Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Rocking To the Oldies (Literally!)

I went to my first rock concert in the summer of 1983. Journey, with Bryan Adams as the opening act, were performing at the Mini-Dome in Pocatello, Idaho.

Besides being my first concert, there were a couple of other firsts that night. 1) It was the first time I really smelled weed. Smoke rises, and in our cheap seats near the top of the Mini-Dome, the weed definitely wafted. (And when I say "weed" I'm not talking about dandelions.) And B) It was the first time I had heard an "adult" repeatedly repeat the "f" word in public. (Who knew Bryan Adams had such a potty mouth? I thought all Canadians were supposed to be nice and polite.)

I was 17 years old at the time. And if you told me then that 32 years later I would have an opportunity to see Journey (or at least some of Journey) in concert again, the 17 year old me would probably say, "Why would I want to see a bunch of old geezers trying to rock?"

One of the problems of getting old is that our favorite rock bands are getting older, too. Not only that, but over the years most rock groups go through a myriad line-up changes so that very few of the original band members are actually still in the band.

This year, Journey was the headline act for the Stadium of Fire, the annual 4th of July fireworks show at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. I didn't go to the concert for a number of reasons, partly because I'm a cheapskate and didn't want to spend the money, and partly because the Journey of 2015 does not feature their notable lead singer from days gone by, Steve Perry.

Sure, guitarist Neal Schon (age 61), keyboardist Jonathan Cain (age 65), and bassist Ross Valory (age 66) were all still there, but when I think of Journey from the 1980s, I think of lead singer Steve Perry (age 66), not Arnel Pineda (age 47.)

(This is one reason why it's good to be a fan of a solo artist. If Billy Joel is coming in concert, chances are pretty good that Billy Joel will still be the lead singer.)

This is not to say that replacement band members can't be good.

My favorite rock group of all time is the Electric Light Orchestra (also known as ELO.) Unfortunately, by the time I was old enough to pay for and go to concerts on my own, ELO wasn't touring anywhere close to where I lived. So, I never got a chance to see ELO in concert.

Until last year, when I kinda, sort of got to see them. I went to a concert for "The Orchestra."

Here's a brief recap of ELO's history. Jeff Lynne was the songwriter and lead singer of ELO. When ELO broke up in the late 1980s, some of the other band members went on without Lynne and called themselves ELO Part II. When drummer Bev Bevan left that band, they no longer had any legal right to the ELO name, so they started calling themselves "The Orchestra," (which is a great name until you try to do an internet search for them.)

So, last summer The Orchestra played in Park City, Utah, and I got to rock to the oldies. (Literally.) Of the six members of the band, only two had been members of the original ELO, violinist Mik Kaminski (age 63) and conductor/keyboardist Louis Clark (age 68.) The other members of the band weren't exactly spring chickens, either. There were singer/keyboardist Eric Troyer (age 66), singer/guitarist Parthenon Huxley (age 59), singer/guitarist Glen Burtnik (age 60), and drummer Gordon Townsend (age unknown, despite several hours of interweb searchings.)

The Orchestra! That's ELO violinist Mik Kaminski on the left, with Louis Clark next to him behind the keyboard.

How old were these guys? Well, Burtnik, a youngster at 60, was brought in to replace the late Kelly Groucutt, who played with ELO and would have been 69, but died of a heart attack in 2009. And Louis Clark, the oldest at 68, got to his place at the concert via a wheelchair and a walker. He sat behind his keyboard the entire evening. Fortunately, the other guys were a lot more nimble.

Even though most of these guys weren't actually in ELO, they played all of ELO's hits, and did a dang fine job of it! They may not have been the originals, and they may have been geezers, but those geezers were excellent musicians and they put on one heck of a show!

Not all of these old bands are getting older, though. A friend of mine recently went to a Van Halen concert and thoroughly enjoyed it. Van Halen has gotten younger by replacing bass player Michael Anthony (age 61) with Eddie Van Halen's son Wolfgang (age 24.)

So, maybe I should have given Journey another chance. Maybe most of the guys are getting older. Maybe they replaced their lead singer with someone younger. As I learned from my experience with The Orchestra, maybe even the geezers and the replacements can still rock. Especially if you don't stop believin'.

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