There’s an old adage in show business that says that when it comes to making a set list of songs for a gig, you should open with tons of energy and close with a crowd pleaser. It’s much more prosaic than that in its original form, but that’s about the gist of it.
Except, of course, like many old adages, it’s completely wrong. In my humble experience, flexibility is what really counts. There’s no point in drawing up a rigid list of songs that you’re going to stick to come hell or high water when the very nature of most concerts - certainly at the level I’m used to playing at - is that they are totally unpredictable.
In your bedroom the night before, you’re visualising hitting ‘em hard with one of your best numbers right from the start. The packed crowd goes wild and you’ve got them in the palm of your hand for the rest of the evening. Except, in reality, by the time you get there to set up, because it’s been raining all day, the ‘crowd’ consists of three people playing cards on the front table, an elderly couple at the back sharing a diet coke and complaining about the noise and a gang of lads who’ve had one over the eight watching the football earlier on, ordering Jaeger bombs by the shedload and planning on mooning the night away.
Whatever song you thought you’d have them singing along to from the off, gets relegated to the middle order and you open with an inconspicuous number to ease yourself - and them - in gently. Actually, you’re saving your best songs for late arrivals who, with any luck, will have come to listen to some music.
On the other hand, if you’re Bon Jovi or someone, I suppose you could have a completely inflexible set list, knowing that every concert you do will be more or less the same, playing to adoring fans. Pubs and clubs are an entirely different kettle of fish - no gig is anything like the same; each one is entirely unpredictable which is, of course, what makes them such fun.
I’ve just been called to play at a songwriter festival here in Malaga at the end of the month - nine or ten songs they’ve asked for, so I’ll prepare twenty. Just to be on the safe side.