Let's face it, when we go to a concert, we love to hear the performers do their big hits - the ones we love to sing along with when they play on the radio. The performers don't always share the same feelings about performing the songs, and in some cases, they refuse to do so.
It's really not hard to see why that might be the case at times. After all, often the band/performer's biggest hits are recorded when they are young and new to the music world. Decades of singing the same songs at concert after concert can get to be boring and monotonous; in some cases, the performers may no longer feel the same way about the song or its meaning, or perhaps feel the meaning has gotten lost or distorted or is no longer relevant (after all performers as well as the world change over time). For many reasons, when you go to hear some of your favorite performers in concert, they may NOT do some of the hits you love (or they may do them but hate it while they do!).
Here are a few songs that were big hits, but the artists won't (or don't like to ) perform them in live concerts.
Madonna - "Like a Virgin"
This iconic song, along with "Material Girl", from the same album, helped Madonna
become the pop icon that she is. It was a huge hit, and fans still love the song. Madonna, herself, however, does not love it. A few years ago she said she couldn't/wouldn't do the song anymore "I just can't—unless somebody paid me like $30 million," the diva said on a New York radio station interview. Fortunately, for her fans, you can hear it on your favorite music sites, but you won't hear it live from the Material Girl (another song she hates!) herself.
Led Zepplin - "Stairway to Heaven"
Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page wrote "Stairway to Heaven" in 1971 for their band, Led
Zepplin. The song is one of rock's most iconic tunes, and in nearly every guitar store across the world, you will hear guitarists pick up guitars and play some of the opening riff. And, even people who may not have been around in that era are familiar with the legendary song. However, as early as 17 years after its release, Robert Plant said, in 1988,
"I'd break out in hives if I had to sing that song in every show," Plant said. "I wrote those lyrics and found that song to be of some importance and consequence in 1971, but 17 years later, I don't know. It's just not for me." And, while Plant HAS played the song a handful of times since then in concert, it's not one he enjoys.
Radiohead - "Creep"
"Creep" was originally not intended to be released as a single. The band wasn't overly fond of it, but some of the record company executives felt it had potential and the song was released as the band's first single. While it had limited success initially, the song
eventually gained momentum and became the band's biggest hit. Internally, the band often referred to the song as 'Crap', and for several years would not perform it in concert. Thom Yorke, the lead singer, and writer of the song said he was not happy with the lyrics, and he "thought they were pretty crap". The band later softened its stance about the song and did play it some, but even so, Yorke confessed that there were times when singing it that he wanted to stop playing it mid-way through the song.
Beastie Boys - "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)"
From the standpoint of the band, the biggest problem with the song is that the fans
missed the point of the song entirely. The song was meant to be ironic, and actually was a parody making fun of the 'frat boy' party lifestyle. Instead, fans took it seriously, and it became a party anthem, which was not at all what the band meant for it to be. For a while, the band even went along with the misinterpretation of the song, but eventually, they just couldn't anymore, and quit performing the song. Beastie Boys member Mike D commented "The only thing that upsets me is that we might have reinforced certain values of some people in our audience when our own values were actually totally different. There were tons of guys singing along to 'Fight for Your Right' who were oblivious to the fact it was a total goof on them."
Oasis - "Wonderwall"
This 1990's tune is the band's biggest hit, and in 2020 it became the first song from the
1990s to reach 1 billion streams on Spotify. The song has been covered by many artists, and Oasis even adapted their live performance of the song because they were inspired by the cover done by Ryan Adams. Oasis member Liam Gallagher was the vocalist for the song, and has since commented, "Every time I have to sing it I want to gag." Gallagher admitted, however, that it was a huge hit for the band, and realized he couldn't get away from it, but that doesn't mean he has to like it!
Lorde - "Royals"
New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde released "Royals" as her debut single in 2013, and it
catapulted her to worldwide fame. Not only was the song enthusiastically received by fans, but it was widely acclaimed by music critics, who praised the songwriting, production, and vocals. The song won Grammy awards and has been covered by others. Many live performers/bands include it in their setlist regularly. Lorde, however, who was 16 years old when she wrote "Royals" is no longer fond of the song, even though she continues to perform it. She said in a newspaper interview "I listen to people covering the song and putting their own spin on it — and I listen to it in every single form except the original one I put out — and I realize that actually it sounds horrible," she said. "It sounds like a ringtone from a 2006 Nokia. None of the melodies are cool or good. It's disastrous. Awful." While her fans don't agree with that assessment, and it's still her biggest hit, she performs the song because her fans want it, not because she enjoys singing it.
While Eric Clapton does perform "Tears in Heaven" some now, a number of years ago he announced he was retiring the song from his setlist because he no longer felt the loss of his son, which the song is about, with the same emotional intensity. Katy Perry feels her hit "I Kissed A Girl" expresses stereotypes that don't match with the world we live in today and says "We've come a long way. Bisexuality wasn't as talked about back then, or any type of fluidity," and thinks if she were writing the song today it would reflect the 'wokeness' of the times. And, while Nirvana is no more since the death of Kurt Cobain, even when he was still alive and performing, Cobain often refused to perform one of Nirvana's biggest hits in concerts, "Smells Like Teen Spirit", and even when he did, said "I literally want to throw my guitar down and walk away. I can't pretend to have a good time playing it.". Miley Cyrus once asked a DJ to play any of her songs, EXCEPT "Party in the U.S.A.", one of her biggest hits. Playing Name That Tune on The Tonight Show, she didn't even recognize the song.
So, while we as fans may fall in love with songs, the artists themselves often fall OUT of love with those same songs, or even grow to hate them. We might not get to hear them play them live, but we can always be glad that at one point they laid down the tracks in the studio, and gave us their music forever!