October 20, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Some Concerts Energize You; Others ‘Destroy Your Soul’

Some performers leave audiences energized, while others make you wish you’d left early. As with an album, song order is a crucial part of keeping showgoers entertained throughout a concert. Every road-tested artist has their own way of doing managing that flow for maximum impact, whether that means a slow increase energy or a sustaining mix of danceable and non-danceable songs.

Which artists leave people the most energized, and which are most likely to make them dance? Science has the answer, to an extent.

Joseph Wilk plotted SongKick’s collection of setlists (the lists of songs played by artists at live music concerts), against The Echo Nest’s Energy and Danceability attributes, determining how bands pace their shows, and how badly their songs make people want get down.

Setlist Energy found that the alt-country favorite Wilco tends to start shows on a high note, sag towards the middle, and re-energize the crowd in time for a grand finale:

Meanwhile, Radiohead tends to end their shows on a downer. “This is why I don’t go to Radiohead concerts anymore,” noted Wilk. “For some bizarre reason, as it drops off at the end, everybody walks off with no energy, depressed”:

The low-energy and un-dance-friendly Mogwai, on the other hand, “save their energy for the end — and then a sudden burst to try to absolutely shatter you as the dancing [rating] is going down”:

Out of all of the artists analyzed, Elvis Costello’s concerts demonstrated the biggest upwards leap in energy and danceability at the end of his sets. “He obviously does mediocre performances and then, at the end, pulls out something amazing,” observed Wilk:

A Morrissey setlists revealed overall high energy and low danceability, as one might expect from the former Smiths frontman. However, his songs do get easier to dance to towards the end of his sets:

“The Beastie Boys absolutely destroy your soul towards the middle,” said Wilk, “and then leave you absolutely shattered at the end, and that’s pretty cool”:

Duran Duran, on the other hand, start out with a spark, woo their audience with some slow dance songs, and then  increase the energy level before finishing up with more dancing:

  • http://uplaya.com/ Grayson Braswell

    Thanks for this cool post! More often than not, I leave concerts feeling extremely disappointed, and it’s mostly the shows with the big name rockers- Kings of Leon for one. Don’t get me wrong, I love the band but do they have a 12:00 am curfew or something? I think the problem with the more sought after, famed artists is that their attitude. They become so conceited as to think they don’t need to worry about living up to the expectations of their fans with the assumption that their music is enough to save them… And, that’s a problem.

    Now, concerts where I can always expect to deliver a good time are those from Jam Bands like Phish, Widespread and the Grateful Dead. These groups work to keep their fans satisfied, and it shows!! And the funny thing is, that these musicians are almost decades older than groups like Kings of Leon, yet they will strum until their fingers bleed long into the night, and know how to work the crowds from beginning to end.

    Keep up the great posts!

    -Grayson, the uPlaya Team

  • http://www.tippingpointentertainment.net Eileen

    For me the ironic thing about these graphs, is when you compare them to the sales of tickets at these shows….i.e. Radiohead for years has been able to sell out any venue, worldwide, while a band like Wilco, may do well in some countries but not all….so what does that say about the world wide audience? Are we a bunch of sadists, who enjoy the feeling of being left on a down note? I personally think that people are drawn to music, like they are drawn to all other forms of art: they want to feel the passing of the emotion from the artist.

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  • Rafael Almeida

    The images aren’t loading here =/