I think I’ve referenced in a previous post what I call the Geezer Tour: Artists and bands from Back in the Day who are still out on the road performing, even though they are well past retirement age — and in some cases, way past their prime.
Some of the time they are playing the Casino Circuit, their shows subsidized by, and entertainment for, the mathematically challenged. Often, the acts consist of one or two of the original band members, backed by musicians typically much younger than the music.
Perhaps the ultimate Geezer Tour Stop started last weekend, in the neighborhood of Coachella, Calif. (Which already has a multi-weekend music festival in the spring, although readers of this blog probably wouldn’t recognize many of the names on the bill of fare.) It’s called Desert Trip, and being two-thirds of a continent away, it may not have penetrated the consciousness of some Midwest fans of The Music.
I haven’t been able to avoid it, because I listen to SiriusXM, and its Deep Tracks and Classic Vinyl channels have been hyping it for months. The latter channel, in fact, was turned into a 24/7 Desert Trip venue in the run-up to the first weekend.
Anyway, the six-day, two-weekend concert series features a Who’s Who of big names from the 1960s and ’70s — including the Who, or at least what’s left of them (or Whom, or whatever). The festival opened Friday with the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan and His Band (but not The Band, I’m thinking).
Ex-Beatle Paul McCartney and Neil Young, the latter of a couple supergroups and lots of solo stuff, made up the Saturday night bill. Roger Waters, the brains behind Pink Floyd (at least, according to him), who has made a career out of “The Wall,” and the Who themselves played Sunday. That schedule repeats this weekend.
The lineup is seriously geezerly. Dylan, going on 76 — and not looking a day over 80 or so — is the elder statesman, although McCartney is closing in on the three-quarter-century mark. The average age of the headliners — the solo artists, the Stones and the two surviving Whoevers — is 72-plus; the Stones’ Ronnie Wood, at 69, is the baby of the bunch.
Anyone who has attended a concert by a major act in recent years knows that such tickets don’t come cheap. And a lineup of big names like Desert Trip’s definitely doesn’t, although the single-day passes at $199 don’t sound that outrageous. But those don’t seem to get you anything besides in the gate, and they’re sold out anyway; ditto for the $399, three-day general admission.
Also snapped up were the three-day VIP general admission passes, which included something called a “Weekend Culinary Experience Bundle.” (That meal package, I hope, includes some of those “lighter fare” items included in the menus of restaurants frequented by senior citizens — maybe some Metamucil, too.) A three-day Standing Pit — I know I wouldn’t want to on my feet that long — pass will cost you $1,600-plus, but does get you close to the stage, and into the Platinum (reference to hair color?) Lounge.
Want to sit down and listen? You can do that for as little as $699 plus fees, or as much as $1,699-plus, the former likely in the equivalent of the Nosebleed Seats. There’s also Premium Seating, the price of which is not listed on the website, either because it’s sold out, or because of the Cadillac Cost Equation: If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.
The ticket prices have to be high, to pay for acts such as those performing. And this seems intended to be a big money thing — the Coachella Music Festival parenthetically referenced above, run by the same guy who organized Desert Trip I, reportedly grossed $83 million this year.
The question is, what are you going to hear for that kind of money? One recent clip I’ve heard of McCartney performing live leads me to believe — and at least one friend agrees — that he’s lost his singing voice. (When he talks, it sounds like his Knighthood has gone to his head.)
Dylan never really had one, his lyrics usually carrying his work, and age hasn’t improved it. Young’s voice didn’t compare well 45 years ago to Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Waters’ solo work generally suffered compared to Floyd because of the what I call “The Whole is Greater than the Sum of the Parts” phenomenon. (Sir Paul’s solo/Wings stuff reflected that, too.) A reviewer of Sunday’s show said the voice of the Who’s Roger Daltry faltered at one point.
The reviews of the first weekend were generally favorable, the critics not seeming to think it was weird that the Stones covered the Beatles during their show (not enough Jagger-Richards material?). Waters went off on Israel and Trump, and Pete Townshend of the Who dissed Hendrix and Led Zep; good to know these oldies haven’t forgotten how to be edgy and controversial.
One review said there were about 75,000 at Sunday’s Who/Waters show; that doesn’t sound like a big crowd — but it isn’t 1969, and this wasn’t Woodstock. It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of the second weekend.
My readers with sufficient disposable income could be there, but I won’t be. Not only is the price tag too steep, but I generally prefer to listen to The Music as it was, rather than see it performed by Really Old Guys.
And if you think I’m a hypocrite for going to that Steely Dan concert this summer, I would argue that Becker and Fagan take a different approach to presenting 45-year-old music, featuring their excellent backing bands, and not taking themselves too seriously.