The Aging Rock Star – Tune In And Accept or Tune Out And Exit Stage Left?
One of my many passions in life is music. I love listening to albums, going to live concerts, watching concerts on TV, talking about bands of today and yesteryear, and tapping my feet to a rockin’ tune. I play a little guitar and have played harmonica, drums, and piano off and on for as long as I can remember. I have such a deep respect and admiration for musicians of all genres – creative types that can put pen to paper, record a song, publish it, sing it live, play multiple instruments. And I have been so blessed to have had a great friendship (Larson, he’s more like a brother) for nearly 4 decades with a musical genius in his own right, who has helped cultivate my love of music with his knowledge and insights on bands and music in general.
One thing Larson and I chat about from time to time is the aging rock star and the question that comes up is this…Would you pay to go see an aging rock star or group of musicians that have reached their 60s, maybe 70s, maybe mid 70s simply for the sake of seeing them perform? Would you see an aging rock star or group of musicians who may have “lost a step” musically? Maybe miss a beat on the drums or a riff on the guitar or a lyric in the song? Or skip over a lyric or change pitch or rework a solo on guitar? Is it enough for you to be in the presence of someone you grew up idolizing and listening to any time they were on the radio? Maybe you attended their concert(s) way back in the 1970s or 1980s and had a family, moved around, and now is your chance to take your kids to see your favorite band growing up. These band members have aged in more ways than one, its obvious by their headshots and the stories of their life’s ups and downs. Would you still go see them despite the fact that they are 30, maybe 40 years older from whence you saw them last in your early to late teens?
Short list of artists I have seen live in their prime – Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Gary Clark, Jr., Phish, Dave Mathews Band, Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters. Short list of artists I have seen live in the aforementioned aging rock star description – Jackson Browne, Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, Gregg Allman, BB King, Guns N Roses, Bob Dylan. Short list of artists I would love to see – Pearl Jam, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Page and/or Led Zeppelin, Joe Bonamassa, Billy Joel. My concert going resume is in the hundreds, between local shows in Providence and Boston to Great Woods and other concert areas all over the USA. If there is live music playing and I have the time, you better believe I will make an effort to attend.
Am I an expert when it comes to music? No way. Do I know the lyrics of many of the songs at a concert I am attending, perhaps. Do I know the individual notes of the guitar solos or the piano runs, not really. Do I know the progressions and the breaks and the pitches and all the important song structure items, not even close. I know the general framework of the song, most of the lyrics, can hum along with the lead singer, probably air guitar the solo, what I remember it sounding like in the car driving to a baseball game in high school or to a friends house or on vinyl in a buddy’s basement. One thing about popular music pre-digital music age, bands got played over and over again on the radio. You would hear the same song hundreds of times in a summer if you had a radio with or around you. Ask any music fan from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s – you heard the same songs over and over again and you remembered a ton about those songs for decades later. So, what do I ask those questions?
Because when the curtain pulls apart and the lights come on and the band comes on stage and the crowd roars and you hear that first song, the one you know this band will open with, and when the aging band’s performance of that song falls a bit short of what you remember it to be, how will you take it? How will you react? Will you tune in or tune out? Do you give them another song or two before making up your mind this was a waste of your time and money? Or do you let it play out, giving them credit for still getting up there and performing? Do you let the slips and misses and shortcuts and reworks pass by like they never happen or do you make a point to your concert mate that this is not right, not how you remember it, not the way the song is supposed to be sung/played? Concerts, most of the ones I attend and have attended the last 35 years or so, are not typically cheap or even free. Neither is your time. Do you go with the flow because its Jimmy Page or Paul McCartney or Bruce Springsteen in the flesh some hundred feet from you? Or do you get down and disappointed because “Born to Run” makes you want to run for the exit sign?
This guy to the left of me, Gary Clark Jr., was incredible live. He sang, played amazing guitar, was a great entertainer, was energetic, was loud, and was impressive. He will have a long career, in my opinion, and I would see him again and again regardless of his age.
Given the opportunity, same can be said for the Foo Fighters. I will see them any chance I can get, no matter how old they are! In my opinion, Dave Grohl is one of the best entertainers of my generation. RIP Taylor Hawkins.
Larson and I saw Robert Cray in 1990. I have seem him several times since, most recently with Rachel (my wife) at the Park Theater in Cranston in 2015. 25 years later, Cray played all of my favorite tunes, and more and did not disappoint.
Nosebleed seats for Guns N Roses circa 2017 with my musician son Spencer. Slash was incredible, Axl Rose not so incredible. The band overall was amazing and they played all of their hits from the 1980s. Roughly 30 years after I purchased “Appetite For Destruction” on cassette tape, I saw them live at the Boston Garden. 10000% worth every penny!
The Eagles, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen – they could all sell out Fenway Park just like Maroon 5 did. And throngs of fans of all ages would pay big money to see these stars who have been in the music business for decades and decades! I am one of them!
It is a personal decision to tune in and accept the situation at hand or tune out and exit with a bitter taste in your musical mouth. Aging rock stars can still sing, play an instrument, and entertain a billion times better than me – this is a fact. Do they lower their pitch on some songs, sure. Do they have backup singers to help them with difficult songs, maybe. Do they skip difficult solos for more reasonable riffs, perhaps. Do they fudge a few lines out of a several thousand in the span of a 2 hour concert, more than okay! For me, I want to see the original performer singing the original song. I wanted to hear Slash play “Paradise City.” Same could be said for Paul McCartney singing “Yesterday” or Jimmy Page playing “Stairway to Heaven.” As an aging lad myself, I have more respect than criticism for the aging rock star. I am willing to look past the errors and simply enjoy the totality of the moment. Far too many pass before I can see them live, so I cherish the opportunity to see a musician I have admired for years. I tip my cap to all musicians!!!
MUSINGS TRAVEL age is just a number aging concerts music rock star
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no way, never too old, keep on Rocking my friend!