Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Age over Beauty

[The Skids, picture credited to Dennis Morris.]

I doubt popular culture has ever been more youth obsessed than it is now. When the Beatles first became popular in America they were seen as extremely youthful, despite being in their early to mid-twenties. Nowadays, that's bordering on retirement for pop stars. When Logan's Run was being adapted to the screen, producers were concerned that they wouldn't be able to find enough young actors to play a world where everyone commits suicide before 21. They changed the cut-off point for the characters to 30, so that they could get actors who had the necessary experience. If they were remaking that movie today, there'd be no problem casting a bunch of actors who at least look under 21. Of course, nobody today acknowledges that along with crow's feet age gets you experience and finesse that you generally lack in your youth.

Being in my twenties, I've generally been most interested in the bands and performances that appeal to my generation. I listen to and love stuff from the '80s and '70s, but the concerts I've been to have, generally speaking, been younger artists. And, really, there's rarely been a live performance that I didn't love in one way or another. But the few older groups that I've seen always amaze me.

Watching The Who in Vegas was beyond description. I was up in the nosebleed section, but it didn't really matter to me. Where the bands I was into at the time got most of their stage presence from twirling about and flashing lights, these guys just had to step onto the stage and every eye was on them. They had presence. They had a confidence that can't be faked with youthful cockiness.

Even better than that, though, was The Skids at T in the Park 2007. My God, people. There were some talented people there, but nothing else could compare to the Skids. Days later, I'm still in awe. All I did was watch it on the computer and it was still better than the majority of live performances I've been to. Part of it was that this was their farewell performance. With founding member Stuart Adamson dead and the band having officially dissolved back in '82, chances are good that Richard Jobson will live up to his word and never play with the group again. But, it wasn't just the passion of never coming together as a group on stage again that drove them. There was that same easy confidence and skill that had put me in awe as a teenager when I saw the Who. Wearing t-shirts and jeans and looking older than my parents, all they had to do was be there on stage.

Most musicians, in my opinion, probably don't even hit their stride until they're in their thirties anyway. A good voice doesn't develop completely until the mid- to late-twenties, after all. If they're not a manufactured product and actually had to work for recognition, it'll take years before the band starts showing up on the radio. But, this fact is generally disguised a bit. Nobody wants attention drawn to the fact that everybody in AFI is over thirty, because the people who buy their albums are, for the most part, under eighteen. So we have all of these bands in their late twenties or thirties who are dressing and acting like teenagers, so the kids don't realize that they're listening to--gasp--adults. It's pretty bizarre when you get right down to it. A teenager recently told me that The Killers were "old" and so she didn't listen to them. Old? Child, the lead-singer is five years younger than anybody in any of your favorite bands. Trying to keep everything as young as possible and masking it when it's embarrassingly mature does us no favors at all.

I can't help but wonder what bands that have been doing the festival circuit this summer will still be playing in twenty-five years. Can we imagine Gerard Way fronting an MCR reunion in a white t-shirt and gray hair? Probably not. The guy just turned 30, after all. It's probably time to bring in the Sandmen.

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