What Are The Best Function Band Songs?
Sometimes it can be a daunting task deciding what you’re actually going to play in a function band. You’ll be hired to play live at weddings, corporate events and parties, which means that, ideally, you’ll be performing cover songs that will please your audience and get them up dancing! Fortunately, all of the musicians in Colchester based wedding band 24 Karat have collectively played at thousands of these events over the years, in various different bands as well as in 24K, so we thought we’d put our heads together and come up with a list of the best songs that a function band can choose to add to their set list.
To make it easier to digest, we decided to split the songs up and categorise them into their respective decades in which they were released, as, ideally, a great wedding and function band will have song choices from a range of eras. Furthermore, just because we’re really nice, we decided to give you two picks from each era; our best choice, and one great alternative. So, whether you’re a band just starting up, an established band looking to add more songs to your repertoire, or you’re just looking to put together a playlist for your next event, we hope you find this list beneficial. We at 24 Karat have personally seen each one of these songs go down well at most function events, meaning that a set list built around these tunes is guaranteed to give your audience a great night!
Top Pick: “Johnny B Goode” – Chuck Berry
Ranked seventh on Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs Of All Time” – Chuck Berry’s 1958 classic has remained a staple of many function and wedding band’s setlists even to this day. The instantly recognisable guitar riff often gets audience members on the dancefloor before the rest of the band even kicks in, such is the popularity of this Rock ‘n’ Roll favourite. With a fast tempo of 168 BPM, it’s a great tune for most bands to perform near the end of their second set, when most of the audience are more likely to be in party mode! The extended guitar solo section in the middle also gives the crowd the opportunity to mime some air guitar in between busting out their favourite 1950s inspired dance moves.
Alternative: “Great Balls Of Fire” – Jerry Lee Lewis
Although we don’t see Jerry Lee Lewis’ 1957 hit featuring in the setlists of most function bands, that doesn’t mean to say that it’s not a guaranteed floor filler, should you or your band choose perform it at your next wedding gig. Officially one of the biggest selling singles of all time, “Great Balls Of Fire” is played at a quick tempo of 160 BPM, making it perfect for your audience to dance to. This Rock ‘n’ Roll classic also features some fantastic piano work from Mr Lewis himself, which makes it a great choice to show off the talents of the keyboard player in any function band who feature one. From personal experience, our guitarist in 24 Karat swears by this number, having seen it get a good response at a number of function gigs he’s performed at over the years, so it must be worth a go!
Top Pick: “I’m A Believer” – The Monkees
With its huge popularity amongst younger and older audiences alike, we simply had to give our top pick for the sixties to The Monkees’ classic “I’m A Believer.” Originally written and recorded by Neil Diamond, it is the Monkees’ 1967 cover that is the most well known version of this tune, being one of the few singles to have sold over ten million copies in its lifetime. Its feel good lyrics and upbeat tempo make it perfect to play at weddings and parties, and, according to all members from 24 Karat, it works well performed by either a full band or an acoustic duo, so a real winner all round! Finally, the prominent usage of “I’m A Believer” in the final scene of the 2001 animated film “Shrek” means that this song is certain to be well received by audiences of all ages, making it a safe bet to pull out of the bag at any function event.
Alternative: “Shout” – Lulu
Another sixties pick where the cover version is more famous than the original. Released in 1959 by The Isley Brothers, “Shout” was covered in 1964 by Lulu and the Luvvers and is arguably the most popular version of this tune. The members of 24 Karat have seen this crowd favourite work really well as an encore towards the end of the second set, with it’s fast tempo of 144 BPM making it an easy song for the audience to get up and dance to. The call and response section in the last chorus of this number also gives any function band the ideal opportunity to get the crowd engaged, by asking them to sing along in the response sections! Although “Shout” is a sure fire winner with the more mature audiences, we’ve also seen it work just as well with younger crowds, making it a great choice for any function band’s repertoire.
Top Pick: “Superstition” – Stevie Wonder
Time to get funky! Stevie Wonder’s 1971 smash is featured in many wedding and function bands’ setlists, and it’s easy to see why. Apart from it working just as well for rock and pop bands it does for funk and soul outfits, “Superstition” is the ideal opportunity for the audience to get their groove on! The laid back tempo of 90 BPM coupled with those loose, swung 16th note rhythms means this one is actually scientifically proven to make people want to dance, according to a 2014 study on syncopation and body movement in music. Apparently, according to the findings, “the results showed that medium degrees of syncopation elicited the most desire to move and the most pleasure, particularly for participants who enjoy dancing to music.” Well, you can’t argue with science, so this one will remain a firm favourite amongst function bands for many years to come.
Alternative: “Le Freak” – Chic
We had to include a bit of disco in our list at some point! A favourite of band members and followers of 24 Karat, Chic’s 1978 chart topper never fails to get an audience on their feet and heading for the dancefloor. Originally written by Chic founding members Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, after being refused entry into New York City’s exclusive nightclub Studio 54, the lyrics in the chorus of this disco classic literally encourage your audience to “Freak Out”, making it an absolute winner for parties and weddings in particular. Rodgers’ signature guitar riff, coupled with Edwards’ funky bass playing makes this track groove with the best of them, and its appearance in the 2010 animated film “Toy Story 3” means it’s just as likely to be known by younger crowds as it is by more mature audiences.
Top Pick: “Sweet Child o’ Mine” – Guns N’ Roses
Just the first four notes of Slash’s legendary intro riff to this 1988 mega hit is enough to elicit a huge cheer from most audiences. Apparently, this Guns N’ Roses classic was originally written as a guitar exercise before quickly being turned into one of the greatest rock songs of all time and we’re glad it was! Equally comfortable being performed at pubs, bars, weddings and parties, “Sweet Child o’ Mine” is a staple of most rock and pop covers bands, typically being performed at the end of the night to give the audience a chance to rock out, and bust out their favourite air guitar moves during the song’s multiple guitar instrumental breaks. With a full dancefloor pretty much guaranteed, it’s tough to leave this one out of any function band’s setlist.
Alternative: “Ain’t Nobody” – Rufus & Chaka Khan
Since our top choice for the eighties was a rock favourite, we thought we’d mix it up with a funk and R&B classic, with 1983’s collaboration between the band Rufus and soul diva Chaka Khan being our pick of the bunch. According to rumours, “Ain’t Nobody” nearly ended up on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album, before being released as the lead single for Rufus’ album “Stompin’ At The Savoy” – and if it was potentially good enough for the King of Pop, then it’s definitely good enough for a quality function band! We at 24 Karat have seen this song work brilliantly with our audiences at a number of different gigs, in part due to the fact that it has recently been covered by modern artists Jasmine Thompson and Felix Jaehn, as well as being used in a number of different television adverts, making it an ideal choice for a function band to perform for either younger or older audiences.
Top Pick: “Wonderwall” – Oasis
Oasis are one of the most requested bands for function acts to cover, so much so that our guitarist recalls them being requested at gigs when he was in a soul band! Released in 1995 and written by Noel Gallagher, “Wonderwall” is one of the most iconic and well known songs of the Britpop genre. Its timeless nature means that it is still hugely popular with audiences of all ages to this day, and just hitting the first four guitar chords of the intro is guaranteed to get guests of most function events straight on the dancefloor. We thought this list needed at least one anthem, and there’s plenty of opportunity in this number for crowd interaction, perhaps by getting your audience to engage in some call and response in the last chorus section of the song. However you decided to go about it, function bands can do a lot worse than to include this triple platinum single into their repertoire.
Alternative: “No Scrubs” – TLC
And now for something completely different! While Oasis are firmly rooted in the Britpop genre, the nineties also saw huge popularity for R&B girl group TLC, with their 1999 classic “No Scrubs” arguably being considered their signature song. An absolute staple in every 24 Karat setlist since our first gig, we have firsthand experience of just how well this tune goes down with live audiences of any function event. Epitomising the girl power movement of the nineties, “No Scrubs” fills 24 Karat dancefloors on a regular basis, with its laid back tempo of 93 BPM and its sassy lyrics. The song is also popular with a wide range of ages, as it has been brought back to relevance recently thanks to cover versions from Zara Larsson and Bastille, making it an ideal choice for a number of function bands to include in their setlist.
Top Pick: “Mr Brightside” – The Killers
In similar fashion to “Sweet Child o’ Mine” just a few opening notes from Dave Keuning’s instantly recognisable guitar riff is enough to garner a hugely favourable response from audiences at most function events. Released as The Killers’ debut single in 2003, “Mr Brightside” is one of the fifteen most downloaded rock tracks ever, and was named “Song of the Decade” by UK radio stations Absolute Radio and XFM. This noughties classic is probably our most requested song in 24 Karat, with audience members frequently enquiring as to whether we can play it at a number of our function events. It’s upbeat tempo of 148 BPM and anthemic, sing along chorus means that this sure fire dancefloor filler is best saved for the second set of a function band’s setlist, with yours truly having the most success placing it towards the end of a performance for maximum impact!
Alternative: “Valerie” – Mark Ronson & Amy Winehouse
Although The Zutons’ 2006 original turned out to be the Liverpool rockers’ most successful single ever, it is Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse’s 2007 cover version that is the more successful and, arguably, the more well known incarnation of this tune. The upbeat soul groove featuring, offbeat eighth notes on the bass drum give this song a really nice bounce, making it perfect for your audience to dance to. “Valerie” is also quite the versatile number in a function band’s repertoire, as we’ve seen it work just as well as a lively first set opener as it does as an end of night encore, and almost anywhere else in between! Despite being released just ten years ago, we’ve also seen audiences born in nearly any decade getting up and dancing to this one, making it an ideal choice to slip into a wedding band’s playlist.
Top Pick: “Uptown Funk” – Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars
A true testament to Mark Ronson’s talent is that he is the only artist to feature twice on our list, and with good reason! This 2014 mega hit is already one of the most successful songs of all time, having spent over fourteen consecutive weeks at number one in the US, seven consecutive weeks at number one in the UK and racking up 2.7 billion YouTube views at the time of writing, making it the 5th most watched video ever on the popular streaming site. Another staple of any 24 Karat gig, this song has become an instant classic amongst function bands of most genres, as it never fails to get audiences flooding onto the dancefloor in their droves. Furthermore, in similar fashion to “Valerie”, “Uptown Funk” has found huge popularity with people from nearly any generation, meaning it’s equally safe to perform it at a 21st birthday party as it is at a Pearl wedding anniversary.
Alternative: “Price Tag” – Jessie J
Released in 2011, “Price Tag” remains British crooner Jessie J’s biggest hit to date, after reaching number one in nine different countries, as well as number 23 in the US. Another great choice for the second set of most pop orientated function bands, this wedding favourite features an upbeat, reggae style groove with a sing along chorus and feel good lyrics, making it popular not just among younger crowds, but more mature audiences as well. Having played this tune frequently with 24 Karat and at events with other bands since its release earlier this decade, we can certainly vouch for how well received it is by audiences at weddings, parties and even pub gigs. There’s also plenty of opportunities to get the crowd singing along during the chorus, meaning our final pick on this list is a definite winner!
So there you have it, fourteen function band favourites that will work well with audiences at most events you’ll likely be performing at. However, now it’s your turn! Did we miss any? Are there any that your band play that you feel work particularly well that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below and let’s get those people dancing!