Regarding BTBAM and Why More Bands Don’t Play Their Old Songs Live


btbam 2013The reason that well-known bands don’t play their earliest, most obscure material live is very simple: because it’s their earliest, most obscure material.

IMNs get extremely angry about this, despite the fact that it makes perfect sense.

Look, I get it. When I go to see In Flames live I’d love it if they played more songs from The Jester Race, Whoracle, Colony and Clayman. But the crowd reaction to songs from those albums is weak compared to the way fans go bananas for that one song from the album with the vagina on the cover. So the band plays a few token “hits” from the older albums to satisfy the die-hards and gets on with it.

But BTBAM fans don’t seem to understand this. So when guitarist Paul Waggoner explained as much in a recent interview with Heavy Blog is Heavy, the metalsphere collectively lost it’s shit (emphasis mine):

Yeah, [we’re not playing anything] pre-Colors. We’re doing a couple of songs off of Colors, I guess one off of Great Misdirect, and a couple of new ones as well.  2007-era BTBAM is the oldest we go but we’re trying to mix it up.

You will probably never hear anything off of the self-titled, unless something weird happens, you’ll probably never hear that old stuff (live).

Yeah it has a special place in my heart as well but the reality is that most of our fans came on board with Colors or maybe Alaska so we have to cater to that, unfortunately.  We would like to play some old stuff but the fact of the matter is that most people have never heard it, don’t care, and don’t know what it is.

Paul, of course, is 100% correct. But his comment caused such a shitstorm that the band took to their official Facebook page to elaborate:

To clear up any recent news posts…

We are an active band and we continue to write new music. As this happens, older material begins to become less relevant to what we are currently doing. If you’ve seen us multiple times over the last 4 or 5 years, you’ve probably noticed that we only play two or three pre-Colors songs. Those few songs are fan favorites and I’m sure we will still bust them out from time to time. Unfortunately, when we add some of the more obscure older songs to our set, they either detract from the flow of the show, or just generally go over like a wet fart at a funeral. So to sum it up and get crazy specific, you will still likely hear Mordecai or Selkies on occasion. Maybe even a couple others. But if you want us to play Naked By the Computer or Destructo Spin, you may have to wait until our reunion tour.

Perfectly reasonable explanation!

If we’re being honest with ourselves, seeing bands play their old material feels kind of disingenuous anyway. The band has moved on, their music has evolved, their style has changed. Seeing BTBAM play “All Bodies” shortly after Alaska came out was mind-blowing, but seeing them play it now probably feels more like an approximation of that feeling, not the real thing.

But let’s take the fan experience out of the equation for a minute, because surely it goes deeper than that; there’s artistic intent, bands don’t exist SOLELY to serve their fans. I can’t imagine that playing very old songs that were written when the dudes were extremely young is very satisfying for the members of BTBAM. They might even feel slightly embarrassed doing it.

Think of it this way: hooking up with an old flame is never quite as satisfying as you’d hoped it would be, right? Both of you have moved on, been with other people, changed your styles. It just feels weird, off.

Which is why I don’t go out of my way to see In Flames live anymore. I know it’s just going to be mostly disappointing, even if they’re still a great live act — they’re not going to play the songs I want to hear. Rather than bitching about having spent money and trekked out to a show, I just don’t bother going at all!

The irony is that the most successful bands eventually reach a point in their career where fans expect them to only play the old stuff. No one goes to a Metallica show praying to hear “The Unforgiven III.” Even then, it’s the “classics” that fans want to hear, the “hits” (insofar as modern metal has any real hits — the fan favorites), and not some old song from before the band was famous that nobody knows or gives a shit about.

But IMN’s are gonna IMN. Guess you’ll just have to jam “Destructo Spin” by your lonesome… here ya go:

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