There is nothing like the buzz of a concert hall in the last few minutes before an artist comes on stage. It is simply electric – everyone is so excited knowing that any second, the lights will go down and the opening chords of the first song will start playing. Of course, we are all there to see the main artist, but this atmosphere is often created by the support act.
For me, the support act is a huge part of the concert experience, and I will always try to make sure I’m there early enough to see them. Sure, a huge part of what they do is to get the crowd going – even if nobody in the room has ever heard of them, by the end of their set many great support acts will have the crowd singing along in whatever capacity they can, be it to a catchy original chorus, or a cover they’ve really made their own. They can make concertgoers really feel like they’ve got better value for money by making the evening that little bit longer, but opening for bigger names can offer a lucrative opportunity for artists to raise their profile, not only in terms of gaining the fans in the crowd but from word of mouth afterwards. On many occasions, I’ve come home from a concert having had the time of my life, but the part I can’t stop telling everyone about is the new artist I have discovered.
I’ve been lucky enough to see an eclectic bunch of artists as openers over the years. I’ve seen big names like Girls Aloud, Jay Z, 5SOS and Robyn at big stadium gigs, who were already at the peak of their fame, but for me, the most exciting acts are those that were entirely unknown when I saw them and have since exploded into the charts. Back in 2009, I saw Lady Gaga supporting Take That, just days away from releasing the single ‘Paparazzi’ – she was unlike anyone I had ever seen with her crazy costume and wild stage persona, and I would love to be able to relive it now as I don’t think I really appreciated it at the time. Years later, at a Tom Odell show in Brixton, I saw a young James Bay, complete with long hair and a big hat, singing ‘Hold Back The River’ with just him and his guitar. I was completely bowled over by hearing Rag ‘n’ Bone Man for the first time at another Tom Odell concert, as his voice was certainly not what I was expecting. These are moments I will cherish forever, because when you get to watch someone on their way to stardom you feel like you’ve been a part of that journey with them, even in some small capacity. But it isn’t just the big names that are memorable – over the years smaller acts such as Wyvern Lingo and fiN have really captured my imagination and have made their way onto many of my playlists.
Watching the support acts when you go to a gig can be a great way to give your taste in music a bit of a revamp, as there are so many brilliant artists out there you might not otherwise hear of. When live music can eventually return, make sure you catch them; it’s great to support the live music industry after such a long time away, and who knows, you might even find a new favourite artist in the process.