In Defence of the full-album Concert

Concerts in which bands perform an album’s entire tracklist have been around for some years now and some people think of the practice as artists cashing in, or compromising credibility in some other way. While that may be what’s happening in some specific cases, I think it makes perfect sense that a band would want to perform an album in its entirety at shows.

As you might have heard, albums don’t sell like they used to; a lot of people just stream songs, and a lot of people who buy music digitally just pick and choose individual tracks. Performing a full album live is a way for a band to get people hearing a collection of songs in the order that the artists likely took a lot of time to put together. It might also get a music fan who typically only buys individual tracks to buy the whole album if they like what they hear. As for the fans who are already familiar with the album, there is something special about taking in the album experience live.

Sometimes, artists will perform a brand new album live even though their new music isn’t as popular as their older stuff—Iron Maiden and Smashing Pumpkins, for two examples. This is totally understandable if the albums are important to the artists and they want fans to give the albums a chance. Plus, if you think about it, does it not seem logical that while on a concert tour promoting a new album, that an artist would be playing all of that album? I feel like that’s just never been the standard practice for whatever reason, but that there is some logic to the idea.

As for bands playing one of the most popular albums from their catalogue, to commemorate some anniversary of the album or otherwise, I just don’t get the “selling out” accusations. The album is the band’s work, and the album likely holds a special place for anyone buying tickets to the concerts, so it’s all good, and everybody’s happy. Really, how is a band playing their most popular album in its entirety on a tour selling out any more than a band playing their most popular song at every concert they ever play?

Am I missing something here? If you think so, or if you agree with me, please let me know in the comments. Also, I’d love to hear what albums you’d pay to see performed live. I’ll start the list with these suggestions: Nine Inch Nails’ Downward Spiral and Year Zero, The Cure’s Disintegration, Radiohead’s OK Computer, Tori Amos’s Little Earthquakes, Tool’s Ænima, and Opeth’s Still Life.

6 thoughts on “In Defence of the full-album Concert

  • August 3, 2016 at 8:49 am
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    Pearl Jam’s idea of posting their entire concert for digital download is excellent. It eliminates the need for ppl to record on their phones, and allows fans to document in perpetuity their intimate experience at that particular concert; with the emotional attachment to each song as it’s played.

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  • August 3, 2016 at 12:57 pm
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    I couldn’t agree more about playing an album in its entirety live. I really don’t see how one makes the case of an artist selling out. I would give everything I own to see see nine inch nails perform the downward spiral album (or the fragile, for that matter).

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  • August 3, 2016 at 9:37 pm
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    Alan I agree with your position. An artist is never selling out by playing their own music. The artist should offer their audience a different flavor of their catalogue every tour. Great topic!

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  • August 3, 2016 at 10:24 pm
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    I’d pay to see The Rolling Stones play “Exile on Main Street” or “Beggar’s Banquet” or Bob Dylan play “Blonde on Blonde”, “Blood on the Tracks”, “Highway 61 Revisited”, “Bringing it All Back Home”, “Desire”, Hell anything by Dylan would be perfect!! There’s a long long list of albums I’d love to see played live.

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  • August 4, 2016 at 5:01 pm
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    Porcupine Tree-Deadwing, The Mars Volta- De-Loused in the Comatorium

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  • August 4, 2016 at 11:24 pm
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    I love the idea of playing an entire album at a show and think the nostalgia factor is a big part of it. I saw the Pixies perform Doolittle in its entirety a few years ago and just recently saw Ed Kowalczyk perform Throwing Copper, with some stories related to each song mixed in. Both shows were fantastic. I would love to see NIN Downward Spiral or The Fragile, any album by Tool or Radiohead, or Foo Fighters debut in their entirety.

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