Thursday, June 14, 2012

Can't Stop Rockin'

So if you don't die before you get old... what if you don't burn out, or fade away?

The colour of rock is, more and more each day, turning grey.  Which was to be expected.  And which is not a bad thing.  Unless of course, it no longer looks or feels like it should.

Rock culture has always been that of youth.  Mozart, they say, rocked.  (Contrary to what some of my former cohorts may think, I did not see Mozart play.)  Benny Goodman rocked.  The "Welcome Back Kotter" guy was on the bill at Woodstock.  At one time they all rocked... but we now live in the age of rockers who refuse to stop rocking.  The effect is not always Satisfaction.

Keith Richards has said that he will go on as long as he can.  He sees himself as a descendant of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, who certainly never got too old to keep on keepin' on.  And Mr. Richards is right to say so.  But what seems to have been annoying me is the hard-won realization that, without reason to be, a rock show is ludicrous.

Given the choice to be among the oldest in a crowd or among the youngest, I'd opt for the former.  As time passes, I find myself more and more in attendance at shows with people who time is being less and less kind to.  To paraphrase a friend, "I always see the same people, but only at these shows."  And the effect of age on all people is the same; age robs mobility.  People move less (but drink more.)  Which is again, fine - we should all be turning it down from 11 by now.  Alas, the rock show is compromised when age takes full effect on its performers.

It's a spectacle - and rock musicians are expected to be spectacular.  ("I've seen things you wouldn't believe.")  Steven Tyler, now a crazy old woman, was simply the best front man I've seen in person.  So yes, maybe I'm demanding too much when I say that the rock show falls apart when the guys on stage become just regular ole dudes.

Saw a band at Bluesfest a couple of years ago; one of the finest houserockin' blues-rock outfits in the late 70s.  Except now they act and look like a bunch of tech salesmen on the weekend, same guys you'd see poking around the gardening section at Home Depot.

Saw George Thorogood a few weeks back, and this is where it hit me.  He looks like the great football coach Bill Parcells now.  Nothing wrong with that.  He and the band sounded fantastic - close your eyes, better than the records.  Nothing wrong with that.  But George made two big mistakes, in my opinion.  He put down the guitar and paraded around like Mick Jagger... which he never did, even back in the day.  He felt compelled to put on a show, but it didn't look right on him.  And... he put down the guitar.  He had another guitarist in the band, a younger fella, on hand to play the majority of the solos.  I went to see a guitar player who didn't play his guitar.

What's the point?  It has to be about more than just the rock.  I never once thought of age when I saw Prince; Santana; Tina Turner; Rush.  Who blew me away at the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee concert?  The oldest performer onstage, Tom Jones, who simply bludgeoned the world with his undiminished voice.  These things are about genuine talent, and honest power, and undeniable artistry.  The true human element of soul power is what makes a great show... and that's the element that age will not mute.

On a certain level, rock is dying or already dead.  Many young people now care absolutely not for these things I'm writing.  They have their own culture now, and rock may be an anachronism to them.  So perhaps age is doing us all a favour.  Once the great conceit of rock culture was than anyone could participate, but maybe that was always just a forlorn dream.  Certain of those who stepped out of the crowd and onto the stage truly were blessed.  Time is stripping away the superficial layers, and leaving only the truly fundamental.

Naturally, as I write this, I'm looking forward to a show in September with Loverboy, Pat Benatar, and Journey headlining.  I'm going because I want to see Pat Benatar; I've always been a big fan of her voice and her true talent.

Only two of the five guys in Journey are original members.  That's par for the course with such bands, I guess.  But I suppose those two and I have something in common.

Livin' just to find emotion.

I'm done now.

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