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  • Writer's pictureJohn Carlow

Encore ( Part 2 of Our Rock Stars are Dying October 2020 )

As pandemic fog cleared, concert tickets we purchased over 2 years ago started locking down current dates. Other postponed tours stared adding dates that got as close as Vancouver, so we lined up some trips, booked some rooms and did some planning. Think it was about halfway through this schedule of events when I realized all these shows shared something. For many, it would likely be the last time I saw these bands, and most were down to a few or a single member of the original projects. These were legacy bands, most leaving deep imprints in music history. For me, it was also the first time I had seen them (or a version of them) even though many had enjoyed very long careers to date.

Probably best to remember at this point, music, (or appreciation) of has no rules to it. I’ve discovered many bands who have come and gone but left behind their work to be uncovered and enjoyed by anyone at any time. In other words, seeing Kraftwerk for the first time with only one original member remaining is ok. If its enough to guide you to the expanse of a massive and far-reaching career, so be it. Ralf Hutter didn’t seem to mind. Kraftwerk has been his life, and he is still wildly successful with it so far down the road. Fans new and old were standing for the encore. A ton of money was being spent on merch and recordings made decades ago still sell like they were new. I smiled to myself when I say “new and old “ because another similarity these shows shared was the predominance of “silver fans “. Lotta grey. Lot of old tour t shirts; and a lot of joy. I’m aiming for the silver tail when I get to that point. I overheard many stories of “where I saw Sparks “or when “Jethro Tull first played Vancouver “. I can think of more than one or 2 current popular artists than I imagine will never enjoy this sort of devotion down the long path.

So, yea ….Kraftwerk was a spectacle 3 D , hologram like technology and simple sound perfection. A life’s work on display so many years after the journey began. Early 60s in this instance. As the band left the stage, at one point only Ralf remained. He had a lot to take a bow for. Couldn’t help feeling overwhelmed by the moment. Probably the bands final tour. Met and said goodbye the same night. Makes you appreciate a life’s accomplishment on a grand scale.

We had scored beautiful seats to see SPARKS in Vancouver at the Vogue theatre. The band had enjoyed a resurgence of fame with a wildly popular documentary called The Sparks Brothers. Album reissues and a tour followed. We joined many who had no idea the band had enjoyed such a long and deeply influential career. Like Kraftwerk, they have been credited for kickstarting and influencing many trends in popular music. Our beautiful 9th row seats were completely ruined by a massive guy in the row in front of us…who decided to move into seats that were never claimed. He spent half the show drinking and the other half on his phone. He decided to stand to 100 % block our view during several pivotal moments of the night. Reminder that nothing is guaranteed with a concert ticket. I digress. First and likely last time we (partially ) saw them. Same feeling at encore. A lifetime in music. What a ride they are still on. We bought several albums, including the movie soundtrack, since.

The Zombies played locally. We had bought our tickets some two and half years prior. Grand venue and big crowd for this performance. This band had its roots in the early 60s . Two “original “members remain who have been writing and performing together ever since. Names like Alan Parsons Project and Abbey Road studios….The Beatles… were being dropped often into the nights dialog. Songs that I didn’t realize were Zombies tracks were brought to the surface. All these events felt a little like music history lessons, though nothing like I was taught in my school years. Originals Colin Blunstone ( incredible vocalist …even now ) and Rod Argent ( keys ) were the last to leave the stage, performing a new track called The Way I Feel Inside. It was a moving moment. As a duo, they reminded me a little of Roger and Pete who have rarely stopped performing The Who. I watched a video not long ago with them talking about a life’s career and sipping tea and admitting “hope I die before I get old “was just a stupid thing to say.

I shot Circle Jerks in Vancouver at the legendary Commodore Theatre. With origins around the same time I was immersed in Supertramp , Keith and Greg were on stage from the early days. I think there’s a lot left in the engines for CJ actually. It didn’t feel like a final curtain call. They were wildly popular and had some hardcore fans in the house. Lot of silver ponies, but lot of young fans as well. They really just had to bring the songs at volume and provide the space. The rest just seemed natural.

Another ticket holdover was the Martin Barre show with Clive Barker, both core Jethro Tull band members , presenting Aqualung ( 1974 ) in its entirety . Like Kraftwerk, the show was in a gorgeous old theatre. I had some doubts. Aqualung is a much beloved classic composition. It would be pretty easy to mess with the way this album has flowed through your veins for so many years. I caught the soundcheck and still wasn’t sure. Come live performance time though the band really delivered. With storyboard song by song visuals, the playing was top notch. Dan Crisp was amazing for the vital vocal components, Martin was spot on, loud and full of fire and Clive Barker just absolutely came to life. Aqualung received a standing O. Well deserved. Hard to believe it’s been played for 50 years. It was obvious it brought the joy it brought to Martin and Clive and to those in the audience that have had this music inside their whole lives.

I remarked to a friend of mine some years back that the musicians in my life are disappearing. He’s been in the biz since he was a teen and spent his life involved in music one way or another. He said everyone has a life soundtrack. Like friends and families, your music grew with you and the musicians involved are sadly …..also mortal. I’ve always envied the fact that for some, their legacy will live on, sometimes for generations through music. Some make history with their art. They leave something behind.

Yep, people I know are starting to move on to wherever it is we go next and those final curtain calls are taking place on stages around the world. A reminder that we live such tiny moments in space and time. Make everything count. Have a soundtrack to your life. Make your own soundtrack. Sever the toxic link to the screen ( where you’re reading this ) Be remembered.

Kraftwerk 2022 ( source unknown )

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