Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Column #30: Elton doesn't excite me much anymore

Elton John is coming to the Kentucky Fried Center. Well, that’s nice, I suppose. Better than the Eagles, at least.

That’s my reaction today, but if this was still 1973, I’d be all, “OMG, you guys! Elton John is coming!!!”

I’m passionate about music, clearly, and I’m the opposite of the person who says, “My favorite type of music? I don’t know, I like all types.” While I do, too, that’s because I spend a lot of time listening to music, thinking about it, researching it.

My favorite periods have included the doo wop of the late ‘50’s urban streets, the free jazz movement in the ‘60s, the outlaw country of the mid-70’s, the punk scene of the late ‘70’s and the indie rock of the recent era.

Pop and hip hop have made great sonic strides in the past decade, thanks to producers like Timbaland and Danger Mouse, but I’m still grateful that the pop of my childhood included Prince, Michael Jackson, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. Sorry, Katy Perry and the Black Eyed Peas, I just don’t feel you.

If I had to pick one period in music that is my favorite, today, I would say the singer-songwriters of the early ‘70s. A recent edition of PBS’ “American Masters” series focused on L.A.’s Troubadour Club in that era. Some of my favorites – Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Randy Newman, Jackson Browne, Van Morrison – dominated the club in that era.

While I love that era, the thought of having to endure some of those people in concert today – Elton, Crosby Stills & Nash, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, et al. – gives me the shivers.

My parents recently saw folk singers Peter & Paul (Mary died in 2009) and reported back that no one in the audience was younger than 55. How does a room full of affluent AARP members singing “We Shall Overcome” together, during Obama’s presidency, still make sense?

The best art is inspired by the times in which the artist lives. Picasso’s “Guernica” could only have happened at that time, though surely someone is developing an iPhone app that will truly capture the rebel spirit of today’s Jasmine Revolution.

This month, I cut short a trip to Florida so that I could witness the thrill of Lady Gaga’s debut performance at the Bucket. She did not disappoint; it was one of the greatest spectacles I’ve ever experienced.

Her show is a combination of the best elements of tent revival, circus, Broadway and drag show all in one. Seeing her today, at the probable peak of her powers and freshness, is made even more exciting by feeling swept up in her mission of acceptance. It’s a message thankfully becoming increasingly mainstream with forward momentum being seen in marriage equality, military service equality and the popularity of those “Glee” twinks.

The best artists don’t have to be 24 to make an impact. The best have a hunger that is palpable, a need to express themselves that can overcome most obstacles. There’s a guy called Seasick Steve who is putting out a record on Jack White’s Third Man Records soon. He was discovered in 2006 by the British music press – at the age of 65.

His style of drunken uncle blues music made a splash at the South by Southwest festival in Austin last week, like when his fellow bluesmen R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough were discovered in the 1990s, by folks half their age.

There’s no age that’s right or wrong for creativity. Stevie Wonder was known as “Little Stevie” when he emerged at 12 years old. The only problem is, that creativity left him somewhere in the early 1980’s. He was my first concert, but you couldn’t pay me to see him today.

As for ol’ Elton, I still listen to his best music. I appreciate that he, too, helped pave the way for greater tolerance in our society. But he can no longer change my life, or even my plans.

c. 2011 Velocity Weekly

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