This was originally supposed to be just a response to a comment on another blog, but it turned into bit of an essay so I decided to turn it into a post in it’s own right.

Basically, the question is: Should bands play their hits at every gig?

I’m going to see Muse for the 2nd time on Friday, and would be quite happy to hear all of The Resistance and not hear Time Is Running Out, Feeling Good, New Born & Knights of Cydonia.

But maybe this would not be fair on new fans who want to hear their most famous songs.

I saw them before (for the 1st time) at Wembley Stadium, they played 9 songs off of Black Holes, plus everything you would expect them to play (I think), except Bliss. I kind of consider myself relatively new to Muse, having discovered them at the Time Is Running Out stage, meaning songs like Bliss are actually from before my time. But by the time I got round to going to a gig I had listened to their previous stuff and decided that my favourite songs weren’t necessarily the famous ones, and Time Is Running Out has become one of my least favoured, alongside Feeling Good.

I think the idea that bands should always play their hits definitely applies to festival sets, but when they’re doing a headline tour for an album, I expect the set to be dominated by new stuff.

Having said that, I would always expect any band to play some hits, and with Arctic Monkeys only on album #3, I am surprised they would leave out Scummy; while Muse, having been around a bit longer, have a few more hits, and I think can better afford to leave out some of their famous ones. I can’t really comment on Radiohead because I don’t know what they’re famous for. I know The Bends is my favourite of their albums, but I bought it (followed by all the others) based on a recommendation without having heard any of the songs before.

Personally I wouldn’t spend around £60 (that’s a Muse ticket plus train fare) to see a band if I only knew a couple of songs. If people can afford to do that, fair play to them, they’re probably used to getting what they want.

Probably more relevant is my first trip to see Red Hot Chili Peppers when I was a relatively new fan (at the time I owned By The Way, What Hits!? and Greatest Hits), I would have been disappointed on that occasion if they hadn’t played By The Way, The Zephyr Song, Can’t Stop, Under the Bridge & Give It Away. But then, that was the Greatest Hits tour, so it would’ve been a bit stupid of them not to play the popular ones. I would’ve loved pretty much any of the songs from By The Way, which was the first ever album by anyone that I bought, Venice Queen is still one of my all time favourite songs. (My memory’s not good enough to remember an entire set from 5 years ago, I looked it up here. I still find it pretty cool that I was at the gigs where RHCP’s Live in Hyde Park and Muse’s HAARP were recorded, and I saw James Brown live.)

When I saw them on the Stadium Arcadium tour I was actually a bit disappointed they only played 5 of the 28 songs from the new album.

Both times I would’ve loved to see a Flea trumpet solo (having spent 10 years of my school life learning to play the Cornet), and songs like Higher Ground, Knock Me Down and Taste The Pain. They have quite a large back catalogue though, so I’m prepared for the unlikeliness of my ideal setlist actually occurring.

I imagine I will go and see them again when they return (apparently they’re starting work on a new album in the next couple of weeks). Hopefully I’ll finally get to see a Trumpet solo, maybe Funky Monks, Higher Ground… Funny Face would be awesome. Meanwhile I would not be at all disappointed if they didn’t play Dani California, Under The Bridge or Give It Away, but then again, they mix up their songs with extended jams or by incorporating other songs into intros, so hearing the same songs need not be boring.

I wouldn’t want to hear too many covers at a gig, and a Nick Cave song wouldn’t have meant anything to me, but I do think it’s interesting to find out who a band is influenced by, and I’ve discovered a lot of great songs via Chili Peppers covers, from artists such as Jimi Hendrix, The Ramones, Stevie Wonder, Looking Glass, David Bowie, The Meters, Bob Dylan, Sly & The Family Stone, Simon & Garfunkel, Sweet, Cat Stevens, The Chantels, The Shangri-Las, Del Shannon, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, The Chirelles, The Beach Boys, George Clinton, Funkadelic, Iggy & The Stooges, Parliament, Jackson 5, Hank Williams, Fugazi, .45 Grave.


2 thoughts on “Setlists

  1. Very nicely summed up Mr. Jarvis. Relevant points. I think if I was in a hit band (definitely gonna happen one day, for sure) I would seek to find out from my fans what songs they wanted to hear.

    The past few times I’ve seen Bloc Party all the fans (myself included) shouted out for them to play a rarity called Skeleton which is a fan favourite. But all the people there who weren’t Bloc-Geeks didn’t really dig it. So I can talk.


    1. It turned out to be a more complicated subject than I realised.
      Perhaps bands could publish setlists in advance so fans can decide which gig they want to go to.

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