November 18th, 2011
I recently received an e-mail stating that Peter Frampton was coming to the Pabst Theatre and that he’d be performing his 1976 live album, Frampton Comes Alive!, in its entirety.
At first, I thought that this was the first time a classic rocker has replicated a live album in concert (how meta) as opposed to performing a studio album in its entirety but then I recalled that the Allman Brothers did it earlier this year. After seeing the ad I wondered when this trend of performing the whole of a classic album from a band’s past started. I immediately thought of Steely Dan who, back in 2009, devoted each show of a multi-night to playing one of their old albums so that you might get The Royal Scam the first night and Gaucho the next. In 2010 and again this year, Rush did Moving Pictures. Jethro Tull included all of Aqualung on the album’s 40th anniversary tour and Ian Anderson’s next solo outings will feature Thick as a Brick – all 40+ minutes of it. (No word on whether the bunny suits and phone call will also be present.) Metallica recently announced that “Enter Sandman” and the rest of Metallica (a.k.a – “The Black Album”) are getting the treatment next summer at the Download Festival. And we can’t forget that Roger Waters is taking The Wall out on the road again next year. On the neo-proggy side, Fish gave Misplaced Childhood a workout back in 2005 for that album’s 20th anniversary while IQ recently dusted off Subterranea – costumes and all – for a special gig and that album is only 14 years old.
This article notes that Van Morrison “flogged Astral Weeks” back in 2008 but it also blames Brian Wilson for his 2002 during which Pet Sounds was performed in its entirety. Now, some shows on Pink Floyd’s Division Bell tour – I think they were later in the itinerary – featured Dark Side of the Moon done from beginning to end, though it didn’t seem to have started the trend as I can’t think of any bands from 1995-2002 that pulled this same stunt. Now that I think about it, The Who weren’t afraid to perform all of Tommy back in 1989 but, again, these shows didn’t seem to have kicked off a frenzy of other bands doing the same.
I’m not opposed to the idea of a band playing an entire album culled from their back catalogue. Indeed, some of them demand it, i.e. – concept albums, especially those that weren’t banded. (Is banded still a word? I mean there were no spaces between songs.) And no doubt some songs that haven’t been played live in a while or perhaps not all get an airing. On the other hand, I can see there being instances which reinforced the idea that the songs/albums that dominate classic rock radio are the apex of a band’s career and, in a sense denigrate the rest of the band’s catalogue. For example, I’d much rather hear Animals or Meddle than DSotM or The Wall and the fact that the latter two albums have gotten the played-in-its-entirety treatment and have dominated the band’s setlists for decades tends to, in my mind, relegate the rest of Floyd’s catalogue to second class status.
Depending on the band and the album, there are probably many reasons why any given album gets this treatment. Returning to Pink Floyd, I gather that the Gilmour-led incarnation chose the material it chose because they didn’t want to play a whole lot of stuff that Roger wrote and they also wanted to play songs for which they still held an affinity. Hence Animals is ignored and “Echoes” was dropped after a dozen or so shows back in 1987.
At the end of the day, a band can play whatever it wants. But, as a fan, I’d rather there be more variety at a concert instead of the bulk of a show going to greatest hits and albums that are already and have been for some time overrepresented on classic rock radio.