A classical approach to classic rock
The Wife and I attended an excellent, exciting performance of a musical classic in Boston last night. With historically authentic instruments, costumes and staging, the work was lovingly and painstakingly recreated, to the point where one could imagine being transported back to its premiere.
A "tribute" band, for those who haven't had the pleasure, is one that recreates the experience of attending a show by some other more famous band. There are plenty of them around, including many that cover Genesis, the legendary British progressive band of the '70s featuring Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins. But the Quebec-based The Musical Box (named for a Genesis song) is the only one that does so with the imprimatur and advice of the original musicians. Everything -- the guitars, synthesizers, amps, drum kit, costumes, lighting, projected slides, you name it -- was absolutely authentic. Some of the original Genesis musicians have even done guest stints on TMB's tours.
So now, rock has come around to the point where classical music has been for centuries, and where jazz has arrived in the last generation. Its classic (i.e., dead or dying) styles are now being studied, copied and recreated by younger generations of musicians. You can even go to school for this. Fortunately, enough of the original rock performers are still around to put the record straight on how things were really done, unlike in classical music, where "historically informed" musicians can spout baloney about the one true way to play the old stuff, without fearing refutation from anyone who was actually there.
But what struck both of us as being very different from the typical classical act was the audience. The age range was very broad, some old enough to have been there "when", others much younger. They drank beers, hooted and hollered after every tune, and enjoyed themselves royally -- without being disruptive or inattentive. Kind of like what used to happen at operas and concerts back in the day. Hmmm...if the rockers can take a page from classical's "authentic performance" playbook, can classical folks take one from theirs on how to make things more entertaining? Maybe we should, if we want people like those in The Musical Box's audience to get on their classical groove too.
(Above left: Carrie Henneman Shaw and Brenna Wells in the Boston Early Music Festival production of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. Photo André Costantini. Above right: The Musical Box, on tour in Berlin, 2007)