QUESTION OF THE WEEK: SHOULD BANDS PLAY THEIR ALBUMS LIVE IN THEIR ENTIRETY?
Welcome to “Question of the Week,” a (sometimes) weekly debate amongst the MetalSucks staff regarding a recent hot button issue.
Inspired by Phil Freeman’s assertion that the trend of bands playing albums live in their entirety needs to stop, this week we decided to ask our writers that very question:
Should bands play their albums live in their entirety?
Their answers after the jump.
Even if the current trend has gotten a bit out of hand, I think it’s still fun. Who doesn’t want to see a band’s classic album performed from start to finish, the way you used to listen to it? You could argue that this trend has grown trite, but I think this trend is going to keep itself in check because by its very nature, it can only be done once per band. If Metallica had done a …Justice tour after their Master of Puppets tour, and then they’d done a Black Album tour after that… well, I think the novelty would’ve worn off by then, regardless of what you think of those albums, and people would start demanding a regular set. And no band in their right mind would actually do this. So let’s enjoy it for what it is — a one-time special event — and then get back to the regular stuff.
I feel like it should bother me. Like most trends, it’s been so beaten into the ground that it doesn’t feel special anymore. I mean, in a sense, Slayer are doing what Vince just said bands shouldn’t do – maybe they didn’t do a Seasons tour immediately following their Reign tour, but this is now the second album they’ve done live from start to finish in four years. And Megadeth are playing the same album that they just played on their very last tour. There’s something about it that just seems kinda lazy. It doesn’t require any thought – “We just have to learn these X number of songs, and tell everyone we’re doing this, and they’ll all show up.” All of that being said, it really doesn’t bother me – the times I’ve seen this done, from Slayer’s Reign to Metallica’s Master to The Faceless’ Planetary Duality, I’ve had a blast. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t stoked to see Slayer do Seasons and Cynic do Focus (and Megadeth do Rust, since I skipped the last tour). So I guess, for me at least, emotion wins over intellect in this instance.
Like my comrade Axl Rosenberg, I was pumped when I first heard of Slayer playing Reign in Blood front to back in concert. One of the best, most solid metal albums of all time being replicated by a band still on the top of its game in a live setting was a win-win. Then, it just kept happening. Not that Slayer were the first band to play one of their albums all the way through, but since then, it’s just gotten more and more lame, a way to get fans to your shows by playing on their most nostalgic urges. And 1) as time goes on, it becomes more apparent that the whole thing is just a cynical and blatant cash grab and 2) especially in a genre like metal, where a big problem is bands being so technically savvy that they manage to simply recreate their songs onstage verbatim, what exactly is the difference most of the time between throwing the CD on at home and seeing the band play it live, aside from 4-5 fat, sweaty guys playing it at the front of the room? While there are still times when this shtick works in a band’s favor (I saw Mastodon play Crack the Skye in its entirety, and despite it being an album I thoroughly disliked, I actually found myself enjoying it in concert), I think, as a whole, it’s transparently gimmicky. Take the extra twenty minutes and make up an actual setlist.
No. I’m a firm believer in maximizing the specialness of the live medium, part of which is due to not knowing what the band’s going to play, hearing a special cover or rare track or new song that you can compare with the older stuff. Playing an entire album flattens the experience by taking away that random element. That said, I’m okay with the practice if it’s a legendary band that tours alot. Slayer basically plays the same “greatest hits” set every time they tour so I’m not going to complain if they do Reign in Blood start to finish; Cynic has gigged a lot in the last couple years, and even though I like Traced In Air more than Focus, very few of the Focus tracks get played on tour, so it’ll be a thrill to hear the entire album on their upcoming tour. But for a band without the clout of those to, skip the full-album treatment. Bands shouldn’t just try to re-create albums in a live setting — if anything, it should be the other way around.
In general, I would say that bands should not. I usually feel dissatisfied when bands load their setlists with music from only one album, even if said album is a masterpiece – I want to hear other stuff, too. I hear/see this to a lesser extent when bands load the setlists with material from a recent release. It doesn’t really make sense to do so, because the band will simply not be able to satisfy all of the fans, who will other want to hear other material (especially if the album was regarded as less-than-favorable by the general public). However, I do see the appeal of bands playing older, classic albums. Those are the kinds of albums from which material is rarely played, so fans enjoy hearing just one night of old songs. But really, most of the bands that do this announce it in advance. So it’s not really an issue, as those who like the album the band is playing can go and those who don’t can save money and not make a big deal about it.
Okay, kiddies, now it’s your turn! Weigh in with your answer to the question of the week below.