Wednesday, January 16, 2019

New Year's Resolution (aka To See ... Or Not To See)

As expected, I got quite a few responses to my new outlook on life regarding artists performing their work live in concert.  (And, as you'll see, some hit a little "closer to home" than others!)

Here are a few that I have received so far ...

Your recent column on bands carrying on without the original members really gave me cause to think long and hard about this subject.  We see a lot of shows ... at least one or two per month ... and typically would steer clear of some of these more "suspect" acts when it comes to just who was really up there on stage ... but the more I thought about it, the more I see that you're right ... there are less and less "originals" out there every day ... and there's really nothing we can do about that.  If we want to hear this music, we may have to amend our way of thinking to allow this to happen.  I, too, will watch concerts from this new perspective this year because I think you're right ... it may be time to set all of that aside and just enjoy the music.
George K.

It has probably become evident that I am supporting bands where all original artists (or most) are gone. Actually, I have said as much. I have been taking each group on its own merits. Teaching has shown me the power of recreating a moment and seeing music live. 
Now, I also fought here in the NE for the Truth In Music Law. I believe in it, and I want those who ARE originals to benefit from its merits. I also want the music to go on in live performances where there is no one interested or left from the “original” (many bands also changed people even during their prime) to bring it to us live. Like Kent, if I don’t like something, I will call it out. At the very least, I will only comment when asked, or make a sour face upon hearing the name. 
I know the effect of music on my life, my children’s lives, my student’s lives. Let the music go on!
Shelley J Sweet-Tufano
I was also a big supporter of the Truth In Music Act and covered it extensively when it was first being proposed and put into practice.  (Bowzer, the organizer behind this movement, was a frequent Forgotten Hits contributor back then and we watched with pride as more and more states across the nation put it into practice.)
But even that is getting harder and harder to monitor these days.  Let's face it, you're not going to see an original Drifter anymore ... or a Coaster ... yet groups far younger than those originals would be today continue to perform and delight audiences.
Today, it isn't about being an original member anymore ... in far too many cases, it's become about who has the legal right to use the name.  How is it even thinkable that anyone other than Randy Bachman or Burton Cummings can perform as The Guess Who?  The management team that owns the rights to The Shangri-Las' name can put ANY three girls they want to up on that stage each night ... including three DIFFERENT girls every single night if they choose because LEGALLY every one of them can perform as The Shangri-Las.
To a degree, that has also become the case for The Little River Band, who we have taken to task repeatedly for misuse and misrepresentation of the name.  (This is made that much more frustrating because the members of the REAL Little River Band are still around ... yet can't go out and perform THEIR hits as such because somebody else owns the legal right to do so.)  Imagine their pain and frustration when these guys (all but one of whom was never even officially IN the band) go out and sing the songs they wrote and made famous.  It's gotta be the most frustrating, helpless feeling an artist can have.  (kk)   

I disagree with your assessment of bands that have no original members, but still call themselves the Grass Roots, the Raiders, Little River Band, whatever. 
It's slightly different in the case of Gary Puckett, Tommy James, Peter Noone and others in that it's not much different than a solo performer, who has to have a backing band. 
To me if a band has no original members, it's a cover band. The musicianship can be superb, the singing can be top notch ... but it's no different than a cover band that you can go to any bar in Chicago, or any metro area, and see.
I don't care what each individual member's name is. If I'm a fan, I know, and if not, oh well. 
Frankly some bands needed to retire long ago, and that includes a few music icons, as well as third and fourth tier entertainment acts. I don't blame them for touring when they're 70 ... what else can they do? ... go out and be a Walmart greeter? I can see it now, "Hey aren't you so and so?" Or, worse yet, "Didn't you used to be so and so?" Someone get a gun right now and put me out of my misery.  
I'm lucky ... I've seen pretty much everyone I've ever wanted to see. (Never wanted to see the Beatles. One day I'll go and incur the wrath of everyone in FH-land and explain why.)
Let's be real here ... many of us are on the north side of 60 (70?) and you are right, the Woodstock Generation is over. We're just eleven days into 2019 and we've already learned about the passing of at least a half dozen performers ... and it seems that in the last couple weeks, the snowball is gathering momentum. 
The last concert I saw were Micky and Mike of the Monkees, last summer. Mike looked like he was going to die on stage. When all was said and done, I paid almost $100.00 a ticket. It was fun seeing them, but not $100.00 worth of fun, and that was with half the members. 
I'd go see Peter, Tommy, and a host of others in concert again, but not at these ticket prices. If I'm gonna pay that kind of money to see someone, it had better be a two hour show, and easy in and out. I'm not wasting an hour, like Shelley did, looking for a parking spot. (Shelley get your money back!)  idn't that happen to you, Kent, at a Billy Joel concert several years ago? 
Some performers I've only wanted to see once and did. At this point in my life, I have no desire to see anybody with 20,000 of my closest friends, even if I have free tix. Maybe I'm still stuck in the 60s, but to me, it's about the music ... but in 2019, I gotta think Frank Zappa was right when he said "We're Only In It For The Money."  
The following is a Jack Rant #1 of 2019. All rights reserved.
Jack Levin
Yes, I missed a Billy Joel show (one of THREE times I had tickets to see him and was unable to attend) due to an incredible 2 1/2 hour traffic jam that wouldn't allow me to park at the venue ... so I can absolutely relate to Shelley's recent woes.  (One advantage these days, perhaps, is Uber ... although if you can't get there, you can't get there ... however perhaps you can get close enough to get dropped off and not have to deal with the parking situation on top of all your other frustrations that night!!!)
We have seen so many of the same artists time after time that I welcome the opportunity to catch somebody new.  Case in point ... we've been to a couple of Ambrosia shows these past few years.  I've always loved their music and Frannie has, too ... but the major key to their success was the guy who wrote and sang all those hits, David Pack, who, until last weekend, we had never seen live before.
Much of the original hit-making group is still intact ... so they are most definitely by all definition "Ambrosia" ... but when the chance to catch David Pack as part of Jim Peterik's World Stage show came up, we weren't about to miss it ... A) Because we just love him ... and B) ... and this is a VERY important "B" these days ... because this is likely the last chance we'll ever have to do so.
These days (as we have all learned far too often recently) if you get the chance to see somebody live, go ... because you may not get another chance to do so.  I will always regret never seeing Tom Petty live ... I love his music but just never took the time to buy the tickets ... and now he's gone.
There are far too many other acts out there in the same situation.  Like you, I've seen almost everyone I've wanted to see ... and I've been both electrified and disappointed ... but at least I got to see them.
So my advice of the day is ... go.  If there is someone you always wanted to see, go ... while you still can.  And enjoy the show.  And celebrate the gift of music they gave you.  (kk)  

Hi Kent,
Thank-you for addressing, with your New Year's Resolution, such an important point concerning the music of our time and its current presentation.  I am sure I am not the only one with which your article on the subject truly resonated.  Thank-you for calling attention to the ever-expanding elephant in the room.  It is something that has been crossing my mind repeatedly as of late.  
Yes, we love the music and memories they trigger, and certainly we respect the gifted artists that put their musical reputations on the line night after night and year after year, whether it be a prestigious high profile performance, a county fair, or a smokey casino, many times never knowing the sonic logistics of what they will be dealing with in terms of staging let alone the moody vocal cords that come with age.  
They are the ones that deal with the double edge sword of fame and notoriety.  With the rose comes the thorn.  Yes, they are the center of attention for the innumerable good songs and perfect notes but also for the notes we realize that aren't as easy to hit anymore.  I'm sure it's a difficult decision for an artist that still loves what he is doing and still enjoy the fame, attention, and money that comes with being blessed with talent.  And, at the same time having to make the decision of when is it time to "get out of the ring."  I guess like any decision concerning retirement, "only you know when it's time."  But if you are like Tony Bennett and you are 92 and still delivering a quality product, that time may be never. 
Tim Kiley

From Chuck Buell ... 
Hey, Kent!  
Great Review / Editorial / Commentary on “Today’s Yesterday’s” tribute groups and their music re-creations, and acknowledgement of the DNA lineage of some of those tribute groups’ members, but more importantly, the quality of their dedicated performances.    
I agree that if their solid efforts to re-create a group’s “sound” results in an accurate, respectful and entertaining presentation, then they should go for it.  
Despite the fact that Glenn Miller died nearly 75 years ago in 1944, one group, “The Glenn Miller Tribute Orchestra” continues to present their music today just as it was heard during World War II.
Fast forward 75 years from now to 2094.  Might those then who were not around in the mid-1960s to have heard the original see a great Ed Sullivan impersonator call out, “The Beatles! Let’s bring them on!” as a special tribute group breaks into “All My Loving?!” 
CB (which stands for “Commendation Boy!”)
Glenn Miller's Orchestra (billed by that name) has played The Arcada Theatre several times now ... and they still draw in a crowd who love that music.
Let's face it ... there were Elvis impersonators out there while The King was still alive and performing himself!  There have been Beatles tribute bands for decades now, since the '70's.
Everybody knows what they're getting when they go to these shows ... and they just want to have fun and enjoy the music.  The fact that so many of these tribute acts can put on a flawless show is testament to both their talent and love and respect for these artists.
Our motto has always been "buyer beware" ... if you're not sure, do your research ... but what we've found more and more recently is that the average fan really doesn't care ... they just wanna hear the music.  I suppose at some point EVERY '50's, '60's and '70's band will be a "tribute band" ... it's inevitable ... but how else will this music survive if somebody isn't out there sharing it with the people?  We cannot let this music fade away ... we just can't.  (kk)

Yes, but who will be your date to the faux Little River Band show?
I agree with you ... up to a point.  If a band bills itself as a cover group, I have no problem with that.  If they are like The Grass Roots or Little River Band, passing themselves off as at least the majority of the real deal, then nope.  (And don't even get me started on Ambrosia!)
Mrs. K.
Here are my thoughts on all of that ...
Paul Revere asked his Raiders to carry on without him ... to keep this music out there.  There is no higher tribute than that, coming from the man himself ... and, so as not to mislead anybody, they now call themselves "Paul Revere's Raiders" ... not much unlike, I guess, Glenn Miller's Orchestra.  There is no implication that Paul or Glenn are gonna be there ... everybody knows they're deceased ... but again their music lives on through these new performances ... and I think people as a rule are happy with that and find it acceptable.
My understanding is that it was a similar situation with The Grass Roots ... Rob Grill asked the remaining members to carry on and his widow both embraces and endorses their continued performances.  (Now in the case of Rob, I think part of this may have also been as a means to financially take care of his family once he was gone ... and had left them with enormous medical bills.)
I went thru a period where I didn't feel they should, in good conscious, call themselves The Grass Roots ... but the fact that Rob Grill's family can accept it (and encourage it) allows me to do so as well.  (Besides, they do a GREAT job of performing these hits ... and pay the utmost respect to their music.)
The Little River Band is more of a gray area for me because of the circumstances of how the use of the name was wrangled away from ALL of the original members and is now controlled by basically a management company.
However I will say this ... if only as an explanation as to why I'd like to see them again ...
The first time we went we were angry and bitter about the deception as to who these guys really were.  And, in the middle of the concert, we got a text from our daughter Paige, telling us that she had just been awarded the lead in "Cabaret" down at ISU ... an AMAZING feat in her freshman year in college and her very first audition ... so needless to say, we were distracted and excited for other reasons.  In fact, we left early so that we could congratulate her.
But what I DO remember about that concert is that those guys sounded pretty good ... they nailed the original sound of the band with good musicianship and excellent harmonies, the driving force OF The Little River Band.
So my reason for wanting to see them again is simply that ... setting everything else aside ... can we just sit back, listen and enjoy what they are presenting on stage?  My guess is that listening objectively we'll come away from it thinking "They're pretty damn good."  
Yes, the circumstances suck ... and I genuinely feel for the original guys, some of whom I have communicated with during our own tirades on this topic ... but if legally this is the way it is, we have no choice but to accept it.  We can choose not to go ... we can choose not to endorse it or give it any attention or credibility at all ... simply ignore its existence ... or we can go and listen objectively and see if we might just enjoy a night of good music that we love, presented in a respectful way.  (In which case I would you that you would still be my date!)
Perhaps the BEST example I can give as the final word on this subject is this ...
Without question one of the best concerts we have EVER seen together has got to be The Alan Parsons Project shows at The Arcada Theatre.  Each and every one has completely blown us away ... yet, other than Alan, there is not one single original member up there with him creating this incredible show.
Now Alan's a genius ... he orchestrated his band's success throughout their hit-making career ... but he also hired a ton of guest vocalists to get the sound he wanted ... and changed players regularly.
Still, the group of musicians we have seen have put on nothing short of a stellar performance each and every time.  It's not because of Alan's singing ... he rarely if ever sang on record ... or his keyboard playing or his guitar playing, both of which are used to minimal effect in concert, more as "filler" than anything else.  It is instead his incredible ability to put together a sound that is almost dream-like in concert.  And we both know that we will go see him again each and every time he performs here.
And even Alan is respectful enough to acknowledge that these are not the original guys up there, especially since the death of his dear friend and lead vocalist Eric Woolfson, who passed away nine years ago.  As such, he refers to this new venture as "The Alan Parsons LIVE Project" ... for me, it's just an extension of what he's always done so well.  If we can accept this, then we have to cut some of these other groups some slack.  (And really, that's all I was sayin'!)  kk