Geezer Rock

July 29th, 2011 | Posted in General

Carlos Santana may be getting old, but guitars do not age and he still rocks!

Back in May The Lovely Anna and I had occasion to visit Las Vegas scouting locations for the National Cartoonists Society’s Reuben Weekend, and while there we saw the 80’s rock band Foreigner perform at the Green Valley Ranch Resort.¬¨‚Ć Last night, Anna and some girlfriends was Foreigner again with Journey and Night Ranger here in St. Paul… 80’s rock flashback.

When I Facebooked about seeing Foreigner, I got a few comments about how it’s not the “real” Foreigner since original lead singer Lou Gramm was not touring with the band. Likewise, Journey is touring without Steve Perry. Both have young guys who sound just like their predecessors on lead vocals. Many people feel like this is a rip-off…that it’s just a money-grab and the fans are getting cheated without the full line-up on stage.

Well, or course it’s a money-grab… but that doesn’t mean it also isn’t better for the fans.

Let’s face it, the only people who really want to see bands like Journey and Foreigner perform are fans of their classic rock music… they are not reaching out to a new generation of fans with new songs. Both those bands have new albums out, and both did a few numbers from those albums, but in both cases the crowd was silenced and just looked around blinking at one another thinking “what the $%$#@ is this?” until it was over and they went into another of their classics. That’s what these fans want to hear, and in most cases they wouldn’t be hearing it if the original lead singers would be up there trying to belt it out.

Unlike guitars, bass’s, drums and such, voices are instruments that do not last, especially those being abused singing rock music. Few 70’s- 80’s singers can still hit the same notes with the same ferocity now that they are 60-plus years old. Steven Tyler of Aerosmith comes to mind, but not many others. The crowds want to hear the songs the way they remember them… it would be sad to hear some 63 year old geezer up there either butchering the songs or singing it differently to cover up their aging vocals. Steve Perry is rumored to be unable to sing at all anymore due to health issues. I doubt Lou Gramm would be half as energetic and spot-on as the young guy who sang in his place when we saw Foreigner. Mick Jones, the band’s lead guitarist, stood like a statue in silk pajamas during the show, but he brought it on the guitar and sounded as good as he ever has. He’s lucky… his instrument doesn’t age. I saw AC/DC a year or so ago, and Brian Johnson‘s voice was in rough shape. He had to alter the songs so he didn’t have to hit some of the tougher notes. Still fun to see but…

Yes, I’d prefer to have the original lineup there and hear them all playing together… if they were still in their 30’s. This way, with younger lead singers who can hit all the notes with gusto, the crowds get to hear what they want to hear and still see most of the band they remember. In many cases the original lead singers don’t want to participate anyway… so this is as close as you are going to get to the classic bands.

They should skip the new material, though. They’ve already done 80’s rock as good as it will ever be done… who needs another album?


  1. Skip says:

    Who needs another album? Dude, who needs another MAD magazine? The world, that’s who! I’m glad to see that some of these geezer bands are not only still performing, but still writing new stuff. They’re artists, after all, creative types who are driven to make new things. How would you like it if all you could draw was the same old Alfred E. Neumann over and over and over again, day after day, year after year? And don’t change the way you draw him because it’ll upset the fan base. No, I like it when Journey and Foreigner and the Rolling Stones come up with new material. Play it at a concert, then everybody knows there’s new stuff out there and they go buy the album (or CD, or download it, or whatever). I saw the Stones on their tour a few years ago – they blew away every young punk band in existence, and I bought their newest album, and it was full of new music as strong as anything from their earlier records. The bands that piss me off are the ones that wheeze through the same old songs for the 57 millionth time and sound as dead as Muzak in an elevator. Creativity is life. We need more 80’s rock!

    • Tom says:

      I don’t know about that. The Stones and some bands like U2 seem to keep to fresh and relevant, but if you can barely tell the difference between a song on the new Journey album and the one from their albums from the 70’s and 80’s, then what’s the point? I’d rather just listen to their classic stuff… nothing new will ever beat that work.

  2. Calvin says:

    wow…..he looks almost like muhammar ghadaffi now

  3. Pete Jenkins says:

    Totally agree Tom. I’m a fan of Kansas and got to see them a couple of years ago when they came to London. Steve Walsh voice is not what it was in the 70s but who cares. Dave Ragsdale now plays the violin but if they come back to Britain I will be first in the queue !

  4. Ramin says:

    I too like new material from the old bands. Sammy Hagar is doing some of his best work right now.

  5. Jack says:

    I agree, I love geezer rock! I love to see the old bands playing the old hits. Unfortunately as Tom points out the voice doesn’t hold up as well. Lou Gramm is a perfect example I saw him a few years back and many people walked out disappointed in a performance that was not quite Foreigner. I was lucky enough to see Rush last summer and thoroughly enjoyed the experience even though they took a small intermission in the middle of the show.

  6. Adam Cooke says:

    Tom, as a musician (albeit not a rocker) and a “child of the ’80s” I must admit I’m with you on this one. Some bands like Rush, U2 and the Stones can hold it together (and surprisingly even Paul McCartney, who’s…what? 80, now? 90?) but I’ve been left cold by some of the “aging rocker” concert footage I see on YouTube these days. Occasionally it’s cool to hear a variety of material from a former hitmaker and to hear how that person’s voice has changed over the years (Don “American Pie” McLean comes to mind) but in a lot of cases it’s really just as well to go with a younger lead singer who can nail those vocals on the songs we have all loved for years.


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