If like me you’ve been in a rock covers band or three, you’ll know that the first song of the night is important for a couple of reasons. First, if there’s an audience there, it’s the initial impression that can sometimes set the tone for the whole gig. Second, whether you’ve had a good sound check or not, it’s the time for your sound person to get their levels right.
For the hell of it, I thought I throw together a list of what I think are great rock songs a band could open with and make a big impression. I’ve kept it 1970s to today, and it’s all obviously subjective. I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments of opening songs you’ve had that have gone down a treat.
One other disclaimer: some of this songs would require a major commitment to pull off well – personally I think there needs to be more of that approach as it gets too easy to decide to play Sweet Home Alabama or Mustang Sally instead…
Here we go, in no particular order:
1. John Mellencamp – I Need A Lover
The album version of this song gives every member of the band a chance to jump in boots and all:
2. Hothouse Flowers – Hardstone City
The Hothouse Flowers themselves have opened with this and for good reason – it kicks arse:
3. Boy and Bear – Feeding Line
If you’re outside of Australia you may not know this song. Even so, have a listen and tell me it wouldn’t make a good opener:
4. U2 – Where The Streets Have No Name
A worthy inclusion although I doubt a lot of bands actually cover this:
5. The Who You Better – You Bet
Not for the faint hearted – particularly if you play bass, but what a song:
6. The Killers – Somebody Told Me
7. REM – Me In Honey
This is a bit of a left field REM choice but it’s always made a great impression on me as a potential opening song – particularly if you have both a male and female vocalist.
8. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – My Love Will Not Let You Down
If it’s good enough for The Boss to open his 10th night at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 2000, it’s good enough for me. Also watch the clip to see a true band master at work:
9. Spacehog – In The Meantime
10. Fountains of Wayne – Stacy’s Mom
Some will argue this is definitely saved for later in the night but it has a good place as an opener:
The Impossible Dream: Dave Matthews Band -Drive in Drive Out
If you’re in a cover band that can pull this one off, I hope you’re aware you have a very bright future. Drummers in particular should listen to this one from start to finish:
Over to you: what openers have worked well for you?