It depends! For any artist, they need to have popular tunes to sell records. But sometimes, overplaying the hits can be a bit much at times. It is necessary, though; at a Bon Jovi concert, for example, the crowd would be upset if they don’t play “Bad Medicine,” “Wanted Dead Or Alive,” or “Livin’ On A Prayer.”
“I have no problem playing the hits on stage,” said Joe Elliott of Def Leppard during an interview with Brian Johnson on Brian Johnson’s A Life on the Road (2019).
When you go to see your favorite band, people want to see their favorite artists play the songs they grew up with and saw them perform on MTV, etc. In Joe Elliott’s case, Def Leppard wouldn’t get out alive unless they played songs from the Hysteria album. In AC/DC’s case, there’d be a riot if they don’t play anything off of the Back In Black album.
“I’ve always said, and I’ll say it a million more times before I die, no doubt, if you can’t handle the responsibility of writing a hit, don’t write it,” said Elliott.
But what about the fans who go to every Def Leppard and AC/DC show? They’ve probably heard the same songs from the same albums at every gig. Depending on how much you love the band, sometimes the hits are not enough. Some people want to hear the hits, some people want to hear songs the band hasn’t performed in years, some want to hear songs from their latest album, and some want a combination of all the above.
I love the hits, but it’d be nice to hear variety at the shows once in a while. I’ve watched four Def Leppard concerts that took place within 2013-2019, and they all feature the same six songs: “Hysteria,” “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak,” “Switch 625,” “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” “Rock of Ages,” and “Photograph.”
I’m not trying to throw hate at these artists; I’m just saying it’d be nice to hear some of them perform the deep cuts at their concerts. AC/DC took that approach on their Rock or Bust tour, where they added hidden gems to their setlist such as some songs from their Powerage album, and “Giving the Dog a Bone,” from Back in Black.
Am I overreacting? Possibly because Joe Elliott does have a point; what’s the use of making hits if you don’t perform them live? Also, it may be a different story for current artists vs. older acts.
In an article titled, “How Many Songs Off New Albums Should Bands Play?“, by David Sackllah, he described the process of deciding how many new songs to play based on five factors: when the new album came out, how popular it is, how many albums they have, how often they tour, and the size of the venue/type of tour it is. Artists that only have 2-3 albums could manage with playing newer songs, but not artists like Def Leppard or AC/DC.
In the end, it depends on who’s coming to see the artist, how much time they have to perform, and what type of tour it is. Whether or not artists should play their hits, there’s no right or wrong answer.
Let me know your thoughts on this down in the comments below!
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