If you’re seeing a band at a concert, you should stop heckling. Few things are more annoying to encounter at a show than a fan who heckles a band over and over again.
I understand where band hecklers come from. More often than not, a band heckler clamors to hear his or her favorite song—usually an obvious big hit. Aside from that, band hecklers either try to make a joke or try to say something to get under a band’s skin. In every case, however, band heckling is one of the most disrespectful things a fan can do at a show and can sometimes change the way a band performs forever.
Radiohead famously never plays “Creep” because of how many fans yell and scream for it to be played throughout their concerts. Heckling alienates the band and makes the rest of their music seem less important when they hear fans repeatedly request one single song.
A few weeks ago I saw Taking Back Sunday at 9:30 Club. For the entirety of the first half of the show, one drunk fan screamed and screamed for the band to play “MakeDamnSure” between every single song. It was distracting and rude, and it clearly bothered frontman Adam Lazzara.
About halfway through the show, during a break between songs, Lazzara heckled back, telling the man to shut up and assured him that “MakeDamnSure” was on its way in the band’s planned setlist.
The heckler should not be decried too much; he just wanted to advocate for his favorite song. But his yelling and complaining is disrespectful and does seems downright ignorant when you consider that Taking Back Sunday was only in the first half of their setlist. He wasn’t yelling for a niche song. He wanted their big hit—obviously the band was probably going to play it. He should have just been patient and waited until the band chose to deliver.
A band is under no obligation to play their single bit hit at a show, and their decision not to do so does not warrant any amount of heckling. Too many concertgoers feel that their favorite band owes them when it comes to playing fan-favorite songs. They go insane when a band doesn’t play every single song that their fans would desire to hear. Not only does that disrespect the wishes of the band, it is a selfish and unrealistic way to think about a concert performance.
Brian Fallon, The Gaslight Anthem’s frontman, has written about dealing with fan heckling. Tired of exhaustive requests for Bruce Springsteen covers and being told to “shut up and play,” Fallon addressed fan hecklers in a post on the band’s website last July.
“Don’t come to hear a cover, it probably won’t happen,” Fallon wrote. “Don’t come to yell at me when I’m trying to share something with the audience to reach out to them about something I feel is moving me.”
Fallon goes on to write that any particular Gaslight Anthem show will have its own unique set list, and that fans shouldn’t go in with any lofty expectations about the show. When someone buys a ticket to a band’s show, they’re not paying for a specific set of songs. They’re paying to see the band go up on stage and do whatever they want for an hour or two. The band reserves the right to decide what songs to play and how many breaks they’ll take between songs.
Fan heckling is born from the misconception that bands owe something to their fans when they perform for them. The only thing they owe fans is an honest, energetic attempt to entertain them. That doesn’t include any particular song, and it certainly does not give a fan the right to dictate when a band can and can’t take a break between songs to talk to their fans.
In the end, when a fan yells and requests a band to play a song, they are essentially saying they don’t trust the band’s judgement. It’s a selfish way to act. Concerts are about fans interacting with a band’s presentation to them.