Invasion Of The Geriatric Rockers

We’re on the cusp of the summer big-name rock concert season.  Hey, who’s out on tour this year?

rod-stewartDon’t look now, but it’s a lot of the same acts that were touring 40 years ago, soon to come to a sports stadium or outdoor amphitheater near you.  The list of tours this year includes Queen, Foreigner, Boston, Aerosmith, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Billy Joel and Rod Stewart.  Rod Stewart, in case you’re wondering, is 72 years old, and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith is 69.  And as for Queen, their iconic lead singer, Freddie Mercury, died more than 25 years ago.  But neither advanced age, nor the death of original band members, nor concerns about wrinkles, hair loss, gum disease, adult diapers or iron-poor tired blood can keep these dedicated rockers from their appointed tours.  Just don’t be surprised if their contracts requires that the dressing room be equipped with Geritol rather than bottles of Jack Daniel’s.

The promoters call these “nostalgia acts” — which doesn’t exactly seem consistent with the whole notion that rock ‘n roll has a youthful, cutting edge, rebellious element to it.  When you’re a “nostalgia act,” around 70 and still playing songs that you first released when disco was king, you can’t fairly lay claim to the “rebellious” label any more. But there’s a strong market for concerts by these geriatric rockers because their music still gets played on “classic rock” radio stations, and the people who first heard their songs when they were in high school are still out there, willing to spring for tickets to hear “Cold As Ice” performed live one more time.  If you’re a performer, why not cash in, make some money, and give your fans what they want?

I’m torn about this, because I think it’s weird to see 70-year-olds strutting and rocking out on stage, and I wonder if these codger acts don’t crowd out younger musicians who’d like to get some stage time and radio play.  At the same time, in the past few years I’ve been to concerts to see two long-time performers — Stevie Wonder and Bob Seger — and they both put on really good shows.  So I’m taking a live and let live attitude, and figuring that if Rod Stewart wants to sing “Hot Legs” again, and his fans want to hear it, why not let them?  But I think I’ll pass.

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Time For The Rolling Stones To Gather Some Moss

Keith Richards is being quoted as saying that the Rolling Stones have met for a few rehearsals and are thinking about touring to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary together.

Sad, isn’t it?  It’s embarrassing to even contemplate a bunch of 70-year-olds preening and prancing on stage, trying to live up to their old tag line of being “the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band.”  Of course, that description hasn’t been accurate for a very long time.  It’s been decades since the Stones have released a meaningful studio album, and they’re not really relevant to modern music, except for the enormous contribution they made back in the ’60s and ’70s.

As the linked article indicates, the Stones’ last tour, in 2007, was hugely profitable — in fact, for several years it held the record as the most profitable tour of all time.  Could they possibly have squandered all that money already, and be desperate for a paycheck?  Do they honestly think that since, say, 1977, anyone has gone to a Rolling Stones concert to hear their new music?  How many times can these guys play I Can’t Get No Satisfaction and Gimme Shelter?

The Rolling Stones aren’t, and shouldn’t be, like Styx or Kansas or any of the other sad “legacy” bands that need to hit up their diehard fans every summer for a few concert bucks.  The Stones produced some of the greatest rock music ever released in the ’60s and ’70s.  Why not let that body of work stand, without being further tarnished by lame geriatric tours and pathetic tell-all books?

Roger Waters And The Wall In Columbus

During the guitar solo on Comfortably Numb

Last night Richard and I, along with a bunch of other friends and colleagues, watched Roger Waters’ performance of The Wall, in its entirety, at the Schottenstein Center.

During Another Brick in the Wall, Part II

It was an awesome spectacle, and I am trying to use those terms with precision.  Waters, who is whippet-thin, was in good voice and good spirits and was backed by a large and skilled band and backup vocalists.  Together they were able to musically recreate the album — not quite note-for-note, but close.  The songs sounded great on an excellent quadrophonic sound system, and soon much of the audience was singing along.  By the time the show reached The Trial, a massive, crushing wave of sound was washing over the audience.

The music, of course, was married with a lot of showmanship and visual effects.  As the show progressed, workers steadily built The Wall brick by brick.  The Wall then served as the conceptual centerpiece for the show and the backdrop for wide-ranging video projections, many of which had overt political themes, before it finally crashed to the ground at the show’s climax.  The show also featured enormous, extraordinary puppets depicting characters in the same disturbed cartoon style found on the album, a crashing airplane, and a huge floating boar covered with advertising and political slogans and graffiti.

The Wall is a weird, disturbing album, filled with pain and misogyny.  This performance of the album sounded similar themes, and at times during the performance of album one the anti-woman messages became unbearable.  For album two the perspective was a bit less anti-female (but only a bit) and more political and anti-war, including a profoundly moving video montage of soldiers returning home to greet their children.  As we reached side four of the album, fascist concepts prevailed, with giant goosestepping hammers projected against The Wall, red and black flags, and Waters clad in a floor length black leather coat with a Nazi-style armband.  Watching the show beginning to end, you can’t help but conclude that Waters must have had to deal with some disturbing issues in his life.

For me, highlights of the night were Another Brick in the Wall Part II, where Waters was joined on stage by a group of children who sang and danced and then went to protest at the feet of an enormous strutting schoolteacher puppet, Mother, where Waters sang a duet with a 1980 video recording of himself that was projected on The Wall, Hey You, Nobody Home, and finally the stunning, irresistible Comfortably Numb, where a guitarist stood atop The Wall as he played the iconic guitar solos from the album.

This show was an experience, and one well worth having.

Roger Waters And The Wall

On Friday Richard and I, and a bunch of other people, are going to see Roger Waters perform The Wall.  According to the tour website, the show will feature Waters, backed by a full band, performing The Wall from start to finish.  Added to the mix will be an enormous wall, state-of-the-art video projections, a quadrophonic sound system, and puppets and inflatable objects.

I’m looking forward to the show because I like listening to live music and because some of the songs on The Wall are among my favorite songs, ever.  The album came out when I was in college, when Pink Floyd was a staple on every stereo system.  Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here were generally recognized, then and now, as two of the very best rock albums ever recorded, and Animals wasn’t chump change, either.  Then years passed without a new Pink Floyd album.  When the word got out that The Wall was in the offing it became one of the most eagerly anticipated album releases ever.  When it finally hit the record stores I immediately bought a copy and listened to it from beginning to end and most of my friends did, too.

After repeated playings I fell into a pattern of listening to the first three sides of the album where my favorite songs — Mother, Young Lust, Don’t Leave Me Now, Hey You, and particularly the epic Comfortably Numb — were found.  Side four fell into disuse, like side four of the Beatles’ White Album.  In a way, listening to Roger Waters and his band perform side four will be like running into an old friend that I haven’t seen for years.

Tragedy On The Ohio River

Thirty years ago, 11 people were killed trying to watch The Who perform in concert in Cincinnati.  The 11 were among 18,000 people with tickets to the event, and they were crushed, trampled, or suffocated in the concertgoers’ mad rush to claim the best seats for a performance by one of the premier rock bands of all time.  Amazingly, the concert promoters did not sell tickets with assigned seat numbers.  It was first come, first served for seats, and the crush of people trying to sit up close led to one of the worst concert disasters in American music history.

The Who concert tragedy occurred when I was in college, in the prime of my rock concert attendance days.  It was one of those events that shook your world view and made you pause for a moment.  I’ve never had a problem being in a big crowd, and I’ve felt the awesomely powerful surge as a mass of people move forward in unison.  It’s a real adrenalin rush.  The Who concert deaths made me realize that if I fell or was pressed against the wall, the crowd would not stop or falter — and then, being young, I went ahead and attended the concert or sporting event anyway.

My guess is that most young people have never heard of the deaths at Riverfront Colisseum.  As I have aged, however, my perspective on the tragedy has changed.  I feel I know how the parents of the young people who died must have felt as they watched their teenager or college student leave that evening for a fun night at a music show — and then later found out that their sons and daughters had died senselessly and needlessly.  Those are the kinds of stories that make every parent feel sick, and sad, and hopeful that they never have to receive such horrific news.

The facility is no longer called Riverfront Colisseum.   There is nothing to commemorate the event at that location, and Cincinnati no doubt would prefer to forget a tragic event that is seen as a civic black eye.  As the linked article indicates, however, some of the survivors of the dead are trying to place a memorial at the location.  It seems appropriate.