The Guinness Book of World Records is the de facto standard-bearer for, well, world records. If you want to know, for example, what the longest concert ever was, Guinness will tell you that it was a 64 hour ordeal in April of 2009, unless you meant a the longest concert by more than one artist, in which case it was a 360 hour extravaganza in 2011. If you think those two definitions are too broad, and you meant a choral performance, well, that was 31 hours in 2005. Or maybe you want to limit your search to concerts that were live-streamed over the Internet? No worries, Guinness has that, too! It was 181 hours long and happened in 2001.
But what about the world’s shortest concert? Well, that gets dicey. And if you search Guinness’ website, you’ll not find such an “official” record.
Why not? Let’s start with the summer of 2007. The White Stripes — a duo comprised of now ex-husband and wife Jack and Meg White (and probably best known for their song Seven Nation Army) — embarked on a Canadian concert tour. The tour was quirky from the time they announced it — while most artists focus on larger cities, the White Stripes decided to play in all 10 provinces and all three territories. That oddball creativity set the tone for the entire tour; the White Stripes ended up playing at small and, let’s say, non-traditional venues — Wikipedia lists a bowling alley, a YMCA, a flour mill, and even a bus as some of those locations. Some of these shows were “secret” shows announced only via message boards on the band’s official website. And one of these final “secret” shows is where the Guinness trouble began.
On the evening of July 16, 2007, the White Stripes were scheduled to play the tour’s final show in St. Johns, Newfoundland, completing their efforts to play in all of Canada’s provinces and territories. That concert went ahead as scheduled, but it wasn’t their first in Newfoundland. A few hours earlier, the duo held one of the aforementioned secret shows, for free, in front of maybe few hundred people. You can watch the entirety of the concert below, and don’t worry, the video is less than a minute long. That’s because the concert totaled exactly one note.
That has to be the shortest concert of all time, right? That’s what Jack White, thought, too. MTV would later report that White submitted the concert to Guinness for consideration and at first, the venerable record keeper agreed, cataloguing the concert in its 2009 edition. But after that, the record disappeared. Guinness explained the reason for the removal to SPIN magazine:
Subsequent to this appearance we received a large volume of applications from bands and performers seeking to beat this record. The ultimate results of this was individuals claiming that simply appearing on stage was enough to qualify them for this record.
The results were difficult to objectively measure (for example, how many members of the crowd need to be able to see the performer before they disappear off stage?) and as such it’s difficult to justify an appearance as a concert by any reasonable definition of the word.
The nature of competing to make something the ‘shortest’ by its very nature trivializes the activity being carried out, and Guinness World Records has been forced to reject many claims of this kind. As such, we have been forced to cease listing records for the shortest song, shortest poem, and indeed the shortest concert.
White wasn’t happy with this (in various reports, he called the decision arbitrary and “elitist”) but apparently wasn’t one to give up. In 2012, he told Rolling Stone that he wanted to break the record for most metaphors used in a concert. To date, however, Guinness’s website lists no such achievement.
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