Do You Feel Lucky?

(and feel free to comment! My older posts are certainly no less relevant to the burning concerns of the day.)

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Van Halen: A Royal "Fuck Off" to All You All Nostalgia Acts

"Hey, let's get the band back together shall we? Go on tour, make a few bucks?"

Well I have a better idea, how about fuck off if that's you're attitude? Is that all you got! Are you a band or not?

For real and for serious: is this what you thought we loved you for? Is that going to be enough for you? And do you really think that's enough for us? Just show up on the night, and be a cover band of the glory days of yourselves!

That's not a band. That's a god damn preserved moose. Get that shit off the stage.

Look, a nostalgia act is fine! A little pathetic. But I guess it's no sense overreacting: there's no shame in a paycheck for a fair night's work, making the fans who used to love you feel their age. Just don't claim you're getting the band back together, please? You're not getting the band back together, you're putting on an act. Don't say you're rock and roll when all you have to sell us is nostalgia for when you used to be.

If you are that band you used to be – or fuck that, if you are even just a real rock band! - the realest and best band your members today can come together to make. If you can be that, your real fans would love to see it. We don't expect you to turn back time. We want you to dive back into it: engaged in creation, in control and ready to take a risk or two. Ready to give yourselves - and us – another chance. What do you say, is there more good yet to come into this world? Can you do it for real? You don't owe it to us – you've got nothing left over to prove from before. But don't you kind of owe it to yourselves? Don't you owe it to everything you've ever done?

If you hear what I'm saying, here, then there's something you need to do. Okay - what the hell, do it for me! Do it for us, do it for yourselves, and for the world if you care. Do it for rock and roll, how about that? But before the reunion tour can be called any cause for celebration, I am telling you there is something you must do. It's called: get back together.

Get in a room and play. Play for days. Play your hits, sure – to start with! Get yourself back into the biggest, deepest groove you ever grew. See if the chemistry reconnects and catches fire for you! See if the bolts of lightning start to fly. See what's still there, but more important than that: see if it is still there. You remember "it," don't you?

You still got "it"?

"It" was not the ability to re-create. "It" was the ability to create. That was what you had. That's what we loved you for: you were a real band.

And hey, maybe you're not anymore! Maybe it's just not there. No one to blame on that score. You can't force it if it's not there, but shouldn't you at least try? If the chemistry's not there, okay! Fine, no need to call off the tour. It's okay, the fans will know what they're getting. Any time some old band comes out, no album, just a tour. It's a party! Time to have some good kicks, some reminisce. Come on out and play. But we all know and you know, you're not what you were, and let's leave it at that: you're a nostalgia act.

No shame in a fun night for all, night after night for eighteen months, not as you were – but as you: has been.

Man, though. There's a part of that party that is very depressing, isn't there? Just imagine the difference, if you knew or believed you could have created something. Imagine going out there on a tour for a reason - like you used to do, with a new album to flog and new fans to win over! With a jolt of brand new spark mixed bubbling in with the proven fizz. Of course, it's risky. What if the new album sucks? But it was risky back then, too. It was risky back at the second album. You didn't puss out.

Sure, I get it that you never want to be that most horrible thing: the old band coming out with a crap album, some ersatz tour de force and using the tour to force it down peoples' throats – taking up 4, 5, 6 songs of the set?! Disgusting!

But guess what, there's no risk of that happening to you. You know why? Because you're not a bunch of assholes. You're not going to do that. You know the fans love and want to hear the old stuff. The good old stuff, the great old stuff - and you don't resent that! You don't have a chip on the shoulder, you don't have something to prove. You love that old stuff, too - you're proud of it, and you want to play it. You're going to play the hell out of all those old hits! You'll limit the new songs to – at most – three songs' worth of a nice, big, fat set list of greatest hits. You'll play the current single. You'll mix in maybe the band's current new fave at the moment, and for new song #3 you'll switch pick for fun, night by night. You'll mix it in, you'll mix it up - and based on how songs go over, maybe you'll have a new band's current favorite! Maybe you'll have a new next single. But you're not a bunch of assholes: you won't play more than three new songs total. You won't play two new songs back to back. You won't risk distressing the crowd - the crowd that all things being equal, wants you to succeed. You'll punch the new songs into a great supporting mix of faves, and your fans are going to love hearing the new stuff in that context. The kids who haven't bought the album yet - you will leave them wanting more. You might even sell a few units (check your digital download stats for sales made within-the-arena!), but you know one thing: you're going to make every fan in that place fucking overjoyed they bought a ticket. You already know you can do that.

You have the chance to do so much more. Give us more than a tour. Picture the crowd leaving reeling with the new things you still have in you. You do that - you've done a lot more than just a good night's work. You've restored faith. If you can make it new again, then maybe we the crowd need to wake something up in ourselves. Maybe we need kick our own laurels out of the way. Maybe life isn't over.

Don't you listen to the dried-up, wizened-hearted cynics and pessimists who tell you YOUR FANS want to hear ONLY the old stuff. Your fans are dying to hear more from you. Your fans loved you for what you proved you can bring into the world, and they don't think you've lost it. They won't believe that until you PROVE you have. Don't prove you've lost it. Don't tour without bringing us something to show what you got. Don't leave a sellout crowd walking out after a great show with a melancholy ache in the heart, and a tinge in the back of the eyes. The tinge that says they still love you - so much! – but that tinge says nostalgia. It says:

"Damn. This band used to be so great."

Back when life was good.

Thank you, Van Halen. This is an album review.


Mel said...

Agree with this. Of course, I would have advocated harder for a focus on playing the hits, but that’s just me. I appreciate your impassioned plea for fresh, new art… if the band has the chops. Sometimes the hits are better than the misses *cough* Time On Earth *cough* Intriguer

:-D !

dogimo said...

:-( !

dogimo said...

Sorry, Mel. That was a poor excuse for repartee! You know where you have me by my weak points, and I do have such deep weaknesses for those two albums, in various places.

But I thought of a thing that makes the whole thing right, and I shouldn't ever feel as if you're saying they ain't got it anymore (which pointedly, you ain't said): my favorite song of theirs is one they wrote in 2008. I share your mixed feelings about it not quite making the album in question (thought don't tell me you don't like the version that did! I saw you dancin'), and I share many of your questions about the albums.

You know what? With that particular song, I think they should make an exception and put it on the next album they do. "Twice If You're Lucky, Pt.2"

Mel said...

Absolutely agree. I love the idea of it appearing again on another album. I mean, it is entitled "Twice If You're Lucky so we can hope!