The 10 Best Songs to End a Concert

This is a post I had written on another blog of mine that I came across and thought it might make a good share...

As a budding guitar player who does the occasional show in his spare time, the one thing I've come to respect is the Holy Grail of every show known as ‘the set list’. A set list can make or break a band's performance. While a band might have great music, it can all be undone by a poorly planned set list. Typical problems such as spending too much time changing tuning between songs, changing instruments, too many long-winding guitar solos followed by an even longer drum solo and an overly poorly laid out puzzle of songs can make the best band lose their audience. 

I’m always of the opinion that the closing song of a set is the most important song of the evening. While that doesn't mean you play whatever you please until the last song, the closing song is that song by which a show is ultimately judged. It is the last chance you have to give people a kick or a high, a last chance to leave them with an emotion they will never experience again. People go home and talk about the concert to their friends and the last memory they will have about the show is that one closing number you put your heart and soul into.

Before I get into a poetic mood about set lists, I've put together a list of what I feel are the best  ten closing songs in my mind. Before you come marching to my house with pitchforks, please note that this is just my personal opinion. Don’t send me email saying stuff like “You don’t know anything… this is mainstream music… ‘Metal Puke’ by ‘Acid Vomit’, a Turkish underground goth metal band is the best way to close a set” (PS: I made the song and band up, I don’t think either exist). Please don’t graffiti ‘Down with Metallica…Long live Mustaine’ on my house. Also please do don’t send the severed head of a bass player by post. 

Anyway, here are the ten best closing songs in no particular order.

10. Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd

This song, that starts off slowly with easy to sing along lyrics with the expansive guitar solo at the end that can go on for hours, was the easiest choice for me. Having ended many weekends at the bar with the DJ playing this song, I've always come out wanting to listen to it again.

9. Rock and Roll All Nite by Kiss

Wait, wasn't this the band that said they would never do a disco song? This song by Kiss is especially great when doing smaller venues or even acoustic sets. It’s a song that remains in your head thanks to the extremely easy lyrics. For a good many years, I didn't know any of the other words other than the chorus. It helps if you can do the Gene Simmons tongue thing.

8. Killing in the Name of by Rage Against the Machine

Find me a rock/metal enthusiast who doesn't like to scream ‘F**k you I won’t do what you tell me’. One of the best anti-establishment songs written, this song is bound to get everyone pissed off and high. 

7. Every Breath You Take by The Police

Ending a concert does not always have to be a musically heavy song. An emotionally heavy song is great too. While I've only seen one band do a brilliant cover of this, Sting’s version from the ‘All this time’ is a great sing along and gives a lot of scope to introduce the band to the audience before you walk off stage. 

6. Train Kept A Rollin by The Yardbirds

This is a great song when you have way too many guitar players on stage. It gives a lot of space for generally messing around the fret board. Originally by The Yardbirds, this songs serves a lot of lead guitar players with an avenue to show off.

5. Tubthumping by Chumbawamba

While this song is more apt for a crowd of football supporters whose team just lost, it still makes a great sing along with all the positive reinforcement of ‘getting back up again’. This is probably the one misfit in the list, but still is an awesome song.

4. Hallowed be Thy Name by Iron Maiden

Extensive guitar solos and riffing with Bruce Dickinson hitting those ungodly high notes at the end gives any warm-blooded metal head one hell of a rush. I've seen this live, and it gave me a much better kick than the booze I was having. The intro is also a great piece for people to sing and clap along, before all guitar hell breaks loose.

3. Hey Jude by The Beatles

Probably the most cliched closing song ever with which to end a concert, but it never fails to get an audience singing together. And who doesn't like The Beatles?  

2. Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd

4 words…. David Gilmour’s guitar solo. Enough said. 

1. Rockin in the Free World by Neil Young

This has always been one of my most favourite songs to end gigs. It works for both acoustic and electric sets. It has all the settings of a great song with ample room for guitar players and drummers to show off solo-skills. It has the most important ‘sing-along’ feature and the general message of how despite everything in the world, we can still keep rocking on. This is sure to get any audience  happy. I fell in love with this song after I heard the Pearl Jam version. Incidentally, they too end a lot of their gigs with this piece.

I'd like to know what you think of this list and look forward to comments on what you feel would make a better closing song. Just want to remind you, no death-threats please. I have enough cholesterol flowing through my arteries to kill me.