Monday, August 03, 2009

Marv Albert's favorite band

The band Yes has been around for about 40 years now. They've gone through all sorts of changes in that span; you might need a scorecard to keep up with the personnel changes. They've also recorded a couple of dozen albums and certainly made enough money to keep them in something close to rock star luxury for a lifetime.

But speaking of changes, consider this one. This is a band that once headlined Rich Stadium for a concert, and drew tens of thousands. On Saturday, the boys played the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena before a "half-capacity crowd." I'm not sure how many people the place holds, as it was my first visit, but the floor was less than half full, the 10 rows closest to the floor were generally full, and the eight rows in the balcony were quite empty. We're probably talking less than 2,000 for a group that once played before 60,000 just up the road.

Let's give the band credit here. It's the end of a tour, and they stared out into some empty seats in Jamestown upon taking the stage. Yet, they all worked hard throughout and turned in a polished, professional show. The "opening act," Asia, did the same thing -- it's always a treat to see Carl Palmer pound the drums and his gongs.

But the night did prompt some thoughts about the concept of "dinosaur rock." As in, what exactly are the rules for rock bands when they get old?

In the case of Yes, Rick Wakeman has retired from public performances. His son, Oliver, replaced him on this tour. Oliver didn't sport a cape like his dad often did but seems to know his way around a keyboard. Meanwhile, Jon Anderson skipped this tour because of illness, so he was replaced by Benoit David of Montreal. David played in a Yes tribute band. He does sound like Anderson, as you'd expect, and he did a good job on vocals on Saturday. Alan White, Steve Howe and Chris Squire were all back at their usual stations.

So ... does a band need to have its lead singer perform in order to be a little more "legitimate" in performance? Is it Yes without Anderson? If Pete Townshend fired Roger Daltrey, would it still be the Who? If there is a new lineup, does it need to be recording new music in order to be taken seriously? Yet if Paul McCartney were playing with four guys from Elmira, wouldn't you pay to see him?

And moving a notch down the pecking order, what do we do with the bands that have retained an original name and play the hits to make a living despite having one or none original members? If you ever want to get dizzy, read the history of the Temptations on Wikipedia.

We're making up the rules as we go as some of our (insert "baby boomers" here) favorite musicians reach social security status. I'll keep going to hear the music I like, but I have to admit that the concept of a rebellious rocker becomes something of an oxymoron three or four decades into a career.

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