Music News

McCartney, Cohen and Morrissey: Older, Big Name Acts Are Today's Big Draws

Fresh off a weekend that found Paul McCartney, Leonard Cohen and Morrissey all play one of the biggest outdoor music festivals in the U.S. -- in one day -- we find ourselves, as a music-loving society, head over heels for live acts with a touch of gray. It doesn't help that the festival in question, Coachella, also booked The Cure, Public Enemy, Throbbing Gristle, X and Paul Weller.

These acts, while hardly in the early years of their respective careers, are proving that audiences everywhere still have a rabid appreciation for their music. It's a smart move by concert promoters to book acts with such prolific, long-lived careers. Fans of all different ages should be allowed to revel in the splendor of an outdoor music festival such as Coachella or Lollapalooza. These older acts have always had a healthy appreciation in the past, but it seems that the festivals and other shows of 2009 are hitting us over the head with bands that started their careers some 20 and 30 years ago.

It takes a band plenty of years to build up the profile to be able to headline an outdoor music festival. Hell, the Killers, who headlined Coachella's Saturday affairs, began things in 2002. Overnight success does not translate well for ticket sales, especially for a festival of such magnitude like Coachella or Lollapalooza. Even smaller events, such as the Phoenix Zoo's ZooBrew, book older acts -- in this case The Go-Go's -- in the hopes of drawing a diverse crowd. Seeing the Go-Go's slated to play a concert at the Phoenix Zoo just solidifies what is happening in today's live music scene. Older, big names are all the rage -- and fans are willing to shell out the cash to see a band they adored when they were growing up.

I'm not reinventing the wheel with my admission, by any means. There just seems, to me, to be a pretty big spike in the number of decades old bands being booked for big name concerts and festivals. It's smart on the part of the respective concert promoters. The demographic that constitutes fans of the Beastie Boys, My Bloody Valentine and Echo & The Bunnymen -- bands that don't seem to be all that old, yet started their careers in the late 70's and early 80's -- are at the point in their lives where purchasing a ticket to see their favorite band play isn't that radical of an idea.

I just hope that some 20 years down the line, I will be able to see something along the lines of a reunited TV on the Radio play at some outdoor music festival. Putting myself in that mindest --  being excited to see a band I haven't seen since I was in my early 20's -- helps me understand what it is to see Robert Smith or Morrissey perform live in this day and age. I am too young to fully appreciate what it means to see Paul McCartney up on stage or to see Public Enemy play their iconic 1988 album It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back in it's entirety, yet I can still revel in the fact that I am blessed to see a legend performing right before my eyes.

And that is exactly what it meant to me seeing Chuck D and Flava Flav up onstage this past Sunday at Coachella. I am familiar with It Takes a Nation of Millions, but I was 4 years old when it was first released. However, witnessing them play the album live was something I will never forget. It's all out of respect for an act like Public Enemy that has been plugging away for some 27 years. Chuck D was as excited as a 5 year old at Christmas, bouncing around the stage and tossing the mic up in the air. Granted, some of the album doesn't translate that well 21 years later, but it's the bigger picture -- the privilege to witness Public Enemy perform -- that made their set all the more amazing to witness. It's our respect as a music-loving society that keeps older acts headlining festivals and raking in fans by the thousands.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Lopez