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Are Concerts Better Without an Opener?

I can't remember seeing too many shows that didn't feature some sort of opening act. George Michael didn't tour with support and it seems AC/DC are going solo on their fast approaching tour.

Sometimes an opener makes sense. Crue Fest took a bunch of support acts, created a mini-moving festival and helped hype Motley Crue in one tidy package.

Sometimes an opener makes zero sense. Case in point, the recent Van Halen reunion tour featured Bob Marley's son as the opener. That's right: I can't even remember the guy's name. No, "Bob Marley's son" wasn't bad - he was actually quite good. It's just his performance was out-of-place and largely ignored. In other words, a giant waste of time that just cost the tour more money and probably tacked a couple extra bucks on fan seats.

There are those rare occasions when opening acts actually drive tour ticket sales. I'm not talking about dual headline events, but true openers that are actually famous in their own right. The Rolling Stones had just about every famous musician/band on the planet open for them during their lengthy Bigger Bang tour. Openers included Metallica, Motley Crue and Pearl Jam. I'm sure some fans bought tickets just for opening band and then stayed for the Rolling Stones. In this instance, the opening was more than justified. Of course, ticket prices for A Bigger Bang were astronomical (pun intended) - but that's another article.

On "normal" tours I think opening acts are basically a waste. Sure I recently had the chance to see Billy Idol and Steve Stevens in the opening slot for Def Leppard and that was great - but there was hardly anyone in the audience and I think that is hard for musicians. 

An empty room is hard for fans, too. I try to get to shows as early as possible. I don't like missing music, but sometimes this just can't be helped. Concerts happen during the week and I work. Shows are also a social experience and I like to talk to people, have dinner first or just generally not feel  "rushed." Lastly, it seems - in general - people just don't care about paying attention to opening acts. At the end of the day, it's sort of like "why bother?"

What do you think? Are concerts better with - or without - opening bands?

Reader Comments (20)

i remember when a good opening tour slot could all but guarantee worldwide success back when there was no MTV and touring was how bands promoted themselves. a good example was touring with JOURNEY. in three successive tours, the following then-unknown acts suppported Journey: Billy Squier, Loverboy, Bryan Adams. no one had heard of those three until they toured arenas with Steve Perry and Co.
September 23, 2008 | Unregistered Commentergerry gittelson
I think it's great way to get exposed to new bands - and bands that become headliners down the road. The sets are usually not more than a half-hour for the real unknown bands, so if you don't like them, the torture isn't too long.
September 23, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterpapa_rocker
I like opening bands for two reasons. If it's not someone I really want to see, I can take my time getting there. If it's someone great (Black Crowes opening for Tom Petty, Weezer opening for Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age opening for NIN) then I'm really getting my money's worth. But if it's a huge, huge headliner? I'd rather it be just them playing, then I get more of them alone. If I were going to see Metallica (long story), I'd rather it were just them. They're catalog is large enough to give me two or more hours of awesome music. But, alas, I'm not going anyway...*sigh*
September 23, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermom2ross
In most cases I prefer an opening act. In the case of Van Halen's show, it was a good reason to NOT rush to the venue.
I like an opening act every time. If they are someone great that I like- even better. I think it just sort of gets everyone moving. At the very least, it is a good environment to get to your seat, get a drink, take in the surroundings and get ready for the main show. Even if the band is an unknown, I still feel cheated if there isn't an opener. It feels like it ends to soon if there's only one act.
September 23, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterroxian
it depends. rush hasn't had an opener for a very long time and they have a huge catalog that fans want to hear as much of as they can. an opener would be a waste of time. other groups can have openers and it's a good way to find music that you might not hear otherwise. for van halen it was a distraction and i did not pay attention. but there have been other times where i've quite enjoyed the opening act.
September 23, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdon
Sometimes a support slot can make or break a band. But if the headliner is really huge and crosses demographics then it's really mainly the headliner people are coming to see... Case in point, Seal opened for the Stones on their Bridges to Babylon tour and although I really dug Seal it was kind of pissing me off to have to wait through his set for the Stones. But I think that good STRONG opening and support bands on the bill for a good Headliner is a great thing... Plus, usually - and especially in clubs or arena shows - the support slot ) right before the headliner) can be a great gig for the right band... Then again, I saw Warrant get booed off the stage opening for Queensryche back in the day... And saw a totally unknown Scorpians upstage Support Act Blackfoot and Headliner Ted Nugent years ago... Wow... am I dating myself or what?
September 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterValentine
I prefer opening acts!
When I go to concerts, I like to get there as earlier as I can to take a good place to watch...met some old friends, drink an eat something... the opening act gives you the mood of the concert...and when the headliner are ready to rock!!!

Of course...the support bands have to be a little bit similar of the headliners
When a big band came to Brazil in a big tour...they always bring an opening act
September 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLucas Serpa
Valentine - you are not dating yourself, you're just making me jealous of the shows you've seen!
September 23, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermom2ross
Gerry, I remember that tour with Journey & Bryan Adams. Wow, what a flashback! I do prefer an opening act. Sometimes they're good, somtimes they're not. If I don't want to see them I won't rush to the show. Poison is a good example of a band that always has good opening acts. Baz & Dokken this year. Vains of Jenna, Cinderella, Vince Neil, Faster Pussycat, Winger in years past.
September 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEddieLongHair
Personally, I don't want to purchase a ticket and then find out at the last minute there's an opening band. This has happened to me twice, once with Winger the band, then at a Kip Winger solo show. Neither band was bad, but I can't remember the name of the first one; the second was Pittsburgh's Aftershok. When I go to these shows, I expect that I bought tix to see one act, not two (or three), so "Truth in Advertising" please!!!

It's even more of a pain if you're going to see the opening act, not the main act. Rock Never Stops tour, 2002, I was ready to go after my guys left the stage. But, since we'd paid $40 per ticket, and husband likes Poison, we stayed for the entire set.

But I have to agree with Allison--on a weeknight, the doors open at 7, the opening band comes on at 9, and the headliner usually at 11? That boat don't float. And let's not forget, some cities have teen curfews, meaning they have to be off the streets by midnight or so, especially during the school year. And there are some of us adults that do work, ya know...
September 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChessie >^..^<
A opening band is an usually an essential for a good rock show. As long as the Headliner chooses the right opener. The whole Motley Crue Cruefest was crap (My Opinion). Not to take anything away from the openers, they clearly out performed the Crue which for me sucked. But Crue should stick to bands from their Genre, like Dokken, Warrant, etc. I know Nikki and Tommy think they are above all of that and want to showcase new talent but most real Crue fans didn't give a Rat's ass about Papa Roach. An opener also needs to not be some crappy local band that about 10 people like because they are family members of the band. Bring your fans what they want. Say what you want about Poison, but they always put together a good tour package. Think about a Crue package with Crue, Ratt, and maybe Jackyl. A band like ACDC needs no opener because they blister your ass for 2 plus hours and you forget about what came before them any way. Something else is sometimes these bands only come around once in a while so if you don't catch them opening, you may not get to at all.
September 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDVick
No way!!! Openers are a MUST. First, because they are the Guinni pigs "SP?" for the stage and sound but also because that the only way some people get exposed to new bands, and thats the only way some bands get a chance to play on the big stage. There are bands that are HUGE today thayt would be nothing if it werent for being openers on a large tour. Think about it. Would Guns n Roses be big if Aerosmith wouldnt have taken them out? Or Motley Crue when they got to open for Ozz?? Theres a million examples.
September 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKenny Ozz
this might sound a bit sick, but back in the day there were such things as "merchandising bands" -- opening acts that were professional but not big enough that fans of the headliner would sit through their whole set. and thus, they would go out and buy the headlining band's merchandise.

sadly, it makes some sense. using my above example of Journey, i bet the band would have sold more t-shirts had acts like Bryan Adams, Loverboy and Billy Squier not opened for them.
September 23, 2008 | Unregistered Commentergerry gittelson
It depends on the opening act. Sometimes it's a great way to discover new music and other times it's just another 45 minutes to waste waiting for the headliner (and in the case of club shows, another 45 minutes to stand on your already-sore feet). If I'm going to see one of my absolute favorites, I'd prefer no opener so that the headliner could play longer...but it's not a perfect world, eh?
September 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
Good point, Kenny... having been the "guinea pig" more then a few times, I understand that as an opening act you're not only there to warm up the audiance but to also let the sound guy get his shit together... Sometimes it sucks but I'll tell you what; it sure makes for a good way to gain experiance... not to mention the ability to sing with a lot of power...
September 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterValentine
I feel ya Valentine. I have had the honor of opening for LA Guns, CC Deville, Britny Fox, Pretty Boy Floyd, Wednesday 13 and more! The experience and lessons learned where invaluable!
September 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKenny Ozz
I happened to LOVE the Van Halen show. I am a huge regge fan and had a great time vibing to two distinct genres of music.
September 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKristen
In the past I've seen Van Halen support Bon Jovi, Danger Danger support Kiss, Wildhearts support Love/hate (who were a last minute addition and thanks to the gig have been a wildhearts fan ever since) Kingofthehill blew Extreme of the stage when they supported, but in the last couple of years, I've seen one decent support act (and that was the unsigned comp winner at Bon Jovi, who blew the other support of the youtube for heavens basement!) In most cases the supports weren't even the same type of music (and I'm using the term music very losely for some of the acts too!!)
October 3, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterlove-bomb-baby
it depends ill buy van halen tickets if they stop bringing rappers. so usually yes.
May 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdevin

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