You know what I’ve been thinking about lately? KISS, reunion tours & the death of Rock and Roll.
The other day I was minding my own business and losing myself in the fast-paced world of IReports when an animated ad informed me that KISS would be blessing Seattle with its presence in mid-November. Just so there’s no confusion, I’m not talking about a KISS cover band or a group made up of KISS offspring. I’m talking about freakin’ KISS. That’s right, the costumed, hard rock band whose debut album dropped in the year of my birth (1974), is back on the road. And they aren’t playing the local Indian Casino either. They’re playing the 16,000 plus seat Key Arena.
I know what you’re thinking. “Wait. Aren’t those guys dead?” Well, not yet. Their careers were on life support for a little while, but then in ’96 the two founding members – Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons – decided there might be more money in kicking it old school. So KISS put the make-up back on, reconciled with the two original members they’d kicked out, and started a reunion tour, which apparently has never ended.
And they’re not the only rock stars with graying hair putting on high-priced reunion tours. In 2008 the list of top grossing tours was overrun by acts whose best work is far, far behind them; Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, the Police, Neil Diamond, and the Eagles.
I thought the Eagles hated each other’s guts. Now they’re on tour ever three years. Apparently time (and money) heal all wounds.
What’s truly sad isn’t that these musical giants can still pack ‘em in, it’s that lesser acts – the ones you’re too embarrassed to admit you loved as a kid – are still touring. Just drive by your nearest casino and read the large, animated sign. You can’t miss it. It’s the one right next to the highway distracting the drivers who are flying by at 70 mph.
As I cruised past the Emerald Queen Casino sign on I-5 south of Seattle this week I was brought up-to-date on the parade of has-beens that are making their way to the northwest in the next couple months.
Three Dog Night. Kansas. Air Supply. Blue Oyster Cult.
Blue Oyster Cult? Really? The only reason anyone under thirty knows who these guys are, is because of a Saturday Night Live sketch. And if this band didn’t fear the reaper, then why are they still hanging around?
Look, I guess I can’t blame the musicians. If someone’s willing to pay them to do the thing they love to do, they should cash those checks. The fact that there’s still an audience for this stuff is what has me scratching my head. Are there people out there who think it’s really worth paying fifty bucks to hear the silver-haired members of Kansas belt out a subpar rendition of “Carry on Wayward Son”? I mean, is there really no other way for baby boomers to spend a Saturday evening?
As a musical genre, Rock and Roll will live forever. It will carry on in some distorted form or another until the cockroaches retake the earth. But as a cultural concept, Rock and Roll is as dead as Kurt Cobain. Because at its core, Rock and Roll wasn’t just about music, it was a movement that represented cultural rebellion in the form or sex, drugs, and disenfranchised youth. It was supposed to titillate teenagers and scare parents. But when AARP members start leading the charge, the rebellion is clearly over.
Elvis Presley’s pelvis used to scare the shit out of parents and work kids into a frenzy. Now the song “Viva Las Vegas” is being used to sell boner medication.
The Who used to sing about their “generation” and hoped they’d die before they got old. Now they’re cashing the checks CBS sends them for licensing their music to the CSI franchise.
KISS used to sing songs about banging groupies while trying to find new merchandise to slap their likenesses on. Okay, they’re basically still doing the same thing. They just have reality shows and coffee shops to help them push the product.
The only true Rock and Roll icons left are the ones who died before they had a chance to sellout. But something tells me if Sid Vicious were alive today, he’d be more than happy to play the Lucky Eagle Casino. Provided, of course, they paid the acts in high-quality heroin.