Inside of the past two weeks I’ve had the opportunity to see both Art Garfunkel and Ringo Starr – a notion that people either scoff at entirely or lovingly acknowledge while nodding their head as if I’ve placed 8th out of 9 in a hog-raising competition. Coming from a classic rock and oldies sensibility (have you read my bio on any site I contribute to? It’s all there) I was more than excited at the prospect of seeing two of my lifelong favorite acts live – one half of Simon and Garfunkel (I saw Simon with Sting earlier in February) and a living breathing Beatle! (Tickets were purchased minutes ago to see Paul for the third time this fall)
I knew precisely what I was getting myself into attending both shows of rock’s greatest sidemen. Crowds would be 85% geriatric, I would undoubtedly face some embarrassing bits in the show (see: Art Garfunkel’s 9th poetry reading of the night and All-Starr band member Todd Rundgren’s “Bang The Drum All Day”), but overall I would be witnessing classic songs performed by the practitioners who were in the thick of musical greatness. Furthermore, how many more chances will we have the opportunity to see these artists perform while they still have the energy and will to do so?
Art, despite the recent self-diagnosis of slight amusia, sounded tremendous whilst belting out “Homeward Bound”. Ringo, a spritely 74, did jumping jacks while his All-Starr band pounded out “Photograph” for the folks at the Santa Barbara Bowl. There wasn’t any disappointment from my end of the conversation at the either show. I can genuinely say I enjoyed watching both septuagenarians cater to the crowd with their greatest hits while having a good time doing it.
I think a good percentage of my generation that are concert and festival-goers has this fascination and reverie with seeing the obligatory “legacy acts” live.
Art’s performance was much more subdued – he took the stage with only a guitarist and a book of poems. He explained several times that he was building his vocal abilities again from the ground up and the recovery phase of his career was going to be a lengthy process. Something about this explanation must have stirred something within the woman Art’s age sitting next to me, who began to deliver lines to me such as “You should’ve seen him in his prime,” and “Just imagine a guy your age up there singing.” I nodded along politely and fake-laughed some stock dialogue such as “Oh yeah.” It wasn’t that I was trying to be rude – it’s just that I wanted to hear Garfunkel sing and I knew that starting up a conversation with this woman would likely entail a night full of comments and arm grabbing on her end. I didn’t have to face it for much longer, however. After five songs of raucously applauding and hollering, the woman next to me left, never to return.
At Ringo’s show the energy was much more abundant. This time the woman next to me not only wanted to strike up a conversation about every song that was played, but also continually tried to rouse me to dance with her to numbers such as “Black Magic Woman” and “Yellow Submarine.” I was flattered, of course, but had to decline because I was actually trying to enjoy myself. If Ringo is at all ailing in his September years I can’t see any evidence of it. He seemed to have as much energy as his fellow bandmates combined.
I have to say, however, that as much I as love both the music that Art Garfunkel and Ringo Starr have contributed to, in many respects I saw them, for lack of a better term, for bragging rights. I relish in the fact of listening to some classic rock and being able to think to myself I can’t believe I saw this live or Hey self, remember when the drummer of (insert band name) totally killed it on this one? Make no bones about it, I love seeing live music and I wouldn’t take back Garfunkel or Ringo for anything, but when it comes down to it, I suppose a lot of it is trying to check off some boxes of these aging men and women before they die or stop touring altogether.
I think a good percentage of my generation that are concert and festival-goers has this fascination and reverie with seeing the obligatory “legacy acts” live. I’d purport that as much as people look forward to seeing Lorde, Haim, or Chance The Rapper, there’s as much enthusiasm generated for Elton John, Tom Petty and the other faces of 70’s radio. Certainly Art Garfunkel or Ringo alone won’t have as big a surge of interest as Vampire Weekend and Chromeo, but what festival is worth its salt without the classic rock/oldies bid? I’m certainly impressed when people I know got the chance to see Lionel Richie this summer, just as I am when they saw Outkast.
Then again, I suppose no matter what your impetus for concert-going is, some of what factors in has to be at least a small modicum of the “I was there, I saw them” mindset. I see nothing wrong with that, as long as you aren’t rubbing it in other people’s faces or find yourself a 65-year-old woman with too much Sauvignon Blanc in her system and her eye on the bearded guy with the graphic t-shirt next to you.
Born and raised on classic rock and oldies, Jake Tully consumed music voraciously growing up in Central California. He has his wonderful grandparents to thank for his love of music, as well as the amazing luck to have seen hundreds of concerts in his lifetime. He considers himself an eclectic consumer of all media, and further reading can be found at his blog.