Concerts can be a truly amazing experience. When one of your favorite bands puts on a great performance, it can make for a mind-blowing night.
While there is a wide variety of ways for bands to make concerts awesome, there are a few things that we personally enjoy seeing at shows. Here's 10 of them.
See also: 10 Annoying Things Bands Do at Concerts
10. Debut songs that haven't released yet.
Knowing every song your favorite band plays is cool and all, but isn't it a great feeling when you know you're hearing a song that the world hasn't even heard on YouTube yet? Particularly if the band has an album coming out within the next couple of months, playing a song or two that hasn't been (officially) released yet can really put a set over the top. From time to time, you'll even get a sample of the band's first single off of a new album weeks or months before it shows up on the Internet.
9. Let the fans go up on stage.
We only have this one so low because sometimes people do really stupid stuff when they're on stage. Not having your roadies (or security) throw fans off of the stage after they crowdsurf to the front of the venue is totally awesome, but there's inevitably that one idiot who decides they should steal a mic stand for at least one chorus. Bonus points to bands who let fans completely mutiny and take over the stage during the encore at the end of a tour.
8. Play portions of albums in order.
Singles are great, but playing a song or two before and/or after a single in the same order they appear on the album is really the kind of thing that excites us. Concerts where bands play straight through the entire album are nice, but only if it's a record that truly deserves it. No one wants to sit through the deep cuts off of the back end of a band's mediocre fifth album, but if they want to play the first couple of songs on the album leading up to the big comeback hit, that'd be really sweet.
7. Keep the crowd in line.
Bands who encourage dancing/moshing are awesome, but those who also make sure everyone has a great time are even better. It's not necessarily their duty, but if a fight breaks out at a concert or someone's just acting like a total dick, the band on stage has the power to stop it at a moment's notice. Among others, we once saw Lars Frederiksen stop the show to throw a guy out of a Rancid concert for being a bully. If it's cool enough for Lars, it's cool enough for most bands.
6. Throw tons of guitar picks and drumsticks into the crowd.
Buying merch at a show isn't a bad thing, but it's not the same as catching a pick/drumstick/setlist straight from the stage. While a t-shirt might cost you $30 at the merch table, the tiny worthless present from the band is a free keepsake that you'll cherish forever (or until your taste in musical style changes/you accidentally leave it in a Denny's parking lot). Considering that nothing a band typically throws from the stage is worth much (and many signed bands get such things for free), there's no reason not to launch as much from the stage as possible (within reason). Instead of five people going home with free souvenirs, we love it when bands let 50 people take something home.
5. Change lyrics to fit the situation.
It doesn't matter if they change the city/state in the song to the city/state of the show or if they redirect a famous lyric for the sake of the crowd (such as when Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins changes "Zero" to "God is empty, just like you"), it's pretty much going to go over extraordinarily well every time. The crowd is never going to dislike a band making it more personal for them, and we're just not sure why more bands don't go for it.
4. Hang out with fans after the show.
Whether it's going to the bar for drinks, signing autographs outside of the tour bus or just chilling in the parking lot, most fans don't even care how they spend time with their favorite bands, as long as they get to meet them. Considering that the fans are the ones who technically support each and every band, we think it's awesome when the bands spend a little bit of their free time with their fans. Sure, it's not a requirement, but it's the kind of extra effort that really makes us appreciate bands more.
3. Play cover songs.
We want bands to play all of their hits. We want bands to play the songs on the albums around their hits. We want bands to play soon-to-be-released tracks. We know, it's a lot to ask. If they're headlining a concert (particularly if a band is big enough that the fans actually care about what they think outside of the music they actually created), there's no better way for the band to connect with the crowd than to play a song that means as much to them as their songs mean to the audience. Maybe it's a big hit from a completely different genre, or maybe it's an obscure song that the band used to cover when first starting out, but we love when bands play cover songs, particularly when they're really into them.
2. Use set/costume changes.
Mediocre bands can put on some of the most memorable shows just based on visuals and theatrics alone. We think some bands should ditch the black t-shirts and jeans for a while and add a bit of flair with a prop or a costume from time to time. There are very few bands "too cool" to reap the benefits of an additional theatrical element. Going to see a performer like Kanye West or Marilyn Manson is so much better when they're changing backdrops, props, and costumes every few songs (trust us, we've seen both perform with set/costume changes and without). Unless you really want to be frowning Yeezus-era Kanye, take a page out of his Late Registration and Graduation days, and don't be afraid to change your clothes.
1. Interact with the crowd during the set.
You know that moment at the end of a set of a rock show when the singer either climbs down or takes a stage dive into the crowd to sing the last chorus of the set among their adoring fans? Yeah, that's the kind of moment that concert memories are made of for a lot of people. Whether it's pointing out someone in the front of the crowd who knows every word/made an awesome shirt or earnestly asking the audience a question and waiting for responses, it's the best when a band initiates the engagement with the crowd. We've still never heard an audience member sound good when the singer points his mic toward the crowd to sing the anthematic chorus of a hit, but that doesn't mean we don't find the act charming.