At last Friday's concert, a "hometown" celebration in Stouffville after extensive touring this fall, I got to do something that is, for me, a rare treat. A second set.
My most typical concert performance is an all-ages interactive event that lasts about an hour. For the younger ones in an inter-generational audience, this seems to be about the right time limit... and it allows enough time for a concert experience that can be shaped to include lots of fun and activity, some more reflective moments, and an inspirational experience for all ages that is satisfying and leaves the audience wanting more... Generally, a good balance.
But here's the thing. I've been writing more and more material that doesn't fit that all-ages format very well (or at all). There is a whole range of folky stuff that I've been able to work in a song or two here or there, but the one hour all-ages format doesn't really allow me to explore and develop and build on a sequence of those songs and stories that can be very meaningful and moving but that doesn't have the kind of "action" that will hold the attention of the younger ones.
There are also some songs that come from a place of deep pain and struggle and are very intense - both to sing and to hear. Those songs are also getting very strong and positive response (the few times I've performed them), but they don't really "fit" in the one hour all-ages format.
So what to do?
Last Friday night, which was advertised as an "all-ages concert," began at 7:30 pm (a late start for younger children), and was divided into two sets. At the close of the first set (the one hour, all-ages "interactive" set), I said that for some folks it's getting well past their bedtime, so if they need to leave, that's just fine. But I wasn't done singing yet, so for anybody who wanted to stick around I had another set of music for them - a set that would be in more of a "stories and songs" and less of a "sing-along" format...
Well, that second set - including a bunch of brand new songs that have not been recorded on a studio album - ended up being a real highlight of the evening, both for me and (judging by the banter and applause and ovation/encore and comments afterwards) for the audience as well. There is something about going into the dark places - emotionally and musically - that adds a level of intensity and vulnerability and depth and that makes the inspirational and uplifting elements of the experience come alive in another dimension.
The only other times I have done this kind of "second set" have been in two house concerts, where I did an initial set that was especially child-oriented, and then there was childcare provided and I did a second set for the parents/adults. These events, too, have gone very well and received a great deal of positive feedback.
Maybe this is something that I need to do more often...