Last night’s feeble, geriatric, reverse mortgage ‘Concert for 12-12-12′ should galvanize all to overthrow the Boomers’ tyrannical claim to pop culture center stage.
Consider the bloated, self-satisfied pricing of tickets themselves: an actual event in Madison Square Garden selling tickets for $25,000 at the box office, no scalpers. One can only imagine the Boomers’ paroxysms (without their pills, mostly psychic) induced by their Amex Black invoice. Note that the media is focused on scalpers’ Craigslist prices, not the underlying rapacity itself.
Consider the hollow rationalizations to justify such consumerism: only Boomers can afford $25,000 ticket, ergo we must endure a 1960s nostalgia concert bill. This ‘concert’ was a pretext for a celebration by the 1% for the 1%. The rubes have their trickle down role to play – call operators now.
Too cynical? Some major American cities no longer support any broad-based rock radio station. Even abhorrent ‘classic rock’ is a dying niche. The non-Boomers vote with their radio dials and dispatched rock and especially ‘classic rock’ to oblivion.
This explains the cold calculation of forward brand positioning. It’s no accident, as the Sovs used to say, that we see Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder paired with a 69 year-old Brit. Or the shoe gazing darling Nirvana’s shards with a wizened McCartney.
Gen-X, stand at attention. You, too, soon will be cogs in the nostalgia-celebration-exploitation machine. You’re just not liquid enough yet.
Springsteen and his now amorphous E-Street Band wobbled out first. Now largely immobile, Bruce tried projecting ‘sincerity’ and ‘presence’ to evoke explosive memories when they truly, but briefly, led rock and U.S. pop culture. Seeing the comparatively limber 50-year old Bon Jovi on stage in juxtapose sent a powerful, but unintended statement.
If you remember the 1970s, local FM stations pumped Pink Floyd laser shows in planetariums. Roger Waters’ few Pink Floyd stoner classics doubtlessly launched thousands of reminiscences about Boomers’ favorite college bongs. Musically, he and his band are tight. But a Pink Floyd concert never was really about just music. As the kidz today say, meh.
Bon Jovi’s set fades from memory. Mercifully. He’s not there for the $25,000 ticket class. But someone has to play to the $150 nose (noise) bleed seats and on TV. Chris Christie’s real home. You know?
Clapton, looking surprisingly spry, wisely avoided “Let It Rain”. His blues felt turgid yet too energetic to rekindle Slowhand memories of quaaludes, heroin chic and stoned immobility.
Then the Stones. We’ve maintained – back when it happened, not just now – that the Stones ceased to be a *good* rock band when Mick Taylor left. Even Jagger cops now and then to the fact for much of 70s they were blatantly mediocre.
As we all know, Jagger and then the other Stones switched gears with the 1981 “Tattoo You” tour. Jagger decided if they couldn’t play reliably, they’d overwhelm with spectacle. And they got very rich.
No surprise their two lackluster songs offered good visuals. “You Got Me Rockin” remains an embarrassment as when foisted on us in 1994. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” even more shambolic and anemic than usual. Still, Jagger’s supranatural gyrations ensured a lurching, creaky pageant. Appalling.
Alicia Keys gets the Billy Ocean award. You remember him? In 1985, Bill Graham organized the Philadelphia Live Aid show without any African American artists. Media confronted him. So Graham at the last minute glommed Billy Ocean on to the setlist. Ocean was forced by circumstances to lip sync bravely but pathetically his then pop hit alone in front of the JFK multitudes.
Alicia does double token duty as a woman, underscoring promoters’ original sin. Minor kudos for not choosing Betty White. Boomers might be puzzled at Keys’ brief and musically out of context set. How many watching thought “Oh, so that’s what I heard in Starbucks”? Or worse, remembered an Amex commercial.
Then The Who. Their incendiary, eruptive prime with Keith Moon continues to haunt them. Musically, this ensemble remains tight – perhaps the evening’s best. Daltrey’s voice is gone and Townshend’s low-volume Strat noodling glaringly far removed from halcyon days. The NYT loved it all.
Fellas, retire. You’ve nothing left to prove.
And so on through Kanye and Billy Joel. Kanye seemed defiantly gleeful as The Other Billy Ocean award winner. Billy Joel’s interminable set lulled Boomers to that special Hell when ‘Piano Man’ was as ubiquitous as ‘Stairway to Heaven’. For everyone else watching, the event must have seemed inexplicable.
Next, Gwyneth Paltrow’s husband’s uniquely ball-less stylings added to the bizarre. Ordinarily, Chris Martin’s Cold Play John Tesh-isms should be banned from joining these bands, debilitated or not. Martin, however, was perfect. Somehow, like Fellini-via-Simon Cowell, after everything before, the absurdity of it all invoked a certain manic, indiscriminate aesthetic abandon. Aural vandalism if you will.
Finally, McCartney. What better closing to the lunacy than a creepy, crinkled vampire trying to feast off of Nirvana’s remnants and rejuvenate his relevancy. And seduce them and their followers. Couldn’t they see his fangs?
His vampirism is a blatant warning and vision for the Gen X, Seattle shoe gazing alt rock fans. Macca’s siren call is to embrace the affluence and self-absorbed nostalgia that keeps him alive. Become the new Boomers.
It won’t be easy for Sir Paul’s victims. The old mono culture is gone. Plus, Boomers’ bubble economies are toast. But kids, you can still focus on 401-ks and equity portfolios. Because, in the words of Monty Python, “One day lad, all this could be yours.” For now, it’s sufficient to follow smiling Uncle Paul and join in the “Helter Skelter” sing-a-long — unironically, please.
Will any of the Gen-Xers on stage last night aspire to mince like this in their 70s? Inspiring their equally aged fanbase to shell out staggering sums for tickets? A huge industry is betting on it.
As grooming exercises go, surely last night’s concert marks a fine start.