Don't Go there: Rules of the Road Vol. 3


Cause I gotta have faith ... and a 20-minute intermission.

The latest entry on our ever-expanding laundry list of things artists should never, ever do at a concert.

5. No intermissions. Ever.
For 62 minutes last night at [Insert Telcom Company Name Here] Center, George Michael sang, swiveled his hips and sang some more. And then he ran off the stage, and the house lights came up, and a clock appeared on the high-tech video wall. Intermission time! Intermission? Is this Shakespeare or something?

As momentum killers go, it was a biggie. If you need to disappear for a few minutes, fine. Just tell the band to vamp. Have one of your backup singers take a star turn. Send out some dancers, or a body double. (Hannah Montana can give you some tips there.) Just don't leave the audience hanging - and especially avoid doing it for 20 freakin' minutes.

Look, George, if we need libations or want to make a bathroom run (our kind, not yours), we'll do it during one of those same-sounding modern disco songs. We don't need a mandatory intermission - and neither do you. You're not that old. Heck, Springsteen has 13 years on you and doesn't stick an intermission into his high-octane sets. So just stop it before you start a terrible trend.

Exception: If you're staging, say, "George Michael: The Musical."

By J. Freedom du Lac |  July 30, 2008; 9:34 AM ET Rules , Rules Of The Road
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This show was awesome

Posted by: Anonymous | July 30, 2008 9:48 AM

Only band I've ever seen that did an intermission was Rush (this was several years ago, don't know if they still do it). Great show, but yeah, the intermission did kill the momentum.

Posted by: KR | July 30, 2008 10:04 AM

Rush has been doing it since they started touring with no opening act in 1997. They just say they're old and can't play that long without a break. I'm willing to wait if it means another hour of music.

Posted by: Hemisphire | July 30, 2008 10:46 AM

You may be a youngster, but my prostate demands intermissions. The Eagles played for an hour before and then nearly 2 hours after intermission. So it's fine with us old folks.

Posted by: OldPhil | July 30, 2008 11:17 AM

I sort of disagree with this rule, but there are definitely qualifications to the type of intermission I'll allow. I kind of enjoy it when a band plays a nice long energetic first "set", if you will, with the energy peaking at the end of the set, then takes 10 or 15 minutes before coming back out to take another long set. I'm not talking about something where the houselights go up for 20 minutes and everyone runs to the bathrooms, just a small break where the audience looks at each other and says "Wow, this show has been amazing and we're only halfway through." I guess this is sort of based on the types of shows the Grateful Dead performed, and though I'm not much of a fan of their music, I think it's a cool idea for a show. It really only works if the overall performance is fairly lengthy, probably at least two hours.

I'm thinking specifically of My Morning Jacket's late night show at Bonnaroo in 2006. They played brilliantly for about an hour and a half, left the stage for about fifteen minutes, and came back and roared through another hour and a half set. The small breather was just the right type of thing to have the audience realize what a really special performance they were watching.

Posted by: Adam | July 30, 2008 11:38 AM

Ryan Adams has been doing this for the past few years, and it's infuriating. There are very few musicians that I need to hear 2.5-3 hours of music from in the first place (even Springsteen is pushing it, in my opinion), and even fewer that I need to spend an additional 20-30 minutes waiting around for.

Posted by: Steve | July 30, 2008 11:42 AM

Been to the last 3 RUSH shows around here and there was an intermission at each one, plus some other semi-breaks for various players at various times. It's fine to take a break, but tell everyone you are on the mic rather than just putting up a clock. That's cheap and kinda insulting.

Posted by: EricS | July 30, 2008 12:09 PM

For bathroom breaks, nothing beat the Michael Anthony bass solo.

Posted by: Florence | July 30, 2008 12:43 PM

To each his own, I guess. Having seen many Grateful Dead and Phish shows over the years, I became so used to the intermission format that I really wish all bands followed it. Both of those bands generally played an hour-long first set, followed by a 30 minute break, and then a 1.5 - 2 hour second set. I personally enjoy this because it not only gives you a chance to get beers and go to the bathroom in an unhurried fashion (without missing anything), but it also gives you a chance to talk about the show so far, talk about what else they're going to play, etc. It builds anticipation and adds to the whole experience. But I guess if you're not expecting it - or if the show isn't really that great - it could be a real momentum-killer.....

Posted by: PR | July 31, 2008 11:08 AM

As much as I love Springsteen - he used to do intermissions all the time. As far back as the BitUSA tour, probably further back. I saw him in Denver in 1992: the show started at 7:59pm and ended at 12:01am - but there was a 25-minute intermission between the 1st and 2nd parts of the main part of the show. On various bootlegs, you can hear Bruce say "we're going to take short break - but we'll be back to rock you all night long" and the like. I have a boot from Mountain View CA on the Tunnel of Love tour where a high school band played during intermission!


Posted by: Hoover | August 1, 2008 11:15 PM

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