Gigs: Please, please, please let us get what we want

It's fine for bands to showcase new material at gigs, says Elisa Bray, but fans want to hear their old favourites, too

At his Hop Farm show last weekend, Bob Dylan played lots of the old favourites, but he as good as ignored his audience. There are several ways bands can please their audience. There is the inviting of a special guest (the highlight of Scissor Sisters' Glastonbury set was when Kylie joined them, and a winning trick of London folk act Mumford & Sons is to bring on Laura Marling); they can take song requests from the crowd; or, most simply, they can play the hits.

But sometimes bands just don't want to pander to the crowds. When MGMT made their much-anticipated return with a new album earlier this year, they did not play "Kids", the catchy synth-pop hit for which they are best known. They played their new and unknown 12-minute psychedelic "Siberian Breaks" instead. When the gig was over, fans chanted for "Kids" in hopeful expectancy. But no encore meant a few disgruntled fans.

Why shouldn't the Brooklyn duo refuse to play "Kids"? It was their show, and they were there to promote their new album. However, when you have only three singles to your name and have only risen to fame in the past few years – and those very fans who helped you to that position are there in the crowd, having paid for a ticket to hear their favourite songs – if you don't submit to an element of crowd-pleasing, you run the risk of coming across as a bit arrogant. Now that touring is the main source of income for most bands, it makes perfect business sense to satisfy as many fans as possible. So fine, don't play the hits – but be prepared to alienate fans.

It is implicit that new output, usually the reason for a tour, will be prominently featured, but in the case of the more established acts, it depends on the ego of the performer whether they recognise their best days are behind them and play more of the old favourites. Tangerine Dream played a show at the Albert Hall in April. Once feted for their pioneering use of early digital technology, they played their new album alongside a meagre number of tracks from their 1974 breakthrough album, Phaedra. But they were also criticised for over-adapting the songs to the live performance.

Nobody wants to feel as though they could have just played the album at home after witnessing a clinical, exact recreation of a band's songs. Sometimes a band's live adaptation of their music works exceptionally well, as in the case of Bon Iver, who beef up their arrangements, transforming intimate songs into full-sounding, festival-friendly sing-alongs. It's somewhat harder for indie-dance acts. Four Tet either plays everything straight or changes his songs sometimes to the point that the sound is so skewed that they are almost unrecognisable. Animal Collective tend to play their tracks like a non-stop DJ set – but their constant looping can sometimes lose all thread of the original melody.

The set list is a balancing act that some bands do very well. Radiohead have been championed for their recent greatest-hits sets, with the essential few obscurities thrown in for good balance. Still, whenever they play "Creep" it is a massive surprise. This is the song they once famously dropped altogether because fans were turning up just to hear that song. To bring it back into the set after its absence makes it more special.

There are all kinds of reasons why bands omit crowd favourites. The emotions tied to a track, perhaps. Laura Marling refuses to play "New Romantic", the song that broke her, because she considers the lyrics to be too immature.

Of course, it gets boring when bands stick to the same formula. Elbow's finale became one of the defining moments of Glastonbury 2008. Their final song, "One Day Like This", and its mass sing-along, fast became a staple encore to every gig. But music isn't Hollywood. Nobody wants a safe and predictable ending. And when MGMT played "Kids" at their Glastonbury show this year, it was that much more exciting.

Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific