Like Rob Gordon says in High Fidelity: "The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don't wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules."
When you play for 3 hours, timing and sequencing are everything. Acts like Bruce Springsteen, Phish and Pink Floyd are masters of their craft, the Flow. Springsteen uses the spiritual power of rock 'n' roll, Phish uses the power of the unknown in a jam (read: drugs), and Pink Floyd tell stories, but it all comes down to a few things.
The live show is the same. Pull them in, then keep them near climax until the finale. Sounds like sex? You're a perv. Head out of the gutter, please. Get them on your side, then toy with them. Play two fast numbers, then when their eyes are open wide, hit the breaks. Play something in 12/8 and get the asses on the dance floor. Let the band vamp while the singer talks about how much he wants his baby back. "Oh darling, you hurt me so bad. I'm comin' to you, crawlin' on my knees, baby. All the men out there know what it's like, and all the women have heard it one hundred times..."
See when the audience is getting restless, hit them with something well known; "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" or "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" Something they can all sing and swing their beers to.
Also, know something from every genre. If a drunk yells out, "Play something country!" and you can do it at the drop of a hat, you have won that drunk's favor and maybe even a few bucks from him. Know at least one country tune, maybe "Stand By Your Man." Know one blues tune, or at least something bluesy, like "Cocaine."
If you've got a good frontman, he'll work his ass off to sell the song, which always helps:
Next time: Rehearsal?