WORDS BY Kath Galasso
One of the realities of concert-going is you usually never purchase a ticket based on the opening act. Of course there are exceptions, such as when bands share double billing, or if you personally know the opening band. Generally however, we don’t look at a line-up and decide to see a show for any other reason than the top billed act. But how about actually seeing the opening act?
Arriving at a show after the support band(s) is fairly easy to calculate if you have no desire to expand your musical taste, but you might miss the chance to see a future chart-topper in their infancy. No band starts out as a headliner, even the best have performed their set squeezed in front of the headliner both in time and stage presence. In reality, it takes a lot of entry-level experience for a drummer to see his kit on a riser, and not be the kid brother on the stage floor. And even if you eventually become a Gold Record artist or Grammy winner, you’ve probably played some nights where the crowd had zero interest in seeing you perform.
On June 16, 1984, six months after the release of their first album, Bon Jovi opened up for The Scorpions at The Allentown Fairgrounds in Pennsylvania, and were booed mercilessly. A year or so later, Bon Jovi would be headlining stadiums, but on that night in June, it was not yet their time.
As someone with decades of concerts in the rear view mirror, I’ve seen my share of bad opening acts, as well as scores of really good ones. Many times the bad ones are local bands who are given a shot because they are willing to play for the exposure, and many times the good ones have a following, though maybe from a different geographic area. This is true of many Canadian artists trying to break into the American concert arena. Years ago John Mellencamp played at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Opening for him was Canadian singer Amanda Marshall, who deserved the applause she received from every member of the audience who came in early enough to hear her remarkable set.
The first time I saw another Canadian band The Trews, they opened for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. The Trews are a great band who has opened for Robert Plant, the Rolling Stones, has won most every music award in Canada, and never stops touring. They drop into the States for shows now and then, but getting your name out there is not an easy thing to accomplish.
Whether or not you arrive at the venue in time to see who opens the show is your choice, but you’ve already paid for the ticket, might as well take a chance. If the band is bad, you can always go and grab a beer. But you might just get lucky and hear something worth the price of admission.