some 20 years prior. What was expected to be a raucous event nearly ended on a quiet note, as the band went off-stage to recharge for what they were hoping was a spirited encore.

“The exceptionally vocal and excited crowd suddenly became nonchalant and apathetic during the encore break,” wrote bassist Scott Ford in a blog posting after the show. “Honestly, we were surprised as we waited backstage taking the well-deserved five minute break that we rely upon before coming back out and tearing it up. We figured that the crowd was done, so we went back to the bus. Show over – done deal.”

Not quite. It what has quickly become the stuff of legend where many more people claimed to have witnessed what came next greatly outnumbers the amount of people who could actually fit into the venue, a sudden change came over those left in attendance. With the houselights flickering and the band’s equipment unplugged, wrapped up and almost effectively packed to go, something sparked and a fire grew inside that erupted into an old school cry to get off the bus and shake it up one last time.

The Twilight Singers obliged, and performed a few songs stripped down and on a whim with the remaining functional instruments.

The demand for audience participation is nothing new for Dulli, he spent the final few tours of the now defunct Whigs declaring towards the end of the set, “The band is like a car, and you guys are like the gas. You fill us up and we’ll drive all night long.”

It’s time to wake up and recognize people; Greg Dulli is bringing the encore back – but you gotta work for it.

Philadelphia has been home to some pretty hot shows by both of his bands over time, and Monday night should be no different. But having come to the conclusion that if the crowd was out of it, they weren’t into it more than once on this tour (Chicago was another casualty), don’t be surprised if you come into the gig with a slacker mentality, you’ll be able to enjoy the PBR special somewhere on South Street that much sooner.

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