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Five For Friday: Best Show Closers

by Rob Slater on April 04, 2014

Every band at a certain level has that hit, the song they can throw at the end of a set to drive the crowd into a frenzy, the song that defines them to the casual listener. The "oh they'll definitely close with that" song, or the "I drove two hours to hear" song. It is one shot, one last performance before the house lights come up and everyone looks to their neighbor with the one-word summation of our experience. Usually a "Wow," "Eh" or "Damn" in my case.

While some of these selections in this week's Five For Friday may seem obvious, as always we are here to promote discussion. So I encourage you to drop your favorite finale in the comment section. The art of a closer is a specific one though, and one very few bands can pull off with ease. In the jamband world, variety is the name of the game. In the arena rock realm, you better deliver the final hit at the end of the show or face the wrath. Here are five who go above and beyond the call of duty and send their fans home with a huge smile on their face.

Arcade Fire: "Wake Up"

You can't get the opening "whoa"'s out of your head, can you? It's okay, no one can, really. Look at that crowd. They are completely unhinged from the first note of the song. Win Butler's right leg is doing all it can not to completely detach from his body. This is pure bliss from the start for both band and crowd, and remains a constant in the Arcade Fire's encore.

Nine Inch Nails: "Hurt"

After two and a half hours of industrial rock and roll, Trent Reznor likes to cool off with an intimate ballad at the end of the show. If only. 1994's The Downward Spiral finale wraps up a horrific tale where the main character struggles with thoughts of suicide, loss, rejection and extreme levels of personal doubt. "Hurt" features Nine Inch Nails' most stripped-down arrangement, but remains their most powerful song to date.

As the 6-minute tune builds to an impossible climax, Reznor's voice cracking on lines like "and you could have it all, my empire of dirt," the pain still feels real even after 20 years. Typically, the band exits the stage with the reverb still echoing through the arena, prompting a true "wow" moment.

Phish: "Tweezer Reprise"

The opening notes of "Tweezer" sometime earlier in the show usually bring with it the excitement that the encore will feature "Tweezer Reprise," the thrilling conclusion to the Phish staple. There are few musical compositions that can literally bring you to your knees, this is one of them. In the video you'll see, it even brings Trey to his knees.

Dave Matthews Band: "Ants Marching"

"Anthem" gets thrown around far too often in music, but in this case, it holds true. Not only is "Ants" the most played set closer in DMB's near 25 year history, but it also stands as one of the most played songs overall. The snare intro remains one of the most notable in rock/jam/whatever-genre-you-consider DMB and will live on with them forever. "Ants" will be the last song the band ever performs at their last show, whenever that happens to be.

John Mayer: "Gravity"

Honestly, this was supposed to be Prince's epic "Purple Rain," but the Purple One is so tight with YouTube that you can't find a proper video of the tune. Oh well, we'll just have to settle with John Mayer's ridiculous show closer "Gravity" which is equal parts singalong and Jimi Hendrix guitar stunts. The blues virtuoso dips deep into his bag of tricks to get crazy on the Continuum track. Fans of the recently reunited John Mayer Trio should get excited watching this, as you'll see plenty of it when the group finally decides to take the stage.

Others You Should Check Out: Prince "Purple Rain" The National "Mr. November"/"Terrible Love" Foo Fighters "Everlong" Pearl Jam "Yellow Ledbetter"


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