They all have the same thing in common and it’s really a sad sight to see. Some of the best guitar riffs played live, probably for the last time on stage, by the original band members and there sits the audience. Settled, content, maybe some head bobbing, some sway in the chair, others just sit. Quiet. The aged baby boomer audience won’t get up and dance. The aged baby boomers won’t even stand. The generation that defined the 60’s, hippies, acid, long hair, rebellious, defiant, protesting youth that lived the words “don’t trust anyone over thirty” has now settled, down.
2012-2013 brought me concerts with The Who (half of The Who), The Stones, Paul McCartney and The Eagles. The shows were outstanding, fun, surprising and predictable. Yet they all had the same thing in common — end music on their terms.
Think about the world Mick and Keith have seen since hooking up in the early 60’s. They’ve lived and died and lived and smoked and snorted and shot and lived to see the end. These musicians are documenting their journey, their life’s work, because if they don’t do it… no one will. You can see it in their faces, “Hey we made it waaaaay past thirty. What should we do now?”
The Eagles made a documentary, Keith Richards wrote a book, Pete Townshend wrote a book. Keith Richards had to apologize to Mick Jagger for writing his book before they went on tour again. 50 years of playing rock & roll. Seriously. Pop quiz–who opened for the Stones, the Eagles and Paul McCartney in 2013. Answer. Nobody. Who in the hell would want to compete with those catalogs?
The Who wanted a younger generation to hear what a concept album really sounded like, back when albums meant something. Quadrophenia, became the tour, with hits played at the end of the show. The highlight was “Love, Reign o’er Me” which took Daltrey’s voice to the limits and he still hit the high notes. At age 69. This was the only band to make any political statement, after singing “Won’t Get Fooled Again” Townshend made mention that he couldn’t believe we, the people, were still getting fooled by their governments, still sending kids to war. “Who are you electing President? What are you doing?”
The Stones proved they could still rock, Mick Jagger all but dared the audience to ask, “can you still strut?” Answer, yes he can. At one point Keith’s guitar/amp had problems so he looked over at Ronnie Wood, who picked up and filled in without missing a beat. And Charlie Watts didn’t miss a beat all night. He’s now 72. The crowd was into it – not an all out dance party, but some butts moved out of their seats. Keep in mind, when the Stones wrote “Street Fighting Man” the Justice Department started a file on the band, and followed them closely. They thought the Stones were trying to incite a real revolution with young people. Really. It wasn’t the Russians coming, it was the Stones.
Paul McCartney really loves to be onstage, talk to his audience and guide them on a musical journey. He seems to play the part of tour guide wanting to introduce Beatles songs to people that never heard them live. He was on stage for 38 songs, and I think he took one sip of water – at age 71. Amazing. He talked about George Harrison and John Lennon, oddly never mentioning Ringo. It was a highlight to see him sing “Hey Jude” and hear the entire crowd sing with him. 60,000 Na Na Na’s is impressive. He sang “The Benefit of Mr. Kite” from Sgt. Pepper, and you could hear a murmur ripple through the concert — mostly because when that song was recorded many in the crowd were either on acid or very, very well stoned.
Speaking of stoned, these concerts are pure, no smoking entertainment. The irony is, the guys on stage did nothing but drugs for most of their lives, now they’re filtered and so is the audience.
The Eagles tour coincided with the release of their documentary “The History of The Eagles.” And they have quite a story to tell. They came out of nowhere to become one of the most dominate bands in the US from 1973 to 1979. Their show was a walk through the early years, actually starting with “Do you remember the summer of 1971?” It was a storytellers concert, on a really big stage touching each album, each hit, and each band member — band members past and present. The most complete, well planned show I’ve seen.
All of this makes me wonder, where is Rock & Roll in 2013?
Somewhere between a niche, and a specialty act? It’s not the dominate form of music anymore. There’s still Rock being made today, Foo Fighters, Kings of Leon, Jack White, Artic Monkeys and Arcade Fire come to mind. I’m not going to get into the argument of who’s the biggest band in 2013, it’s a senseless argument. But none of those bands dominate the charts today. They are popular, they still have some hits, but they are not dominant. Not stadium filling night after night dominant.
I’ll leave you with this thought. What if Rock & Roll was just a musical style created for and nourished by Baby Boomers? When the Baby Boomers go, will Rock & Roll go with them?