For those of my readers unfamiliar with 19th century German culture, the title of this blog post is a play-on-words on Ragnarok, a concept from Norse mythology describing the end of the world.
Those of us who are fans of The Music have been for a time, but are now even more, immersed in this End Times eschatology. The recent announcement that the up-and-coming Rolling Stones tour had been postponed underlined this.
My take on my generation for years has been that, when the lead item on the TV news is that Mick Jagger is on life support, you can stick a fork in us — we are toast.
Well, a couple weeks ago, we were informed that the Stones’ next tour was indefinitely delayed because the Mickster was indisposed. This week, I learned on satrad that it was not just a virus — Mr. Jagger had had heart-valve surgery, and was recuperating.
(This was a surprising development, because Mick has historically been one of the rock and roll icons who — if he didn’t actually tick every one of the take-care-of-yourself boxes — at least went through the motions: he worked out, kick-boxed, etc., to keep himself in shape. Sorry, Baby Boomers: They can implant those pig [or whatever] valves, but the handwriting is still on the wall.)
Although it could have been, had things gone wrong with Jagger’s surgery, the Stones’ postponed tour wasn’t billed as their farewell concert series. But the gathering gloom of this Twilight of the Rock Gods nevertheless proceeds apace, as a number of major acts started farewell tours last year and/or are currently working them.
Joan Baez, Elton John, Ozzy Osbourne, Bob Seger, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Paul Simon were among those for whom the beginning of the end began during 2018; KISS joined the un-party early this year. Not that these folks are going away anytime really soon — some of these are multi-year tours, and some don’t have end dates
Baez is 77, and is hanging it up for good reason: she’s losing her voice. Simon says he isn’t, but he’s also three years from the Big Eight-Oh. Sir Reginald has teenage kids, and Seger had spinal surgery two years ago. But the others, and even some of these, should have asterisks next to the farewell.
Elton John is a repeat offender, having done a farewell tour more than 40 years ago. Also, the man who says he wants to spend more time with his kids is less than a third of the way into a three-year series during which he will average 100 concerts a year.
Ozzy’s been there before, too, as the name of his current concert series, No More Tours 2, underlines. And after his first No More Tours tour, in 1992, he also did a Retirement Sucks swing three years later.
Seger is already adding tour dates to the back end of his series. Skynyrd reunited 10 years after the 1977 plane crash that killed three members of the original band, but only one of the survivors is still in the act.
(The Grim Reaper, or one of his advance agents, has taken out some other artists before they could do the farewell thing. Tom Petty got to do a 40th-anniversary tour, actually, before having a coronary. Neil Diamond cancelled a 50th-anniversary tour and retired early last year after he had been diagnosed, like Linda Ronstadt several years earlier, with Parkinsonism.)
I have mixed feelings about these farewell tours. Have never been a fan of the KISS — which is also on its second final swing — so it’s a “Don’t let the screen door hit your Spandex-encased butt” kiss-off to that act. Ditto for Ozzy; didn’t like Black Sabbath much, so have little desire to see their lead-singer-turned-Reality TV-star live.
I like Seger, and could have seen him in Milwaukee early this year, but he wasn’t enough of a Bucket List Item to warrant the high ticket price. Elton will be in the Beer Capitol of the World this fall, and I’m sure he won’t be a cheap date, either. Simon’s farewell said farewell last July; Baez’s American dates are just about done, and those remaining are in New York.
Like the length of the tours, the ticket prices for these farewell concerts inspire a bit of cynicism. As others have observed, billing a concert series as the final tour can boost ticket sales and raise prices; for example, the gross receipts for the first shows of John’s farewell tour were more than 50 percent higher than those of his 2016 series.
Part of this is the result of the demand created by fans’ desire to see their favorites one last time, which is understandable. It is also the reason that what I call the Geezer Circuit thrives, although those acts seem to perform mostly at casinos.
I boycott such shows on principle, even though there are a few that I would like to see. But some of these oldies acts are even less actual than the current Skynyrd. For example, Three Dog Night, which was mostly about the three lead vocalists, played dates this spring in Minnesota and Wisconsin; of Danny Hutton, Chuck Negron and Cory Wells, only Hutton still performs with the group.
As I admitted in my favorite concerts posts of a few months back, I’m not a frequent concert-goer, so the forward trend in farewell tours affects me less than some fans of The Music. What’s more troublesome to me about this Twilight of the Gods is the number of artists who are passing, and what that says about my generation.