Play that one song!
Last night we saw Imogen Heap at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Yes, I went: my girlfriend wanted to go, and Imogen Heap is extremely talented, puts on a good show, and in general it’s just interesting to watch her make music. Anyway, during the show people kept calling out for “Hide And Seek”, her most well-known song, and for the first two calls she said something like, “I’ll get to that eventually”, and just ignored the later requests.
It got me thinking about how artists get known for just one or two songs and how they have to play those songs over and over. I can’t imagine being a musician and having to do that. Wouldn’t it get boring? “Hide And Seek” is a nice song, sure, but wouldn’t it lose some of its meaning if you had to constantly perform it? Further, she’s seriously talented, and there are plenty of other songs she performed that I think are just intrinsically better. Maybe it’s the alt side of me preferring less well-known tracks.
I read an interview with Trent Reznor awhile back where he directly addressed it. It was in Mojo magazine. Here’s the interesting part (emphasis mine):
Mojo: You’re on tour with Jane’s Addiction and then you’re taking a break from Nine Inch Nails. There’s a certain symmetry between this tour and the early 1990s when Jane’s took you under their wing…
Trent: That’s right, they gave me a big break on the first Lollapalooza, bringing us in to play in 1991. Then, they were breaking up and we were starting out. Now, we’re stopping and they’re coming back and trying to keep it going. For me, it’s added a lot of weight to the everyday things. These days, there’s always an incentive to tour because that’s where the money is in the music business now, but as I get older it’s tedious and repetitive. The pages on the calendar start flying off too. My buddy just got married, wait, now he’s got a four-year-old kid and what have I done? I sang Head Like A Hole 600 times.
So here’s a guy who’s been performing for twenty years, and he’s sick of playing “Head Like a Hole” at every show. And Reznor’s a supremely accomplished artist with a huge repertoire, so why does he feel the need to play that one song every show? Is it just fan service? I would hope not, as we know that Reznor hates some of his fans and, I would hope, doesn’t feel like he needs to placate them.
On the other hand, I guess if Imogen Heap didn’t play “Hide And Seek” the first time you saw her, you’d be somewhat disappointed, so maybe it’s not as easy as it sounds.