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Artists Who Won't Perform Their Hits

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Palladia had a Chaka Khan concert on the other day, and she did "I Feel For You." I know she hates that song, or at least feels it is beneath her, but it's her hit and she sings it anyway.

We hear this a lot - "The fans like it, so I play it."

Here's an alternate view:

When I see an artist walk through a hit they clearly despise, I feel like they're pandering to the crowd. I don't know if Bruce still does it, but for "Hungry Heart," he would just point the microphone into the audience and create a brutal mass-Karaoke. Billy Joel doing "You May Be Right" is not right - especially when he has so many other songs he'd rather play and I'd rather hear.

Anyway, there are some artists who flatly refuse to play at least one of their hit songs, but I can't think of any at the moment. Who are they, and am I the only one who doesn't mind when that big hit gets left off the setlist?

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Isn't Bob Dylan known for very seldom playing his most known songs?

I think he went through that phase, but when I saw him he pretty much stuck with well known stuff, although he switched the arrangements around so much it often took awhile to figure out what each song was.

Radiohead is one that is well known for their stubbornness when it comes to playing their older material. They will still occasionally break something out from OK Computer, but you'll almost never hear something from The Bends, and you'll definitely never hear Creep.

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In the 60s, Pink Floyd wouldn't play Emily or Arnold live. Also, The Sweet tended to concentrate on their harder album and b-side tracks in concert (often interjecting, um, colourful "alternative" lyrics!).

What annoys me is when bands disown their bigger hits, e.g. REM with "Shiny Happy People" and Blur with "Country House". They got people to buy them so are they saying these people were idiots? }:| :mad:

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This is the post that's four posts above me...

Isn't Bob Dylan known for very seldom playing his most known songs?

I'm confused...

Nevermind. That's one of those posts I don't see (the "ignore" feature does that.) The post I was referring to is one I think Pinkstones made a while back when there was a thread about the Beastie Boys..

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Eric Clapton doesn't play either "Tears in Heaven" nor "My Father's Eyes" anymore.

"I didn't feel the loss anymore, which is so much a part of performing those songs. I really have to connect with the feelings that were there when I wrote them. They're kind of gone and I really don't want them to come back, particularly. My life is different now. They probably just need a rest and maybe I'll introduce them for a much more detached point of view."

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I think it's entirely up to the artist's discretion as to what their set list entails. If you buy concert tickets hoping to hear only one or two songs, and those songs don't get played, oh well. That's what you get for spending money on an entire concert for only one or two songs. I get why it's annoying, you love a song and you want to hear it, but it doesn't mean the artist is made lesser for NOT wanting to do it.

Speaking of Springsteen, I love Hungry Heart, but if I see him live and he doesn't sing it, I don't get mad at him. With a catalog as large as he's got, there's going to be a lot of songs he doesn't do live, many of which are beloved by at least one fan who might be in attendance. Streets of Philadelphia won him an Academy Award, but I don't think he's done the song live since the Oscar telecast in 1995.

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I just saw Bruce at MetLife Stadium on 9/21 and he performed Hungry Heart. As usual he had the audience sing the beginning of the song but then he sang the rest of the song. He did encourage audience participation along with him for the chorus though, but that's just what Bruce does. I never took this as him not wanting to perform the song. In fact he completely got into it and jumped down into the audience during it and seemed to have a blast doing so.

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I've seen him live half a dozen times, and he never put it in the set list, but that's fine. If I want to hear the song, I'll just put on The River.

I think he's said in the past he doesn't like doing his big radio hits, which makes sense, because he seldom does stuff off Born In The USA, which is his big "radio hit" album. I'd love to hear I'm On Fire and Cover Me, but I haven't been lucky enough yet. Maybe if he's got one more tour in him.....

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There was a time frame that Bruce did avoid his "radio hits" but I don't think that's the case anymore. The last show I saw in September, he did play some rarities which I love as well as the hits. But as you can see from the setlist from Friday night in Ottawa, he played Hungry Heart, Dancing In The Dark and Glory Days (all radio hits). I've heard pretty much everything off Born In The USA over the years. But...he has yet to play the song 'Born In The USA' this tour.

Ottawa -10/19/2012

1. The Promised Land

2. Ties That Bind

3. No Surrender

4. Hungry Heart

5. We Take Care of Our Own

6. Wrecking Ball

7. Death To My Hometown

8. My City Of Ruins

9. Spirit In the Night

10. E Street Shuffle

11. Jack Of All Trades

12. Prove It All Night (1978 intro)

13. Candy's Room

14. Darlington County

15. Shackled and Drawn

16. Waiting on a Sunny Day

17. Drive All Night

18. The Rising

19. Badlands

20. Thunder Road

21. Queen of the Supermarket

22. We Are Alive

23. Born To Run

24. Glory Days

25. Dancing in the Dark

26. Tenth Avenue Freeze-out

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Bruce had that Spinal Tap moment in the mid-'90 where he got real serious and didn't perform his well-known songs, but it sounds like he doesn't mind "Hungry Heart." I just got the sense that he was playing it because he had to when I saw him do it.

I think Dave Matthews didn't play "What Would You Say" when that was his big hit, which was an attempt to appeal to his core fans and not attract the poseurs.

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After Bon Scot's death AC/DC decided to drop "Ride On" from their setlist. Deciding that it was "Bon Scot's song" it wouldn't be performed by Brian Johnson for about 25 years. Since, it's been part of a live AC/DC show about 2 or 3 times. While Bon was around it was their blues staple running over 10 minutes with vocal improvs & Angus' solos.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Sometimes people don't go to hear every single song from a new album - they go to hear the band. Old songs are obviously part of the back catalogue so there is no reason why they would not expect to hear an old number or 2, unless it is advertised as being the "insert album name here" tour. Even then, most bands encore with an older, popular number.

"Pandering to fans" - really? Those fans made you who you are by supporting your music - how about giving a little back as well and letting them feel part of the gig. So what if a bit of singing/dancing/clapping/stomping along is cheesy - it's about the music, the experience, the excitement and if that's offensive to you, what's the point?

No wonder people walk away from hearing big bands saying it wasn't as good as they were expecting it to be. No wonder people would rather sit home and watch X-factor/Idol/The voice etc!


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I get that going to a concert is about the communal experience, and the more popular the song, the more communal the experience. There's just something weird to me about a singer performing a song I know they don't like. I even saw Del Amitri denounce their hit at the time ("Roll To Me," which I like) before playing it.

Consider this: Nobody talks about "Hungry Heart" when they discuss a Bruce Springsteen concert, but if he plays a B-side or something off the beaten path, that is often the memory that sticks.

Regarding Madonna and "Like A Virgin," You gotta check this out. Madonna was a little chilly to the songwriters who provided her biggest hit:

Billy Steinberg talks about "Like A Virgin"

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