Would You Pay To See Your Favorite Band Minus One (Or All) Of Its Key Members?

Oct 13th, 2008 // 37 Comments

Judging by the amount of hits our post about new Journey frontman Arnel Pineda has received in the last year, classic bands replacing classic members remains a controversial subject among hardcore fans. The Washington Post takes a look at the 21st-century wave of reformed ’70s and ’80s hard rock bands who’ve replaced their singers to discover that (surprise!) “these bands are in the nostalgia business,” not willing to give up the tour and t-shirt gravy train just because the guy holding the microphone happened to quit or kick the bucket. Now while anyone should be able to enjoy a reconstituted Foreigner at their local amusement park amphitheater if that’s what gets their nostalgic rocks off, there was one quote in the Post‘s article that made us wonder: how many people paying $25 or $50 or $100 per ticket for big-name reunions would be just as happy catching a really boss cover band at their local sports bar for free? And will the same kind of nostalgia one day get you to pay big (or not so big) bucks to see your favorite band live, minus the voice that made it famous?

That desire to revisit the past led Catonsville’s David Warner and four friends to see Irish hard rock band Thin Lizzy a few years ago, roughly 20 years after lead singer Phil Lynott had died.

“It was a commemoration,” says the lawyer-turned-grad student. “I didn’t know who the lineup was. It was less about that than about, here was a band who was touring as Thin Lizzy and they’re playing all their songs. [Guitarist/now lead vocalist] John Sykes got it right. He sounds different than Phil, but it didn’t matter. ‘Jailbreak’ is ‘Jailbreak.’ “

Being 30 and reared on ’80s and ’90s pop/rock, I’m not really part of the audience for many of these reunions (though with the whole INXS debacle we’re getting closer), and I suspect a lot of Idolator’s readership is in the same demographic boat. But in ten or fifteen years I still can’t see queuing up for a Pulp tour featuring a 25-year-old Jarvis impersonator the other band members discovered on YouTube, or a reformed Jane’s Addiction fronted by a Staples employee who slogged through some reality TV show. Are there any recent-ish (let’s say the last 15 to 20 years) bands whose songs alone are enticement enough, to the point where you’d pay to see them live with a new frontperson? Or is this concept tied to the repeat-play heyday of “classic rock” and as alien to you as it is to me?

Feels Like The First Time, Sounds A Little Different [Washington Post]

  1. MayhemintheHood

    In a word, no.

    Any musical acts of this day and age that would eventually do this sort of thing are going to be more of a “brand”, not a band, i.e. The Jonas Brothers(featuring one original Bro) or a Brittney Spears tour, featuring an older Jamie Lynn Spears as Brittney Spears.

  2. Audif Jackson Winters III

    I think it really depends on the importance of the missing member. The example you gave is perfect: Pulp is Jarvis. If the remainder of Pulp got back together and put out an album with guest singers, nobody would care, like nobody cared when the non-Byrne members of Talking Heads did that. So Pulp with a Jarvis imitator woudn’t fly.

    I think it may change the equation a little bit if you became a fan of the group after the key member left, or years after the band broke up. Most younger fans of Journey, for instance, probably just like the songs, and the non-presence of a band member that may or may not be aware of probably doesn’t matter so much if they see a reasonable version of their favorite tracks.

  3. westartedthis

    i don’t think there are even any bands i’d pay $100 to see with all their original members.

  4. raihala

    Interesting, but flawed, question.

    The reason Journey is playing arenas again with some YouTube guy is because Journey still gets played to death on the radio, in multiple formats, all over the country. There is a huge market out there for Journey’s music and, hey, if the price isn’t too outrageous, those listeners will go see them play an arena with a soundalike.

    Alice in Chains is perhaps the best example of a relatively contemporary band that’s doing the same thing, but on a smaller scale. AIC still gets played on the radio, people want to see the band play those songs, there’s money to be made.

    Unless there’s a massive shift in popular music in the next 10-15 years, there will _never_ be an sizable market in this country for Pulp live in this country — with or without Jarvis.

    I also got more than a whiff of “I’m above nostalgia” from your post. But, come on, the lead singer was the same, but the Pixies tour was 100 percent about nostalgia. And, so far, the same goes for MBV and JAMC (although I think there’s a better chance at least one of those groups will get around to making a new album).

  5. iantenna

    @Audif Jackson Winters III: exactly. and phil lynott is, IMHO, the least replaceable of any 70s bands singers.

    can’t wait for that doug yule led velvets reunion tour.

  6. exposition

    And Phil Lynott is Thin Lizzy, whatever that guy says.

    I’m also interested in the legal battle over so-called “impostors.” “Truth In Music” bills are often pushed through state legislatures to protect consumers from acts that rip off classic doo-wop and R&B acts. It’s a laudable goal considering how many of those acts were originally mistreated financially.

    Of course, like lots of legislation, the bills mostly benefit whoever holds the group’s trademark. Part of the Texas law defines a recording group as having “a legal right to use or operate under the group’s name without abandoning the name or affiliation with the group.”

  7. phaballa

    Um, I would probably pay a lot of money multiple times to see NSYNC, without Justin. And I am not being ironic, either.

  8. Anonymous

    I’m looking forward to seeing Hanson touring as The Jonas Brothers.

  9. dippinkind

    i’d pay some amount of money to see Vengaboys with any random group of people they wanted to put on stage.

  10. Al Shipley

    My answer to this question: I have tickets to see Little Feat (sans the late Lowell George, of course) this Friday. This is really a case-by-case thing, though: it depends how much you like the band, what members are missing and why, whether the replacement members do justice to the songs, and of course the ticket price. I’d be happy to see any form of Thin Lizzy live today if they put on a decent show.

  11. Cos

    There’s an embarassing number of punk bands doing this: The Jam (without Paul Weller), the Undertones (without Fergal Sharkey) and the Misfits (with the original bassist + 2 members of Black Flag). The aforementioned (Talking) Heads is another example. I would never pay to see any of them.

    At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if Marky put together a ghost band and toured as The Ramones.

  12. Thierry

    I wouldn’t be shocked to see Oasis carry on without one of the two Gallaghers – after all, they’ve played shows with one brother missing in the past, and you could make the argument that Noel could carry on without Liam, since he wrote most of the songs anyway (and has occasionally sung most of them live), or that Liam could carry on without Noel, since he remains “The Singer” and the voice of most of the hits that people would still expect to hear Oasis play live.

  13. How do I say this ... THROWDINI!

    @Cos: At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if Marky put together a ghost band and toured as The Ramones.

    Half way through this sentence I thought it was going to end with Funky Bunch reference.

  14. DocStrange

    For the record, I’ve seen Jarvis live. His live band includes not only Steve Mackey and Nick Banks, from the last (1994-2002) incarnation of Pulp, but Candida Doyle, who was in Pulp since 1982, more time than any other member than Jarvis.

    Essentially, Cocker and Doyle can go on the road with a bunch of hired hands as Pulp and it wouldn’t make a difference because since Cocker had a falling out with the band’s guitarist/violinist Russell Senior in 1997, Cocker and Doyle are now the only members of the band that you can pick out from a picture (Jarvis because he’s Jarvis and Doyle because she’s the only chick in the band).

  15. Christopher R. Weingarten

    You say you won’t now, but in 20 years you will.

  16. Christopher R. Weingarten

    And Thin Lizzy isn’t even analogous to Pulp.

    Thin Lizzy is like that generation’s Alice In Chains, and people already pay to see them with a different singer.

  17. mike a

    @raihala: But in the case of the Pixies, MBV, etc., you’re getting the original and/or key members of the band, even if they’re just performing old songs. Much less cheesy than getting some ringer off the Internet and asking your audience to suspend disbelief. (In Boston’s case, they barely waited until Brad Delp was in the ground.)

    I’m actually kind of relieved that the reformed Pixies did a couple of tours and quit.

  18. iantenna

    @Christopher R. Weingarten: phil lynott is rolling over in his grave. thin lizzy was one of the smartest, rawest and most exciting hard rock bands of the 70s, and they have aged better than so many other bands of that generation. can you really consider that analogous to alice in chains?

  19. mike a

    It also depends on whether the band has a history of replacing its lead singers. Black Flag could put Keith Morris or Dez Cadena up front and it’d be considered legitimate.

  20. revmatty

    While I’m not particularly interested in these reunion tours, Van Halen managed to tour for many years successfully with a David Lee Roth knock off fronting them ;)

  21. raihala

    @mike a: Oh, I have nothing against the Pixies/MBV/JAMC reforming and touring. Indeed, I saw the Pixies reunion twice and will definately see the other two when/if they make it here. I was just reacting (overreacting, perhaps) to this idea that nostalgia is a bad word — or that it’s only bad when _other_ people are nostalgic.

    Look, I see pretty much all the arena shows that come through the Twin Cities for work (which is to say pretty much all arena shows — except that bitch Madonna who hasn’t played here for decades). And a lot of them are really fun and filled with people who really enjoy the music (if not in the same way someone who reads blogs does) and are out to relive their youth for a few hours.

    Case in point. A summer or two ago, I had to go see Foreigner/Styx/Def Leppard. The latter two were awful — and I saw DL put on a decent show just a summer or two prior to that — but Foreigner were absolutely terrific. The band seemed to be actually enjoying themselves (plus, you know, making a living at the same time) and the audience went nuts. Just this month, I saw Tina Turner (also amazing), the Eagles (three-plus hours of rich assholes telling us not to drive SUVs) and Weezer (some kids in the crowd, yeah, but just as many if not more 30-something guys with budding bald spots).

    And I was really eager to see this new Journey lineup, even though I absolutely despise the band and their music. (I had to miss it because I was off work that week, in the process of moving into a new house.)

    Would I pay my own money and spend my free time going to a lot of these shows? No. But I don’t begrudge others for doing so. Except Eagles fans. They’re almost worse than the band themselves.

  22. T'Challa

    I completely co-sign everything iantenna said about Thin Lizzy and Phil Lynott. The main reason TL did not become mega-stars in America is because Phil was black.

    Do yourself a favor and cue up “Dancing in the Moonlight.” Alice in Chains never came close to doing something so sublime and timeless.

  23. T'Challa

    And while the current MBV tour may be heavy on nostalgia (when’s the last time you saw that many Curve t-shirts in one place this century), but they more than made up for it by turning everything up as loud as possible and destroying everything in their path. That’s the kind of nostalgia I can get behind!

  24. Ned Raggett

    @T’Challa: when’s the last time you saw that many Curve t-shirts in one place this century

    Hahah, so true. I wasn’t surprised at all to see someone in the LA crowd second night wearing a Curve shirt that I also own…

  25. Captain Wrong

    I think Mike A is on it. It really depends on the band. Example: gladly saw the Wedding Present a few years ago. I think other than David Gedge, it was a completely new lineup. But, that band is Gedge, and the line up wasn’t necessarily set in stone so it doesn’t matter. But, I turned down free tix for “the Misfits” as, at the time I think it was one Misfit, one Black Flag, one Ramone and someone else. Not even close to the real band.

    Thin Lizzy without Lynott is just crazy talk.

  26. Captain Wrong

    Oh and yeah, MBV was total nostalgia as was the Pixies. Didn’t stop me from going to either.

  27. Anonymous

    I saw the Journey show when they rolled through town. It was predictably terrible, save a few of the big hits which are what they are and you know where you stand on them.

    Heart on the other hand, sounded great.

  28. Christopher R. Weingarten

    @iantenna: When was the last time you heard Dirt?

  29. iantenna

    @Christopher R. Weingarten: more recently than i would have liked to. when was the last time you heard bad reputation?

  30. T'Challa

    @iantenna: …point goes to iantenna!

  31. T'Challa

    …but to play Devil’s advocate, I do have to give it up for “Jar of Flies.”

  32. La Mareada

    @Cos: That version of The Jam is one the most bizarre. Two old side guys trying to revive a band that was never at all popular in the US by touring here all the time. Are they laughed at in the UK? or the reputation of the original band so sacred? Does Paul Weller own the rights in the UK?

  33. cheesebubble

    I’d like to point out my aversion to “Queen” (Brian May and Roger Taylor minus John Deacon) led by Paul Rodgers. Paul can run around with any incarnation of Free or Bad Company that he wants but he need not do this. Same “hands off” policy is extended to Brian and Roger, themselves. Jeepers – even John Deacon’s sitting out since Freddie died.

    @iantenna: Phil Lynott can’t roll over. His hair’s too big (and beautiful).

  34. MrStarhead

    For me, it depends on how integral the frontman was to the band. Take Fuel, for example. Their yarly lead singer was annoying, but the songs were pretty good post-grunge, and the guitarist wrote all the songs. So when the lead singer skipped to join that Doors tribute band, the band got a new lead singer and put an album of new post-grunge songs, which sounded like the old ones (after the Daughtry dalliance).

    Could you see Depeche Mode with just Martin Gore, since he was the songwriter?

  35. NeverEnough

    Although he wasn’t considered to be terribly important, it is a fucking JOY to see Duran Duran with Andy Taylor. I’ve always disliked that useless twat.

  36. Artnchicken

    I saw DEVO a couple years ago. Total nostalgia tour, thought they’ve released a new song recently (as well as that DEVO 2.0 kids album thing). I never expected to see them live at all, so I went. They’re the same band (different drummer, as they’ve gone through a couple) so it wasn’t like seeing them with a different singer or anything.

    On the other hand, the opener was billed as The English Beat; isn’t it just one guy from the original?

  37. I’d say it depends on if the band can still perform well without them… the new Journey front man rocks it, but The Beach Boys without Brian Wilson? I wouldn’t pay for it.

    -Steve SMC

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