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Sunday, 8 September 2013

Rock of Ages

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this post, so you'll have to bear with me.

Last week, my very generous wife kindly bought, as a surprise gift for my birthday, two tickets to see a Queen tribute band at Buxton Opera House.  This immediately prompted a dress code dilemma - how does one dress for a rock concert when one is considerably nearer 60 than 50, especially after the last birthday?  Leather jacket, t shirt and faded denims perhaps?  Well, possibly, if I actually owned such things. I do have t shirts but they don't really tend to be rock 'n' roll compatible (see below).

Honestly, the author is somewhere underneath all of that!

In the end I opted for a black shirt and a sports jacket.   Ok, not at the cutting edge of fashion, I'll give you, but, as you'll see from the picture above, quite a leap of faith in my case.

As it turned out, I really needn't have worried about my choice of apparel.  On arriving at the Opera House, it was apparent that sensible M&S jumpers were the order of the day.  Grey hair abounded and the number of mobility scooters, arm crutches and zimmer frames had to be seen to be believed.  I suppose I should have realised that, inevitably, the audience would be made up mostly of my contemporaries and older.  After all, I first became aware of the group when their single "Seven Seas of Rhye" hit the charts in 1974, when I was just 20 years old.  I can distinctly remember investing many 10p coins in the juke box in the front room of the Forest Gate pub to play it, to the despair of the landlord and 'early doors' regulars who were hoping for a quiet pint and a natter.  I had never heard such a blend of rock and classical influences combined with brilliant harmonies and, at that time, no synthesisers.  It was electrifying.

Nearly 40 years on and here I was, queuing up for my seat with a crowd of people who must have been similarly electrified by the music in their day, but who now found getting up the stairs a bit of a hassle.  Thinking about it later, it occurred to me that this is probably why tribute bands are so popular at the moment.  If Messrs. Mercury, May, Taylor and Deacon (which makes then sound like a venerable firm of Solicitors) were still extant and performing, they would probably be more of a true reflection of their audience than the band we saw.  Just think of the Rolling Stones (or don't, if you want to avoid nightmares).  It's hard to imagine a 67 year old Freddie cavorting across the stage and I'm not sure I want to.  Cynically, you could say that his early demise was a great career move, although I still think it was a huge loss to British Rock.

My point, I think, is that the tribute bands inevitably encapsulate whichever band they are imitating at the height of their fame and ability.  In this way, we can enjoy them exactly as we remember them.  Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn, with apologies to the Ode of Remembrance.  Yet we, the audience, grow ever older and much less 'rock n roll' than we would like to think are.

I'll come back to this point soon, but I would be interested to hear your comments in the meantime.

You can find all Philip's books at either his UK Amazon Author Page or at the Author Page