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Rarely Performed Song

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Everyone loves a good song by a musical artist or group, regardless of if it's considered their biggest hit or even a hit at all. Unfortunately, there are occasions where said good/popular song is almost never heard again in concert, on television, on the radio, or otherwise.

This can occur for a variety of reasons. It's possible that the song is an Old Shame or can be hated by the musician(s) themselves, in spite of its popularity. Another reason could be that the song is too difficult to perform live due to the changes to the artist's voice in the time between when it was first released and now, and them fearing of it not being performed to the best of their abilities or the complexity/legality of the song (certain instruments are required, they could be sued for playing it, etc.) deters them from playing it again. Another popular explanation is that the song is one from an emotional standpoint (oftentimes, dedicated to a deceased loved one or its subject matter now being Distanced from Current Events) and is considered too intimate or painful to perform again. Sometimes though, their reasoning for not playing it again is either unclear or unexplained.

A Sub-Trope of Creator Backlash. This trope may result in Keep Circulating the Tapes. See also Old Shame, Black Sheep Hit, Screwed by the Lawyers, Distanced from Current Events, Harsher in Hindsight, Hitless Hit Album, and No-Hit Wonder. Also compare Canon Discontinuity. Please do not confuse this with Album Filler, which regards songs not usually meant to be played live or released as a single.

NOTE: Zero Content Examples are not allowed. Please explain or provide some background as to why a song you're going to add to the list is considered a Rarely Performed Song. Also, the examples have been alphabetized by artist for your convenience.


Examples:

  • AC/DC has not performed "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Want To Rock & Roll)" live since original frontman Bon Scott's death in 1980, as the next frontman Brian Johnson considers it "Bon's Song" and wouldn't be right for him to sing it.
  • Despite its strong critical praise and live-friendly sound, Adele refused to perform "To Be Loved" past a sole pre-recorded video of her singing it in her living room. In an interview, she clarified that the song, which documents her attempts at explaining her divorce to her son, is so personal that "I can't even listen to it [...] I have to leave the room, I get really upset, I get really choked up."
  • The German musician Alligatoah rarely live-performs songs from his early albums.note  From his 2013 album "Triebwerke" that caused a significant Newbie Boom, "Prostitution" and the "Münchhausen" trilogy are usually not played either due to their relative obscurity, while "Wunderschöne Frau" and "Erntedank" additionally have featured artists that he usually doesn't live-performs with.
  • The B-52s stopped playing "Song For a Future Generation" after the death of guitarist Ricky Wilson. Wilson had a spoken word section in the song, and the band felt it wasn't right to perform it without him.
  • Barenaked Ladies: For a while, the band didn't perform "If I Had a Million Dollars" live because fans would often throw boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese onstage during the line "We wouldn't have to eat Kraft dinner". When the band began playing the song again, they put donation boxes for food shelters in the places they performed concerts at, and asked fans to put their Kraft boxes in there instead of throwing them at the band members.
  • The Beach Boys have played almost nothing from Summer in Paradise live since it released, thanks to the album being a critical and commercial failure and a massive source of Creator Backlash (even for Mike Love, who scarcely mentions the album in his memoirs despite the project being his brainchild). The only Summer in Paradise track to appear in their setlists is the Title Track, which remains a concert staple thanks to its environmentalist themes.
  • Beastie Boys rarely perform "Fight For Your Right" live, as while the song was intended to be a satire of frat-boy and party-hard culture, it was misinterpreted as a celebration of such by its targets. Mike D later noted:
    Mike D: 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.
  • Pat Benatar has stated that she will no longer sing her hit "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" in deference to the victims of the families of the multiple 2022 mass shootings in the US.
    I'm not singing it. I tell [fans], if you want to hear the song, go home and listen to it. [The title] is tongue-in-cheek, but you have to draw the line. I can't say those words out loud with a smile on my face, I just can't.
  • blink-182: For a time, after 2009, the band retired "Adam's Song" from their concerts due to the death of their close friend DJ AM, who succumbed to his drug addiction. Nine years later though, they brought the song back during their residency at Las Vegas, with bassist Mark Hoppus explaining that they saw it in a new light.
  • Born of Osiris stopped playing anything off their breakthrough album, The Discovery, as of 2021. The Discovery was tracked by acclaimed guitarist Jason Richardson, who infamously got along poorly with the rest of Born of Osiris. They allegedly ripped off Richardson for his work on the album, and his personality clashed with the laidback and party-heavy Born of Osiris. The bad blood between Richardson and Born of Osiris, as well as the material being hard to play live, is likely why the band doesn't play anything off The Discovery anymore, including Signature Song "Follow The Signs."
  • David Bowie:
    • All of Bowie's pre-Space Oddity material disappeared from Bowie's setlists once his career took off in the early '70s, owed to a mix of its Early-Installment Weirdness and his Creator Backlash towards it. Bowie eventually incorporated "Can't Help Thinking About Me" into his setlist during the supporting tour for 'hours...' in 1999 and featured "I Dig Everything" and "The London Boys" in the Mini Tour the following summer. This revisiting of his early material led to the making of the re-recordings album Toy in 2000 (though the album went unreleased until 2021).
    • After the Glass Spider Tour in 1987, material from Tonight mostly vanished from Bowie's setlists, while material from Never Let Me Down completely vanished, owed to Bowie's fierce Creator Backlash towards both albums. The most representation Tonight got post-1987 consisted of "Blue Jean" reappearing during the Sound + Vision tour and both it and "Loving the Alien" appearing in the supporting tour for Reality.
    • Bowie deliberately sought to invoke this with his 1990 Sound + Vision tour, done to promote Rykodisc's remasters of his back-catalog. Not wanting to become a legacy act, the idea behind the tour was that he would perform all his greatest hits (plus the recent Adrian Belew collaboration "Pretty Pink Rose") for one last run before permanently retiring them from his setlists. The plan mostly fell through during the supporting tour for Outside, where his unwillingness to play old songs drew staunch criticism and forced him to renege on his idea, but he still deprioritized them in favor of post-1990 material, and six tracks featured on the Sound + Vision tour did indeed disappear from Bowie's setlists for good: "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide", "John, I'm Only Dancing", "Amsterdam", "Young Americans", "TVC 15", and "Pretty Pink Rose". Additionally, the Title Track to Space Oddity would only be performed a handful of times after the tour.
  • According to Pop Up Video, Boy George no longer performs his 1992 cover of Dave Barry's 1964 hit "The Crying Game" for the the soundtrack for the film of the same name due to the strain it causes to his voice.
  • Cannibal Corpse played "Frantic Disembowelment" exactly once before permanently retiring it, as it is a ridiculously technical song that is physically painful to play, and is nowhere near enough of a fan favorite to justify slogging through it.
  • Invoked by Aaron Carter, who told the audience at a live show of his that he would not perform some of his older hits, like "I Want Candy", even as some begged him to due to his wish to be taken as a "serious artist".
  • Cattle Decapitation seldom performs anything from before 2019's Death Atlas, with 2009's The Harvest Floor being a particularly major pariah for their modern era despite having numerous fan favorites. This is because it is an extremely technically difficult and often physically painful album to play, and Dave McGraw in particular hates his drumming on the album and believes that he overplayed in a misguided attempt to prove himself as the new guy.
  • Eric Clapton's 1992 Grief Song "Tears in Heaven" was written for his 4-year-old son Conor, who died after falling from an apartment window. Come 2004, however, Clapton has stopped performing the song, citing being able to cope with the loss and no longer needing it. He additionally no longer performs his 1998 song "My Father's Eyes", which was inspired by growing up never knowing his father, for similar reasons.
  • Leonard Cohen performed almost nothing from Death of a Ladies' Man live due to his Creator Backlash towards the material and his poor memories of its turbulent making. The sole exception was "Memories", which was a staple of Cohen's 1979, 1980, and 1985 concert tours.
  • Counting Crows has a case with the original version of their 1993 Breakthrough Hit, "Mr. Jones". The song, from their debut album, is about struggling musicians seeking fame and hit #2 on the US Billboard chart. Starting around 1999, following years of vocalist/songwriter Adam Duritz enduring mental health struggles and disillusionment with fame, the band began performing a more "subdued" acoustic version of the song live. Additionally, several of the lyrics were changed. "We all wanna be big, big stars, but we got different reasons for that" became "We all wanna be big, big stars, but then we get second thoughts about that"; while "when everybody loves you, sometimes that's just about as funky as you can be" became "when everybody loves you, sometimes that's just about as fucked up as you can be." Thus, the original version of the song is now rarely performed.
  • Def Leppard only sporadically performed "Tonight" during their Adrenalize tour due to it being one of the last songs Steve Clark worked on before his tragic death, making it too painful to feature in regular set rotation at the time, though it was performed more often in subsequent tours.
  • Depeche Mode refused to play "But Not Tonight" for decades due to substantial Creator Backlash towards it, having hastily put it together in three hours for the Modern Girls soundtrack. The track wouldn't appear on their setlist until 2014, when Martin Gore put together an acoustic rendition for Delta Machine's supporting tour.
  • Dream Theater very rarely plays songs from the "Twelve-Step Suite" after drummer and founding member Mike Portnoy's departure from the band in 2010. The "Suite" is a set of five connected songsnote  written by Portnoy detailing his battle with alcoholism. The first three songs haven't been played at all since his departure. The fourth, Reptentance, was only played live a single time even when Portnoy was with the band. The final song, The Shattered Fortress, continued to be played until 2014, in large part because it was one of the hits of the band's 2009 Black Clouds & Silver Linings album, the final with Portnoy. For the same reason, The Mirror, formerly one of their most-performed songs and officially considered a "prelude" to the Twelve-Step Suite, has also been retired from live play since 2014.
  • Eminem:
    • "Cleanin' Out My Closet", a song detailing Eminem's strained relationship with his mother, was removed from his setlist after he reconciled with her in 2013.
    • Eminem retired all his Encore! material from his live set once the album's era was over, owing to its negative reception amongst fans and critics; for a while he still performed "Like Toy Soldiers", then later added "Evil Deeds" and "Mosh".
    • Virtually everything off of Relapse was only played live once or twice. Eminem was still relearning how to play live and only had a couple of gigs in which he performed Relapse material — Voodoo Fest in New Orleans, the album launch party, and some televised live performances of the album's singles like "We Made You", "Crack A Bottle". Eminem then underwent a severe Creator Backlash towards the album, and retired almost all material from the album other than "3 a.m.".
    • Despite being a fan-favorite, "Kim" has never been performed live by Eminem due to a promise he made to Kim, who he murders in the song. It has been said that he broke this promise at a show in Detroit, leading to Kim's suicide attempt, but the actual incident was him bringing a blowup doll on stage to play 'Kim'.
  • Erra doesn’t play much from the 2015 EP A Moment of Clarity. The vocalist who tracked it, Ian Eubanks, was only in Erra for a short period of time thanks to poor technique and health issues. Once JT Cavey joined songs from the EP were dropped from set lists. They might bust out “Dreamcatcher” on a headliner set, but the last time they played that song was from 2019.
  • Evanescence have never played their songs "Hello" and "Like You" live as they are a tributes to lead singer Amy Lee's younger sister who died when Amy was 6 years old.
  • John Fahey described Fare Forward Voyagers (Soldier's Choice) as his greatest guitar album note , but said its three songs were too "technically demanding" to perform live.
  • Fleetwood Mac rarely performs their 1982 hit "Gypsy" due to the song becoming an unintentional Grief Song to Stevie Nicks' best friend Robyn Snyder Anderson, who died of cancer that same year.
  • Foo Fighters:
    • They for the longest time refused to play "Big Me" live because whenever they did, they'd be pelted with Mentos mints, since the song's video spoofed Mentos commercials, frequently making Dave chastise their audience. They started playing it again after Weezer covered it with great acclaim during their joint "Foozer" tour in 2005-'06.
    • Dave Grohl is notably not a fan of their album One by One, stating that seven of its eleven tracks are "sub-par". He claims to have never played them again after recording them, but fans claiming to have seen it live dispute this (only "Burn Away" and "Halo" didn't appear in any concerts). In either case, they are, at best, exceptionally rare plays.
    • Inverted for the song "Butterflies." It was recorded on the original cassette tape version of their first album (in which Grohl played every instrument himself) but was not included in the CD release, or on any album since. However, the band does play it live, meaning "live" was the only way for most to hear it until it the cassette version was uploaded to YouTube and other similar sites.
    • Many of their tracks have less than 15 plays, with some like "Hell", "Erase/Replace", "Come Back", "Concrete and Gold" and "Subterranean" having only been performed once. These rare tracks sadly include all but three songs off Medicine at Midnight given drummer Taylor Hawkins died early in the album's tour.
  • Peter Gabriel dropped all of his past material with Genesis from his setlists after 1978, owed to a combination of him wanting to more thoroughly separate himself from his old band and the fact that his solo output was moving in a vastly different direction. The only times he played any of Genesis' songs again were in 1982 as part of the one-off reunion concert "Six of the Best" and in 2016, when "Dancing with the Moonlight Knight" was included in the Rock Paper Scissors tour that Gabriel did with Sting. Even then, some shows had Sting perform the song instead of Gabriel.
  • Genesis:
    • They opted to remove the Title Track to Abacab from their setlists when they reunited in 2007, owed to Phil Collins finding the song too incomprehensible for him to comfortably sing.
    • "Illegal Alien" has never been performed in its entirety since its parent album's supporting tour wrapped up in 1984, due to controversy over the song's highly stereotypical depiction of Mexican immigrants. The closest they got was including a snippet of it during a medley of past songs as part of the tour for We Can't Dance.
    • "Anything She Does" has only rarely shown up in the band's setlists over the years, most prominently being omitted from the Invisible Touch tour. In the companion documentary Visible Touch, Tony Banks explained that this is because of the song's heavy reliance on sampled horns and synth bass, which makes it prohibitively difficult to play on-stage.
    • The band avoided including any material from ...Calling All Stations... in their setlist during the 2007 and 2021 reunions. The album was made solely due to an Abilene Paradox between Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford, neither of whom wanted to continue the band after Phil Collins left but assumed the other bandmate wished to do so, resulting in material that was widely panned by fans, critics, and the musicians involved. Consequently, Banks and Rutherford's poor memories of the album's production ensured that it would go unrepresented on stage (and off).
  • After the Station nightclub fire in 2003 that killed 100 people, Great White refused to play the song they were performing when the fire broke out, "Desert Moon", for six years.
  • The Grateful Dead had several songs they stopped playing over the years, but one that most vexed their devoted Deadhead fans were the three times they dropped "St. Stephen" out of their setlists. The song was played regularly between 1968 and 1971, occasionally between 1976 and 1979, and then only made three more appearances in 1983 before it was gone from the Dead's repertoire for good. In 1988, singer-guitarist Jerry Garcia explained that they'd gotten tired of playing it and that the song was "Unnecessarily difficult" and "inflexible," particularly the slow bridge in the middle of the song that he believed made it lose momentum. "St. Stephen", however, has regularly been played by the post-Dead bands of former members, particularly Dead & Company.
  • Green Day has never performed "Panic Song" live. When a fan inquired about this, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong stated that it was because the song is difficult to play live (for starters, Mike Dirnt plays a single tremolo-picked note in the intro for almost two minutes).
  • Guns N' Roses has two of the tracks from Appetite for Destruction, "Anything Goes", which has not been played since 1988, and "Think About You", which had most of its plays between 2001 and 2006 (meaning Slash (Musician) hasn't performed it since 1987!).
  • Parodied in the Homestar Runner short "Record Store Day". Alt-rockers Sloshy release "B-est of B-sides", the most obscure song in their already-obscure discography, and the song specifically mentions in the chorus, "We'll never even play this song live."
  • Iron Maiden:
    • Many of their songs were never played live (the only albums that had all tracks performed at some point were their self-titled debut and A Matter of Life and Death), and quite a few only in a few concerts. One that fans particularly lamented never appearing in setlists was "Alexander the Great", which wouldn't see a live debut until the Future Past tour in 2023.
    • Drummer Nicko McBrain's dislike of double bass drum (according to the documentary The Early Days Pt. 1, he considers it "undrummerish") is why "Face in the Sand", the only Maiden song where McBrain plays a drum kit of such kind, was left out of the Dance of Death tour, and any posterior tours.
    • Guitarist Adrian Smith confirmed that the band have no intention of playing "Empire of the Clouds" live, owed to the complexity of its arrangement and its mammoth 18-minute length, both of which caused no shortage of trouble for the band when recording it in the studio.
  • Michael Jackson dropped various songs from his concerts over the years. After the first half of his Bad tour, Jackson completely stopped performing any of the hits he recorded with his brothers, save for a medley of Motown-era classics, likely due to lingering feelings over the ill-fated Victory Tour. Come the Dangerous tour, he also stopped performing cuts from Off the Wall and Bad, with the exception of a small handful of songs. Had he lived to complete the This Is It residency in 2009, nearly all the songs he stopped performing in the past would have been performed live once more.
  • A couple of the James Bond themes became this:
    • In spite of the popularity of the self-titled Moonraker theme, Shirley Bassey seldom performed the song publicly, citing how it didn't feel like her own song, which was initially offered to both Johnny Mathis and Frank Sinatra.
    • Although Alicia Keys included the song on her 2010 The Freedom Tour, neither she nor Jack White has performed "Another Way to Die", the theme song of Quantum of Solace, since then, likely due to its unpopularity.
  • Billy Joel: While "Just The Way You Are" is still one of his best-known hits, he stopped performing the song live in 1986 because he wrote it for his first wife, whom he later divorced in 1982. He wouldn't start performing it again until the 2000s, albeit jokingly parodying the lyrics in the chorus as "She got the house. She got the car"
  • Elton John:
    • In spite of the single's popularity and it being his biggest hit since his 1976 duet with Kiki Dee "Don't Go Breaking My Heart", he has only performed his 1980 song "Little Jeannie" on his World Tour from the same year and the One Night Only performance twenty years later.
    • His only performance of the 1997 version of "Candle In The Wind", which was dedicated to his good friend Princess Diana, was at her funeral. He has said that he will only play the song again if her sons Prince William and Prince Harry personally request it.
    • John only rarely performed "Empty Garden", his Grief Song about the murder of his friend John Lennon, because as he once explained it was too personal and emotional for him.
  • Killswitch Engage has significantly decreased the number of times they play their famous 2006 cover of Ronnie James Dio's "Holy Diver" live over the years. It was their mainstream Breakthrough Hit (they were already popular in Metalcore circles) complete with a popular music video, though also something of a Blacksheep Hit since it was a cover that differed from their usual style. In 2012, vocalist Howard Jones left the band to focus on his health and original vocalist Jesse Leach returned. Leach's differing style doesn't lend as well to "Holy Diver", leading to the decrease in live performances. The band does still play it, but much more rarely than their other hits. (It may only get played once or twice a year now.)
  • While King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man" has been a staple of the band's live performances throughout most of their history, it was conspicuously left out of their setlists during the 1980s, in part due to Robert Fripp's desire to avoid anchoring the group to the past (which itself was a byproduct of his discontent with what he saw as genre-wide artistic stagnation during the twilight of Progressive Rock's heyday in the '70s). "The King Crimson Barber Shop", a joke song included as a bonus track on the 2001 remaster of Three of a Perfect Pair, riffs on this with the lines "We don't do '21st Century Schizoid Man', but we're the King Crimson band."
  • Due to the album's critical and commercial failure, KISS almost never perform songs from Music from "The Elder".
    • Also a number of songs from their 80s albums were rarely performed live. "Keep Me Comin" from "Creatures of the Night" was only ever performed twice during the tour and "Burn Bitch Burn" from "Animalize" was only ever performed ONCE live.
  • Outside of a handful of early concerts, Korn refused to play the song "Daddy" live due to its deeply personal subject matter of frontman Jonathan Davis' sexual abuse as a child. In 2015, Davis would relent and perform the song for a series of concerts commemorating the self-titled album's (from which "Daddy" came from) 20th anniversary, since his abuser had died by then and thus he felt comfortable performing it.
  • For unknown reasons, Madonna has not performed her 1992 song "Bad Girl" in decades, with her only performance being her 1993 appearance as host and musical guest on Saturday Night Live. She has also never sung her megahit "This Used to be My Playground" from the A League of Their Own soundtrack live, either.
  • Despite the commercial success of her 1999 debut bubblegum pop single "Candy", musician and actor Mandy Moore over time has felt embarrassed by her debut single and first two albums, describing them as "cheesy". Moore has even offered to refund the money of anyone who bought her first two albums. Lived up to it during a radio interview in '06. Yup, that's just how much she hated them. She seems to have softened on this however, as she celebrated the 20th anniversary of "Candy" in 2019 warmly and performed "Candy" as a blues-tuned version in 2020-'21 concerts.
  • Zig-zagged with Paul McCartney. During the early post-Beatles years, he refused to play any Beatles songs. Eventually he relaxed that policy but still played only a few Beatles songs (mainly the songs that he wrote without the help of Lennon). Current setlists usually feature an even mixture of his work with the Beatles and his solo work. Also, he still rarely plays songs such as "Coming Up", "Every Night" and "Here Today".
  • Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine retired "The Conjuring" in 2001 after becoming a Christian, due to its lyrics depicting black magic rituals. Mustaine wouldn't bring the song back into the band's setlist until 2018. Other songs retired as a result of Dave's conversion include the band's cover of "Anarchy in the U.K." (beyond a one-off in 2016) and "Good Mourning/Black Friday".
  • Metallica:
    • Despite being on their popular album Ride the Lightning, the band has only ever played "Escape" live a single time during an anniversary concert where they played every song from the album. "Escape" was a last-minute addition to the album, literally written by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich in the recording studio when they were told by the producer that they had to have one more song on the album, and the label wanted a song with a melodic hook for release as a single.note 
    • Metallica hadn't played "Orion" from Master of Puppets in its entirety until 2006, having last played it at original bassist Cliff Burton's funeral in 1986. It's mainly because the middle portion of the song was built exclusively around Burton's bass-playing, which the following bassists struggled to match.
    • Though it's their second best-selling album, it's rare for the band to play anything other than "One" from ...And Justice For All live. It was their first album after Burton's death, new bassist Jason Newsted was all but mixed out of the album altogether, and they didn't have their usual mixing producer, leading it to have an overly "sterile" and "tinny" sound lacking bass. It was also their most aggressive and technically demanding album, leading to burnout. Finally, the album has some of their longest songs, which, according to Hetfield, the crowds don't always respond well to when they're played live. Though many of its songs are beloved by fans, the band itself rarely plays most of them for these reasons. From the 2010s onward, "Blackened", "Harvester of Sorrow", and "The Shortest Straw" get played a few times a year, though "One" remains the album's only staple.
    • Three songs off Metallica, "My Friend of Misery", "Don't Tread on Me", and "The Struggle Within", only had their live debuts 20 years after the album came out, as the band decided to celebrate the occasion by playing it in its entirety. Only "My Friend of Misery" had another performance other than those 20 concerts.
    • "The Unforgiven II" from ReLoad is a sequel song to "The Unforgiven", one of the most popular songs from Metallica. It was released as a single and had a music video, but as a slow Power Ballad, was a Black Sheep Hit for the band. They initially played it live once at the Billboard Music Awards in 1997 (the same year ReLoad was released) before shelving it until 2015. Even after, they've only played it a total of 10 times as of 2022. In general quite a few songs from Load and ReLoad have either rarely been performed ("Poor Twisted Me", "Mama Said", "Outlaw Torn", "Carpe Diem Baby", "Fixxxer") or never been played ("The House That Jack Built", "Cure", "Ronnie", "Thorn Within", "Bad Seed").
    • Given the Creator Breakdown going on at the time of production (as explained in the tie-in documentary Some Kind of Monster) and its status as a near-Creator Killer, the band almost never plays anything from St. Anger these days. Even during the supporting tour some songs off that album were rarely played, with "Sweet Amber" only having been performed once in 2004.
  • Despite it being one of his biggest hits, George Michael stopped performing "I Want Your Sex" after the Faith World Tour wrapped up in 1989, thanks to him viewing it as overly imitative of Prince.
  • Muse have all but abandoned their debut album Showbiz from 2014 onward after a slow decline in performances beginning in 2005. It is their only album to have no songs performed from it consistently at live shows, with the album's top 20 hit singles "Sunburn" and "Muscle Museum" only being performed twice and five times respectively in the last 10 years, the band's debut single "Uno" being performed a mere five times since 2003, and the album's fan-favorite Title Track being performed on extremely rare occasions from 2017 to 2019 due to high fan demand, and in 2023 after having technical difficulties while closing a gig with "Knights of Cydonia". A combination of the album's obscurity outside of Europe, the deeply personal and emotional lyrics, and all of the songs on the album becoming increasingly difficult for frontman Matt Bellamy to sing is believed to have led to the album's disappearance from the band's concerts.
  • My Chemical Romance:
    • My Chemical Romance hasn't played "Drowning Lessons" from I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love since the early 2000's, due to live performances of it being plagued with technical mishaps to the point where it was dubbed 'cursed' in a tweet by bassist Mikey Way.
    • "Desert Song" is another rarely-played song, written about frontman and singer Gerard Way's struggles with alcoholism and suicidality and allegedly only ever performed drunk. Last performed in 2008, it received a Triumphant Reprise as the final song in their set on 9/11/2022.
  • New Order:
    • The band kept their entire discography as Joy Division out of their setlist until 1998 to avoid being compared to their prior incarnation, which was renamed following the 1980 suicide of frontman Ian Curtis.
    • Despite being a fan-favorite, "The Perfect Kiss" disappeared from their concerts between 1993 and 2006, due to difficulties with converting the sample programming to newer equipment.
    • While Technique is a fan-favorite album, the band dropped its songs from their setlist after their 1994-1998 hiatus. "Vanishing Point" briefly reappeared in 2017, but that was it. In a 2023 interview with the Irish Times, Gillian Gilbert claimed that the album's lack of on-stage representation is due to frontman Bernard Sumner considering it "unfinished."
    • Due to lingering bad memories of its Troubled Production and their dissatisfaction with how it turned out, most of the material on Republic was dropped from live performances following the conclusion of its supporting tour, with the exception of the hit single "Regret", which remains a concert staple.
  • Nine Inch Nails:
    • The band didn't perform "Sunspots", originally released on With Teeth in 2005, live (bar some sound checks/rehearsals) until the Brixton leg of the NIN 2022 tour, due to Trent Reznor's fear of straining his voice too much during the song.
    • Reznor's vocal strain is also why "We're In This Together", released in 1999 on The Fragile, has only been performed during the European leg of the Performance 2007 tour. The live performance was also in a lower key than the studio version.
    • Reznor's frustration with "The Perfect Drug" led to it only being performed live in 2018, 21 years after it was recorded.
    • The original 1994 album version of "Hurt" from The Downward Spiral is rarely, if ever, played anymore. The song has a bit of a "cursed" reputation in that several live performances of it have been interrupted for various circumstances (such as technical difficulties and fan trolling), and when it was Covered Up so well by Johnny Cash in 2002, Reznor outright said "that song isn't mine anymore". Still, they continued to play it until about 2005, where they began almost exclusively playing a toned-down version, literally called "Hurt (Quiet Version)", at all live performances. It features Reznor providing vocals and playing the keyboard, with the rest of the band only joining in at the final chorus.
  • Northlane:
    • After switching vocalist from Adrian Fitipales to Marcus Bridge, tunes from Discovery and Singularity started appearing less and less in live sets. Main reason is Adrian and Marcus having different vocal styles and both albums being considered Early-Installment Weirdness. That said "Quantum Flux" is a live staple, and occasionally "Dispossesion" will be played in headline sets. Also saying that, both songs have been slowly disappearing from shows as of 2023.
    • The first two Marcus Bridge albums Node and Mesmer stopped showing up in shows after 2020. The latter in particular was a near Creator Killer for Northlane and were all too happy to abandon the album once Alien dropped.
  • Oingo Boingo: Even though "Weird Science" is one of the band's most well-known songs, due to it being written for the movie of the same name, the band stopped playing it live due to frontman Danny Elfman believing that the song isn't his best work and getting tired of it. Even during Coachella 2022, in which Elfman played several of Oingo Boingo's most popular songs, he didn't perform "Weird Science".
  • After the Pater Familicide of wrestler Chris Benoit and his family, Our Lady Peace had since admitted they would never play "Whatever", Benoit's theme, again; and the WWE themselves blacklisted the song. The song had already been removed from their setlists for years prior to Benoit's death.
  • Phish:
    • Phish occasionally plays rare songs (known to their fans as "Bust-outs") that they haven't played in years during their concerts, including songs that hadn't been seen in decades or had only been played once or twice before, so very few songs are ever out of their repertoire for good. One song that probably is, however, is "Jennifer Dances", which was only played four times in December 1999 before vanishing from their set lists. Reportedly, the band discarded the song because word got back to them that their devoted fanbase absolutely hated it. It's become a sort of meme in the Phish community in the years since, and it made a goofy reappearance at a July 2014 concert, when drummer Jon Fishman sang a couple lines from the song before admitting he'd forgotten the rest.
    • "Harpua" and the pairing of "Colonel Forbin's Ascent" and "Fly Famous Mockingbird" are three of Phish's most beloved songs, with many fans hoping they get the chance to hear them at any given concert. One of the reasons for this is "Harpua" and "Mockingbird" both feature long narrated stories by guitarist Trey Anastasio that he changed every time they played them and which were usually connected to the band's Gamehendge mythos. However, they've all become rarer in later years. "Forbin" and "Mockingbird" stopped being regular features in Phish concerts after 1996, with just 11 more performances in the 25 years following. "Harpua" also largely dropped out of the band's repertoire by the late 90s, with just eight more performances after 2000.
  • Prince refused to play the Title Track to 1999 in concert during the first half of the 2000s, feeling that its constant references to the year 1999 made it too dated to play in the 21st century; his New Year's Day 2000 performance was intended to be the song's final live appearance as a result. He would eventually relent in 2007 when he included it in his Super Bowl XLI halftime setlist, with the song returning to his regular concerts afterward.
  • Psychostick rarely plays "Orgasm = Love", a fan favorite from their very first album, live. Vocalist and songwriter Rob "Rawrb" Kersey noted that "this song was written during a weird phase in my life. I was going through some weird turbulent stuff with relationships" and at one point dubbed it a "studio only" song when asked by a fan if they would ever play it live. Additionally, it's a slow Power Ballad for an otherwise "thrashy" comedy metal band, giving it Black Sheep Hit vibes. The band has ultimately relented, playing it live on a few occasions, but nowhere near as often as other songs of its popularity.
  • Queen:
    • Because Jazz underperformed by the band's standards, "Don't Stop Me Now" was permanently removed from their setlists in The '80s, having only been played live in 1979. Interestingly, surviving bootlegs of their performances of the song show the crowd taking to it just as you'd expect from what would go on to be known as one of Queen's greatest.
    • With the sole exception of "Under Pressure", which remains a concert staple to this day, material from Hot Space hardly shows up in the band's live shows thanks to Brian May and Roger Taylor's dislike of it and the major backlash that its disco sound spawned.
  • Radiohead:
    • For a long time, the band refrained from performing their Breakthrough Hit "Creep", due to their discontent with audiences only showing up to hear that song and leaving right after it was over. They eventually made peace with the song and added it back to their setlist in 2016.
    • Barring "Creep", the only other songs they have performed from Pablo Honey since 2000 are "You," "Lurgee" and "Blow Out," the latter being performed as recently as 2018. The band still has a strong amount of Creator Backlash towards the album.
    • The non-album single "Pop Is Dead" hasn't been played live since 1995, thanks to the band's massive Creator Backlash towards it (which later led to it becoming the only song of theirs that is currently out of print).
    • Despite being a hit single for the band, "High and Dry" hasn't appeared in concert since 1998, thanks to the band members' Creator Backlash towards it.
    • They rarely perform "Let Down" from OK Computer live, since the song's effects are difficult to recreate live.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers has rarely played their 1989 single "Knock Me Down" live in concert, since it was written about their fallen guitar player Hillel Slovak, making it too emotional to revisit. On at least one occasion, three of the band members wanted to perform the song but singer Anthony Kiedis refused. The band also rarely performed songs from One Hot Minutes with Chad Smith claiming, "We don't really feel that connected to that record anymore. No special reason, not to say we'd never play those songs, but we don't feel that emotionally connected to that music right now”.
  • R.E.M.:
    • The band stopped playing "Catapult" live after 1984 due to their bad memories of attempting to record it for Murmur with producer Stephen Hague. Hague was an acidic perfectionist during the band's tryout sessions with him, and the Sisyphean process of recording the song deeply demoralized them before they eventually got fed up and convinced I.R.S. Records to replace him with prior collaborators Mitch Easter and Don Dixon. Even after they recorded a satisfactory version of "Catapult" with Easter and Dixon, R.E.M. couldn't perform it on-stage without thinking back to their turbulent first attempts with Hague.
    • Their 1991 Black Sheep Hit "Shiny Happy People" is an interesting case. Depending on the source, the band refuse to perform the song in concert due to either absolutely hating the song or because they find it too difficult to perform live. Furthermore, they also bounce between either hating the song or having a love-hate relationship with it.
    • The song "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" was a fairly well-received single, and the band members themselves seemed to like the song, since they always included it on compilations and generally described it as a good track that managed to lighten the rather somber mood of the album Automatic for the People. Despite this, they never played the song live.
  • The Rolling Stones:
    • While "Brown Sugar" from Sticky Fingers was the band's second most popular live track for years, they removed it from their setlists in 2019 due to renewed scrutiny towards its lyrics, which lasciviously depict an affair between an enslaved Black woman and her white master. Although both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have expressed hope to bring it back in the future.
    • Their cover of Bob & Earl's "Harlem Shuffle" is pretty much the only song off of Dirty Work that they've played live since (as it's their biggest hit from the album), but even then it's just on rare occasions.
  • Stabbing Westward have rarely played the title track to their album Ungod since its release in 1994 - guitarist Stuart Zechman used the same chorus riff for "Hey Man Nice Shot" by Filter, and the latter became a hit single in 1995. The song was attempted a few more times in 1998, then seemed to be retired again.
  • Steeleye Span no longer performs the old English folk song "Little Sir Hugh," despite the fact it is thought of as one of their best. It was pointed out to them that although the song in its various forms has been around for at least six centuries, it isn't just a medieval ditty about cruel child murder. The ballad, about a woman dressed in green who slaughters a little boy to collect his blood in a bucket, is about "blood libel", an antisemitic conspiracy theory accusing Jews of kidnapping children for Human Sacrifice, which was used to justify numerous pogroms against Jewish communities since the middle ages (including the expulsion of England's Jewish population in the late 1100s). The band accepted the ballad is extremely antisemitic and dropped it from their performances.
  • Supergrass' big hit "Alright" is barely performed in recent band reunions. Although Gaz Coombes seems to still be fond of the song, he states that it doesn't reflect them nowadays since they're not young anymore — he's joked that if they did play it live, it should be "in a minor key, and in the past tense" ("We were young, we ran green" etc).
  • Taylor Swift has only performed "Soon You'll Get Better" off her 2019 album Lover once, to raise money for COVID-19 relief. The song is about Swift's mother's battle with cancer, and she's stated it was incredibly difficult to write and she nearly didn't put it on the album at all because of how personal it is. Prior to the fundraiser, she said that she wouldn't perform the song live because the topic is so painful for her.
  • Due to the number of instruments required to perform it, The Who hasn't performed their song "The Song Is Over" in concert.
  • System of a Down's "Dreaming" features several vocal tracks from Serj and Daron overlaid on top of each other. It's never been played live as a result.
  • tool:
    • "Ticks & Leeches" from Lateralus features a lot of screaming, and its recording actually wrecked vocalist Maynard's voice for a couple of weeks. As a result, they very rarely play it live, and on the occasions that it is played, heavy electronic effects are added over Maynard's voice so he can sing it relatively normally but maintain its intensity.
    • "Rosetta Stoned" was one of the top 10 most-played songs in concert after the release of 10,000 Days in 2006, but has only been played four times since 2009 and not at all since the release of Fear Inoculum in 2019. The distorted, rapid-fire, almost stream-of-consciousness lyrics plus seven changes in time signature and inclusion of unconventional percussion instruments make it one of the most challenging songs in the catalogue for each band member, likely contributing to its decline in performances.
  • U2:
    • They retired "Exit" (from The Joshua Tree) from their setlist after Robert John Bardo (murderer of actress Rebecca Shaeffer) claimed that the song influenced his actions. The band would later bring the song back for The Joshua Tree's 30th anniversary tours, where they played the album in its entirety.
    • "One Tree Hill", from the same album, is also rarely performed due to it being a Grief Song for Greg Carroll, a roadie for the band and friend of Bono's who was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1986. Most performances of the song take place in Carroll's home country, New Zealand (where the song was released as a single), though the band did also bring the song back for The Joshua Tree's anniversary tours.
    • They retired "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (from War) for some years as the result of a performance one day after the Remembrance Day bombing in Enniskillen in 1987, captured in the documentary Rattle and Hum (released the following year), in which Bono went on a fiery rant emphatically denouncing the IRA and their actions on that day (the lyrics of the song itself don't denounce either side explicitly for fear of reprisals, which led some to interpret it as being supportive of their cause). The band decided they could never top the performance or the raw emotion they felt on that day. However they brought it back on a full-time basis in the late '90s (probably not coincidentally, just as the Good Friday Agreement was coming into force) and it has remained on their setlists ever since.
  • Van Halen wrote very few songs that didn't find a place in their setlist at some point, but one noteworthy exception is "Feels So Good" from 1988. It was a modest hit for the band, peaking at #35 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #6 on the Rock charts in the US, and they filmed a music video for it too. But for reasons unknown it's the only official single they released that they never played live.
  • Due to his Creator Backlash towards both albums, Roger Waters rarely plays songs from The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking or Radio K.A.O.S. live, though he did perform the Pros and Cons track "5:06 AM (Every Stranger's Eyes)" on his 2000 In the Flesh tour.
  • The Who: The group retired "A Quick One, While He's Away" for some time. Pete Townshend initially wrote it on a whim as a light-hearted story about affairs and a love triangle. But years later, he started seeing it as a metaphor for the sexual abuse and other bad experiences he suffered while living with his grandmother as a child. In his autobiography, he claims that he might have subconsciously written the song as a way to cope. They retired the song from their concerts for many years until The New '10s, when they began include more deep cuts.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic:
    • In a 2015 interview, Al stated that he no longer performs "Jerry Springer" live due to its frequent use of terms now recognized as slurs. He also avoids performing the popular "Albuquerque", off the same album, because its 12-minute Epic Rocking length and extensive passages of comedic yelling and screaming put a strain on his vocal cords, saving it for special occasions (namely, when he is performing in Albuquerque, New Mexico), though he did bring it back into regular rotation for both Ridiculously Self Indulgent tours.
    • Due to the difficulty involved with replicating its Motor Mouth bridge, Al refuses to perform the fan-favorite song "Hardware Store" live.
    • Following the release of the 2019 documentary Leaving Neverland, which detailed new child sexual abuse allegations against Michael Jackson, Al opted to remove "Eat It", "Fat", and "Snack All Night" from his setlists, as they were parodies of some of Jackson's biggest hits ("Beat It", "Bad", and "Black or White", respectively). "Eat It" had not been performed live in full since 1987, appearing only to close out a medley of Yankovic's own hits in concert. As "Snack All Night" has never appeared on one of his albums or as a standalone single (at the request of Jackson, who felt that the original song's message should not have been diluted by parody) it is now impossible to listen to legally.
  • X Japan largely abandoned their debut album Vanishing Vision after reuniting in 2008, likely due to the deaths of Hide and Taiji leading to their songs being retired ("Sadistic Desire", "Phantom of Guilt") as well as many of Yoshiki's compositions ("Vanishing Love", "I'll Kill You") containing extremely difficult drumming that would be painful for him to perform due to aging and previous injuries. The two exceptions are "Kurenai", which would later be re-recorded for the band's sophomore album Blue Blood and is considered a contender for the band's Signature Song, and "Unfinished", which was also re-recorded for Blue Blood.
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra:
    • "Mad Pierrot" was taken out of the band's setlist following their earliest performances in 1978, due to the song's fast pace and dense arrangement making it difficult to consistently replicate.
    • "U•T" was removed from the band's setlist after their initial dissolution in 1984. While it was scheduled to be played during their 1993 reunion tour, it was taken out after the band discovered that it was recorded in an obsolete equipment standard, making it prohibitively difficult to perform again.
  • Despite being a major fan-favorite, Neil Young scarcely performs songs from his 1973 Live Album Time Fades Away, thanks to bad memories of the tour it was taken from that resulted in major Creator Backlash, with Young dismissing the album in 1987 as his worst and refusing to reissue it for several decades.

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