Are they going to play “Stairway to Heaven” in the Old Folks Home?

The pun here is absolutely intended.

The musical heroes for the baby boomers are disappearing.  With the possible exceptions of Aerosmith, ZZ Top and the Rolling Stones, the musical acts that we grew up with and love are fading away.  But be of good cheer!  “Tribute bands” are everywhere.

We have three choices when it comes to hearing live music from the bands of our past – from the sixties, seventies and sometime eighties. See them live, see them in festivals, or see them as a tribute band.

First choice – see them live, today, in concert with some or most of the original band members.  The Rolling Stones seem to have their farewell tour every year or so; Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are there, plugging along in their golden years.  (Both are in their early seventies.)  Aerosmith and ZZ Top have toured together, but dig deep into the retirement fund for that ticket.  A couple of the original Beach Boys tour regularly, supplemented by younger musicians and singers.  Gregg Allman toured until last year as “The Allman Brothers Band,” then announced that there would be no more live concerts…then reintroduced himself as Gregg Allman and started touring again.  And so on…

This formula works well, but it is not sustainable.  Band members get sick and can’t

Glen Frey

perform, can’t take the rigors of nightly performances, or simply lose the voice or the skills that once made them famous.  Glen Frey of the Eagles recently passed away.  Brad Delp, lead vocalist in Boston, committed suicide in 2007.  And I could go on, but know that they are all getting older, like us.  Performing live concerts for hours on end and weeks and months on end can’t work.

Another approach is the “festival” model where there is one member of an old band performs in front of a group of musicians who mimic the star’s original band, then changes gears for the next and the next, allowing several performers to play and sing at the same show in quick succession.  The “Happy Together Tour” is a successful endeavor put together by two former member of the Turtles, Flo and Eddie. (http://theturtles.com/tour/).  They have been performing all over the world since 1984, making it one of the most successful musical tours ever.

The last is the Tribute Band.  This is a group of musicians who put together the right people and talents to mimic an act from the past.  There are many Beatles tribute bands, with the Fab Four coming to mind as one of the best.  “Don’t Look Back” has performed at Disney World’s Epcot Center for several years, mimicking the band Boston.  Tribute bands have become very popular and very good in recent years, mostly due to the demands of their audiences, the Baby Boomers.  If they don’t accurately portray the group they are imitating, audiences will let them know.

Gregg Allman at Social Security age

So if you have the opportunity to see the originals, please make the effort to do so.  We recently saw Gregg Allman in Daytona Beach – an epic concert to say the least.  I saw Meat Loaf in Orlando. I have seen Eric Clapton in concert.  These folks may not be able to perform for much longer, and some are already gone forever.  I regret never seeing Michael Jackson in person, although I did experience Ray Charles and John Denver in concert, along with Stevie Wonder and the Rolling Stones, among many others.

If you can’t find the originals, then a Tribute Band may be the next best thing.  But do your research, looking online at reviews and even YouTube videos.  There is little worse than paying good money to see a tribute band that is, well, a poor tribute and just plain bad.  You have high expectations going in, and when those expectations are not met, the disappointment is deep.

Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin

Which leads me back to the original question – are they going to play Stairway to Heaven in the old folks home when I get there?  Led Zeppelin?  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band?  Boy George?  Grand Funk Railroad?   Or will we be stuck with something older (or newer) and, dare I say, not of our generation?

There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold,
and she’s buying a stairway to heaven…

Led Zeppelin, 1971

I damn sure hope they play what we like.  And if not, I am bringing my own stuff with some big speakers.

Grace Slick

In an interview with the TV News show 60 Minutes, Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane/Starship was asked why she quit performing.  Her answer – “Who want’s to see a fifty-something rock and roll singer?”  Apparently, a lot of us.  I would have loved to have heard Grace just one time – live – singing White Rabbit and Someone to Love.

 

So go ahead.  Rock on.  We recently went to a concert featuring an Eagles tribute band, and the theater was sold out.  Lots of grey and white hair.  All into it.  Standing up, dancing, rocking like it was 1977 all over again.  And what is wrong with that?

“Nurse, can you turn down that damned beeping monitor?  I want to hear this Deep Purple song…”


 

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