It’s about the songs, not the band.
It started with Journey. The voice of the act, Steve Perry, didn’t want to work, he needed an operation, so the rest of the act went on the road without him, with a bunch of faceless singers, doing reasonable business. Then they found a replica of Steve’s voice online, and then business started to increase to the point where they’re playing stadiums this summer, with Def Leppard.
Foreigner not only goes on the road without Lou Gramm, but sans Mick Jones sometimes too.
And then Glenn Frey dies and the Eagles not only reunite, their grosses are bigger than ever!
What’s going on?
When your hits are behind you, it’s all about the money. No one’s got enough. And touring gives purpose to your life. And there’s nowhere you can get that kind of adulation, that hit of adrenaline, other than on stage.
But shouldn’t the audience balk?
They did not when all the fifties acts toured with a group of faceless performers not in the original incarnation.
It’s an oldies phenomenon, after the thrill is gone, the cult of personality, the adoration, the laughter and the tears, all that is left is the songs and the memories. And it turns out many can’t get enough of them.
Ergo the tribute acts. Doing a bang-up imitation of Led Zeppelin and so many more.
As long as it sounds close enough to what once was, and it includes some patina of originality, people are in. After all, the Mac toured without Christine McVie for years and played arenas. They’ve proven in the past the act has a hard time surviving without Stevie Nicks, but if god forbid she passed and Grace Potter took her spot, or Lorde…
Queen tours with Adam Lambert.
We could speculate on the cause of this. Then again, it’s been Lindsey’s band from day one, and he’s been irascible. Of course, of course, it was Fleetwood and McVie’s band, but they could play theatres without Lindsey and Stevie and therefore they let Lindsey control the act. And when the noose gets too tight and there are alternatives…
The truth is these acts are riddled with personality problems, all that bonds the members is the music. Would you want to hang forever with your high school buddies? That’s what it’s like. Furthermore, artists are uncompromised, it’s their edges that made them successful, and they don’t know how to trim them. You’d tell them just to get along, but then again, you could never be in the act.
And the act does include Lindsey’s soloing. But the seventies are over, the audience doesn’t want to hear virtuosos extend, they just want the songs, they just want to nod their heads and sing along. And Lindsey’s vocals have oftentimes been…
So now you’ve got Mike Campbell, whose ability rivals Lindsey’s, although his sound is different, and Neil Finn comes back from the dead, in this case New Zealand, to demonstrate the chops which never fully got the praise they deserved.
And if you don’t think Vince Gill brought the Eagles to new heights…
You haven’t seen them.
This news would have been revolutionary in the seventies, even the eighties, but today it’s another blip on the radar screen. Fleetwood Mac has long since surrendered the zeitgeist to the younger generation. Hell, the McVie/Buckingham album got no traction. That’s what it’s like being an aged act doing new music in today’s cacophonous world.
So now YOU’RE Fleetwood Mac. When you go to the show and sing along with your head in the air it’s about you, not the people on stage. You’re long in the tooth, remembering when, feeling good for the moment, that’s what you pays your money for and if you want to see these people in the flesh, go soon, because they’re not gonna be around much longer.
But the songs remain the same.
The industry responds
(note: These comments are unedited)
Hello Bob…It’s true. The songs live on while we hang in there enjoying the fact that we get to keep working and the guarantees seem to go up each year. But we’re not fooling ourselves…we’re fortunate beyond our dreams to have never been off the road as we entered our 48th year in 2018. The 70’s were good to us. We have a great team and the audience fuels our drive onward. No complaints as we look forward to making it to half a century making music. Peace & Love…from America.
Have to say that in any era, but especially this one, it’s important for folks to have a song(s), a group, and a time that you associate with something meaningful in your life. Present or past. Hopefully good in many ways, but can be otherwise. Glitz wears off but “real” will stay.
Lindsay is part of an overall example of great groups who know each other better than their own families from working together for so long. It happens. But first they had to create something that was good enough, hooky enough, to become part of people’s lives.
There are still new ones coming up but the paradigm has changed as has the amount of material.
But the old fact still stands, a great song is a great song.
You’ve never been in a band bob! Some people like to play the songs and get a buzz and I like seeing them
Watch mick Fleetwood play tusk and see joy in action maybe even bliss?
I am excited to see mike Campbell join the list of great people who have joined this Fleetwood Mac
I am deliriously ‘appy in fact!
I think if you had been in a band you would understand
I am the newest member of The Manhattan Transfer (Yes, THAT Manhattan Transfer, in their 45th Anniversary year) and I replaced Tim Hauser who was the founder but passed away a few years ago. I thought it would be more difficult in terms of the reaction of the fans as Tim was a strong personality and quite a character, but they have been very accepting of me. I can really see in the fans what you are saying here: They just want to hear the songs!
We have a new album and that seems to be going well as the fans seem to be supportive and encouraging despite the change. When I first filled in, we had some shows in Europe and the audiences were going crazy even without Tim there for the first time. As we left the stage Janis turned to me and said…as if it JUST hit her.. “The Manhattan Transfer is the music!” Just thought I’d share and confirm, as it really it home as I was reading your post.
I always look forward to your e-mails… thank you for that!
May I add a little sauce to the mix of this very interesting topic? I’ve had a theory for a while that singers in particular underestimate the power of the band identity to fans. The parallel I draw, as a Brit soccer fanatic, is sports teams. you start to become a fan of The Dodgers, or The Yankees or in my case the mighty Spurs- when you’re a kid. You idolise each player. You have their poster on their wall. You know every stat about them.
5 years later the star forward has been signed to another team, the two best defenders have retired and the goalkeeper has gone to play for your team’s great rival. So do you switch allegiance? No you simply take down the old posters and put up new ones with the new stars….and you boo your old hero when he comes back to play an away game at your ground.
All the people you mention in this piece probably wrongly believed that it was them the fans wanted to see. They don’t learn. Peter Gabriel leaves Genesis and the little drummer says ‘I can sing a bit’. Jagger makes solo records.Fish leaves Meryllion, Lee Roth leaves Van Halen, Roger Waters leaves Floyd.
Do these bands collapse? No they get even bigger!
You are correct Bob, it’s about the songs. But it’s also about allegiance to a band or a football team. It doesn’t matter who’s in the team.
This is great. I’m going to reference this blog the next time someone criticizes Mike Love and Bruce Johnston for touring as the Beach Boys. You make the point, you have the original lead singer with a guy who has been in the band since 1965 who sang on California Girls and Good Vibrations along with Jeffrey Foskett who’s been with them since 1981 and who sings Brian better than Brian and Carl better than Carl and they perform the whole repertoire better and more consistently than the original members ever did.
The Beach Boys have a touring band that for the most part has played with each other twice as long as the original band actually played and yet people criticize their right to do it.
Thank you Bob for making my point all along.
All bets were off when the Floyd did more than just get by on the road without Waters.
Don’t use my name, but I think it is because if even if just a tiny bit of the original magic is still left in the band (even if some members are no longer there) it is still way better than 90% of what is out there today, music with no depth or meaning behind it. I feel bad for kids growing up today and what they have to listen to 🙁