Old geezers still bringing great rock on tour

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Eric Clapton

With so many rock artists pushing 60 years of age or more, it makes it hard to determine which veterans can still rock and which should trade in their guitar for an oxygen tank.

AC/DC still has a winning formula, recently selling out the Rogers Centre so fast that a second appearance was required. Its unchanging style is apparent in the content of its music, the subject of its lyrics and the intensity of its performances.

Storming the stage with cannons, fireworks, gigantic inflatable women and other special effects, the Australian rock legends proved their rejection of old age last weekend.

Despite celebrating his 54th birthday in March, Angus Young was still up to his youthful tricks; by the third song of the concert he had stripped out of his schoolboy uniform. After mooning the audience wearing nothing but AC/DC underwear, he proceeded to the end of the stage and began rolling on the ground while shredding out a guitar solo.

Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings, though no longer backed by the original members of The Guess Who, proved that time had only improved their craft. Now in their mid-60s, their concert in Harris Park this past summer was filled with nostalgia, telling compelling stories tied to each song before playing them with energy and enthusiasm.

Roger Waters was still up to his old tricks in 2007 when visiting the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Waters, credited as the artistic mind behind progressive rock group Pink Floyd, is also accused of breaking the band apart with his selfish attitude.

This attitude was proven when Rogers began playing his first song the exact minute the gates were opened to the facility. Though every ticket-holder was late for the show, Waters nevertheless proved his voice and fingers are still working as well now as they did in the 60s.

Though legendary drummer Neil Peart has expressed a lack of interest in touring at the age of 57, Rush has still taken to the Molson Amphitheatre Stage every summer in recent memory. Though his silence and grumpy-old-man-face spoke volumes, he and the rest of the band pumped out music sounding nearly identical to tracks written in albums 30 years ago.

Eric Clapton looked more like a typical blues musician than ever, resting on a chair situated on a Persian rug for the majority of his performance at the Air Canada Centre in 2007. His guitar-playing, which has remained flawless since he began his musical career 46 years ago, was heavily aided by the assistance of an 11-piece band, including three alternate guitar players.

Though many bands have proven their age not to be a factor, there are some bands that should just quit while they’re ahead.

In 2006 Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young took the stage at the Air Canada Centre. Perching themselves up on stools and showing little mobility, the quartet did more political preaching than actual performing and opted to play music from their less successful solo careers as opposed to the hits from the albums they made together.

While for some rock musicians old age has proven that, in the words of Neil Young, “it’s better to burn out than to fade away,” it’s also clear that “rock and roll is here to stay.”

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