Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Will The Real Steve Perry Please Sit Down?

If your favorite artist or band, long after their prime, decides to return to the spotlight either with a record or a tour, is this a good thing?

Of course, there are a few minor details and stipulations that would need to be discussed before giving a definitive answer. In the case of the Faces, two keys members are dead, and one obviously big member, might as well be. So, on? Or, no...go back inside and let the kids have fun.

How about the recent smattering of shows from the Left Banke, or who I'd like to call the Only Two Left Banke? I know people who went bananas over seeing these shows. Yet my first thought was, "You've got to be kidding?" 

Lead singer Steve Martin and main songwriter Michael Brown were both not involved. This left the bass player, who barely played on the original recordings (those duties were performed by Joe Mack and John Abbott), and the drummer, who from what I've seen in videos, didn't play the drums on too many songs live. So, here is "The Left Banke" and what...10 strangers on stage? Why do I want to see this? Why not just call yourself The Beatles? To me, that is just as offensive.

Or how about Journey, successfully selling out arenas with a lead vocalist look and soundalike?

The Lovin' Spoonful without Sebastian and Zal? That has been happening, you know.

At what point is any of this good news for the fans? Or is it all good news? Are we just being cranky?

As I've mentioned on these pages before, I am a huge Queen fan. And I loved Free, and liked Bad Company. But, seeing Paul Rodgers with Brian May and Roger Taylor (John Deacon brilliantly opted out) touring as Queen, really gave me the twitch. As IF anyone could replace Freddie Mercury.  But I'd like to add, I don't think Rodgers voice fit ANY of Queen's songs, so I just didn't like what I heard. It was a different band. Would I have enjoyed this lineup more if it was called "PBR?"

When Ian Hunter left Mott The Hoople, they carried on with a different guitarist and a lead singer who sounded not unlike Minnie Mouse, but at least they changed the name of the band...slightly.

I've listened to the Faces live reunion show 4 times. I can't get enough. What strikes me is how good it sounds. I think that's the key. It is also what some friends have said about The Left Banke. It just sounded so good. Yet, that doesn't seem to be enough.

Any thoughts on why?


Gyro1966 said...

Sal- You just made me go to youtube and listen to the Left Banke 2011. I must say that they sound great, even if it's mostly a different group. Better a newer group who truly captures the classic sound than the original group that tries a new sound and sounds horrible, like the version of Shadows Of Knight that I saw in NYC some years ago -they were bad. I think that I will try to see this version of The Left Banke at The Bearsville Theatre when they play there.

Shriner said...

I think the answer boils down to "It's the singer, not the song" for some people -- especially for more "iconic" bands.

But, if you want to hear the *songs* done live, unless there is a touring "tribute" band out there (see any of the myriad KISS tribute bands who cover material apart from the same goddamn songs that Gene and Paul think the fans want to hear every single goddamn year for example), you aren't going to hear the material performed anywhere other than your stereo system.

There are probably certain *performers* that can never be imitated (though I'm hard pressed to come up with one that couldn't be *closely* approximated vocally), but -- especially for bands from the 60's/70's -- you can get a group of musicians up there that can make the material sound really, really good and a vocalist that the masses wouldn't really know if he wasn't the real vocalist or not. If there are members of the original band backing them up, that's just a bonus for the old timers.

But could you call a band "The Rolling Stones" without Mick Jagger at this point? Probably not.

Could you call a band "The Beau Brummels" without Sal Valentino? Or "The Buckinghams" without Dennis Tufano? For the die hards -- no. For the masses who might hear the act as part of a "Happy Together" tour and only know the bands as a few-hit wonder -- probably.

Would I like to see a 10cc reunion? Sure. What if it *only* included Lol Creme? Probably. I'd love to hear that material performed live by *somebody* one more time (and yes, I know Graham tours as 10cc, but that's what jumped into my head...)

That all said: I would agree with you about "Queen" -- maybe it's because the only singer I thought could ever replace Mercury was George Michael -- Paul Rodgers never fit even to approximate a "tribute band".

The new Journey singer? He *is* good and it works close enough. And that seems to work for a lot of people.

Alan said...

Sal: Your post seems to be about bands missing key personnel, not the advisability of oldies/reunion shows. I loved the English Beat, but their tours over the last ...???... 5 years have sucked. They sounded like elevator music versions of their songs. And they had most of the key people in place. And I'm surprised you didn't talk about the McCartney shows, which everyone seems to love. (I would be in the gag me with a spoon camp.)Stiff Little Fingers have done reunion shows recently and have been fantastic: great songs, great energy, ... (Notice my idea of "oldies" is punk bands from the 80s ... It's because I'm so young heehee)

FD13NYC said...

I believe it's the sound and the look as you remember it. Sometimes it's nailed down sometimes not. Can't see the original band members naturally, due to retirement with lots of money, solo ventures or death.

Queen with Paul Rodgers was a farce. The Left Banke reunion was quite foul. But I have to admit, at times, having seen the recent Journey with that Filipino guy sounding a lot like Steve Perry. Same goes for Foreigner, the guy who sings for them now sounds like Lou Gramm. It all smells of moolah, cash makes survivors of us all.

As for the Faces reunion, I was surprised that Mick Hucknall sounds like Rod Stewart at times, not bad at all.

But in the end, us older folk would like to remember our fave bands the way they were. Give me that any day.

Anonymous said...

sounding good is essential, but you need enough of the key players, too. i'm sure little feat have sounded good for years--though i wouldn't know, having stopped seeing them post-lowell george. and occasional talk of a "kinks reunion" without dave--please. (a kinks reunion without the late pete quaife--more plausible for a number of reasons.) a lot of gray area, i think...

Anonymous said...

There are so many of these package tours out there right now where 2 or 3 classic rock acts play together and NONE of them have the original lead singer! A buddy went to see Yes and Styx and he didn't even know Jon Anderson and Rick Wakemen were out again. Journey is playing with Foreigner at Jones Beach this summer, both with no name singers.

People are obviously craving these acts as they go out year after year. Personally I'd rather play the record that see what amounts to a tribute band. Nobody is going to see Journey for the new songs, they want the hits from the glory days so the rest of the band can pretty much stop that crap that "we are making new music" for the fans.

Rock fans from the 60's, 70's and 80's are getting on in years as are the acts. I understand the feeling of nostalgia but if what you pay for is a pale imitation of what you remember then maybe the memories should be enough.

I haven't heard the Faces show you posted so I can't comment on that. My question is would you pay to see Led Zeppelin without Robert Plant?

As usual a great post, thanks for keeping the blog going.

steve simels said...

The Left Banke reunion was a tribute band, essentially. And on that level, a damn good one from what I heard.

The Springfield? I think we can agree that while it's sad that Dewey Martin and Bruce Palmer are in fact dead, their absence doesn't seem to have prevented Stills Furay and Young from sounding cooler than most current bands half their age.

I guess what I'm saying is it depends. How's that for taking a stand?

big bad wolf said...

i'm with simels.

i am sure that, if the stones ever appeared in public again, they shouldn't be called the stones if charlie or keith or mick wasn't there.

i kind of think that bruce should call the e streeters something else now that clarence is gone. that's not to slight the other guys in any way, but clarence, almost as much as bruce, was the public concert face of the band in the grandest days they had.

i once argued here that journey was the "worst" band, so to stay true to that i don't think they should tour without steve perry---he made them what they were.

Sal Nunziato said...

Personally, I had a difficult time enjoying Zeppelin's recent reunion because I thought Page sounded horrible, and though many disagree, I don't think Jason Bonham cuts it either.

Sal Nunziato said...

And I'd also like to add, I thought the Springfield sounded fantastic!

Anything Should Happen said...

Great post Sal!

Read what Shriner says and strangely enough, I always felt that George Michael was the only front man I could think of with Freddie Mercury's range.

I'm not really a Queen fan, well I say a latterday Queen fan, I can applaud the pop songs, but they aren't for me.

I saw them supporting Mott The Hoople and they weren't that good, but Sheer Heart Attack changed a lot of things for them and that is a fine fine album.

There's something winging it's way to you when I can get my arse in to gear of them at their peak in 1976 when they could blow an audience away.

News Of The World which followed is their last worthwhile album with top songs from all four members.

I digress though, Rogers and Queen was never gonna work because he is so different to Freddie Mercury, that's why they went for him and it could have been Robbie Williams.

I love Free, Rodgers vocals still hold up and Bad Co are ok, but Rodgers with his hairpiece and his this one is for the ladies puts you off, a bit like a gran stepping out in her granddaughter's clothes.

It is the singer, not the song, although it's hard to quantify that.

A lot of it is the history of the replacement, Robbie Williams would have had a decent stab at Queen, but the reaction of fans was vicious and stopped it in it's tracks.

I blagged freebies for Journey with the Malmsteen chappie and they were really good. He didn't sound like Perry, but he gave it his all and Schon was fantastic.

The new chap sounds just like Perry, but I have to say the band looked like they were having more fun with the incarnation before live.

I suppose any cover band can sound great, Andy Partridge recently remarked that he was in the audience for an XTC tribute act in Swindon and it was weird but they were really good.

Incidentally on the subject of cover bands, do you lot in the States get many?

Our smaller venues are wall to wall with tribute bands night after night and it's all a bit sad, it seems to stop newer bands getting to the stage.

The Australian Pink Floyd are quite big over here, they sell out medium sized venues up to 5,000 and appear well up the bill at Festivals.

What a rambling post! The Faces with me is deffo the singer and I could never take them seriously with that singer.

Hows about them grabbing Paul Weller and doing a Small Faces reunion, now that really would be worth seeing!

Anything Should Happen said...

More postes whilst I was writing my essay.

Steve hit the nail on the head, it depends!

Sal Nunziato said...


JB said...

I caught little feat post-Lowell and they still cooked although that was before Richie Hayward died. Like Sal, I thought the Sprinfield reunion sounded excellent. Can we start a collection to get the best-sounding xtc cover band to come over and tour the states?? That would make me stupidly happy.

Anonymous said...

Only Two Left Banke ... Thats brilliant my friend. I saw the 1st version og Little Feat with Craig Fuller who did a surprisingly good job but after he left it got pretty bad. Funny Story ,the 1sy guy to replace Perry was a Brooklyn kid, Worked at a local record store and was related to guys who owned a local Italian spesialty store. ( His cousins when they found out I played always told me about him whether I cared or not ) He sold me a Christmass tree once outside the store . He didn't do that very well either.

jeff k said...

I suppose there's a difference between recording and playing. I remember Keith Richards saying that when he and Mick get together to write, it takes them a while to find something they like, and then when they do, they too often say, "Shit, that's one we wrote twenty five years ago."

Our chickens just have so many eggs in them until theyrun out. I daresay, I think the Stones are out of eggs.

Having said that, I remember about fourteen or fifteen years ago, attending a concert at a high school on the East Side, it was Rick Danko and Garth Hudson, and man, what a great night that was. They were just playing, playing great songs from the Band and elsewhere, having a terrific time and doing it well. They were just great musicians making great music and I was lucky enough to be there.

Reminds me of those clips I posted of outtakes from the BEatles documentary. Yeah, John was gone, but hearing George, Paul and Ringo do "Ain't She Sweet" gave me chills.

Marsupial said...

I agree with Big Bad Wolf about Journey being the worst band ever. But, that being said, they were defined by Steve Perry - a hideous little dwarf. Personally, I think they would be better touring as a "free-form improvisational jazz" band without a singer.

Paul in Brentwood said...

I'm obviously missing something - who other than Ronnie Lane from the Faces has left us?!?

Anonymous said...

Agree with you on the Buffalo Springfield. The boots I heard sound great. Let's hope the tour does indeed start up again and it makes it to NY!

Last Zep reunion was a let down. Page was only mediocre and let's face it...Robert Plant can't hit those notes anymore. Hell he couldn't hit them in 1977! That said I thought his show at the Beacon in January was fantastic.

Sal Nunziato said...

@Paul in Brentwood

Well, Steve Marriott (Small Faces) and Rod Stewart (in theory)

DB said...

I'm coming to this post very late but it resonates with me.

I saw the Little River Band live recently. Now, everyone loves at least one band that was, at best, middling to above average. LRB is that band for me. No apologies about it.

But this band was fronted by a guy who joined LRB after all of their big hits. And no other member of the original band was part of it. No Glenn Shorrock or anyone else.

The music was competent and generally honored the originals. But I couldn't get over the thought that I was seeing the best Little River Band cover band in the world.

It just wasn't authentic.

Say what you want about even the crappiest hit songs, but they're a tiny spark of magic. A moment in time in which everything works.

Subtract the pieces and the magic is gone.

Simple as that.