OK, the post title is a little misleading, for two reasons:
1) I’ve never had a huge problem with nostalgia tours, certainly not when compared to David Simon Cowell.
2) The tours I’ve embraced have not all been pure nostalgia-based; some have been laced with new material.
But the larger point remains: in the just the last couple months, I’ve seen a cadre of artists who either reunited after long hiatuses or returned to earlier material for the first time in a while:
- Jane’s Addiction at The Aragon Ballroom
- At The Drive-In at Lollapalooza
- Afghan Whigs at Lollapalooza
- Archers of Loaf at the Bottom Lounge
- Bruce Springsteen at Wrigley Field
- Bob Mould at the Metro
And without exception, all were legitimately fantastic shows…shows that comfortably stand alongside those by artists currently in their prime that I’ve seen seen this year, including Japandroids, Fucked Up, Gaslight Anthem, and JEFF the Brotherhood.
Of these, Jane’s Addiction came the closest to feeling like pure nostalgia. They played new material, but it was poor and ignored. The crowd wanted to hear “Stop” and “Mountain Song,” and see Perry Farrell do Perry Farrell things while Dave Navarro smoked cigarettes shirtless. And to that end, the show was highly effective and everyone went home satisfied (except for perhaps one person).
At The Drive-In feels the most like a cash in, except they played their older material (which is all they played) with energy and ferocity. Afghan Whigs only have a couple new songs (including their fantastic cover of Frank Ocean’s “Lovecrimes”), but they too seemed fully investing, and they also seem like they might make this reunion a going concern.
Archers of Loaf also seems like an effort to make some money based on a hard-earned reputation built in a time when cred didn’t pay. No new material for the Archers, who nonetheless appeared happy to revisit their past. We all know how I feel about Springsteen…who still counts as a nostalgia/reunion thing or whatever because even though he’s producing new albums and he’s toured consistently with the E Street Band for the last 13 years, he preceded that period with 12 years of that particular band being broken up.
Mould may be the most interesting case, as he has remained active over the years but until now has never fully embraced his Sugary-y past. On this tour, he’s playing Copper Blue in its entirety, along with material from his return-to-form new album, Silver Age, and even some Husker Du songs sprinkled in for good measure.
Upon coming out, Mould stalked and pounced around the stage like a man who had just been released from a cage of his own making. He burned through Copper Blue, barely pausing between songs when he bothered to pause at all. Playing hard and with purpose, when Mould turned to the Silver Age songs, they fit in seamlessly, as though he had never halted Sugar in the first place.
So after seeing all these shows, whatever reservations I may have had about going to shows by aging rockers and bands from my youth vanished. Even though I’ve always been generally OK with reunion tours and nostalgia concerts, I can’t deny I had a tiny voice in my head telling me I should feel guilty for going and that I should be spending my attention and money on current bands. But in the end, what’s the difference if the show’s great either way? A band is a band, regardless if they’re 23 or 53, and no matter if their best album came out in 1993 or in 2012.
Those who hold themselves to a strict standard of currency as music fans miss out on some amazing shows, like Mould at the Metro. All I know is that if Kurt Cobain rises from the dead and Nirvana plays a reunion show at the Riviera, I’m fucking there. I won’t miss reincarnated Kurt because I’m “too cool for the room.”