We’ve just got over Halloween and this week Mexico celebrates ‘The Day Of The Dead’ – an annual festival of reverence to the dearly departed. Perhaps it’s an appropriate time to look at the current music industry, in particular those performers who continue to strut the world stage despite both their diminishing health and talent. Phil Collins has shown some remarkable honesty and a wry sense of humour by billing his forthcoming Australian tour as “Not Dead Yet”. Phil is apparently in great health, given he’s in his late 60s and reportedly playing as well as ever. The same however can’t be said for a number of much vaunted international artists who have graced out shores in recent years.
In 2013 the Vivid Festival presented American soul legend Bobby Womack at the Sydney Opera House, much to the anticipation of his many Australian fans. It was no secret that Womack had not been in the best of health in recent years but this being his first ever Australian visit, long time fans were not deterred and the Opera House quickly sold out two concert halls. When Womack arrived in Australia his first concert was cancelled at short notice but he did play the scheduled second show – although many thought he was just going through the motions. Just over 12 months later and he was dead, aged 70, having suffered multiple medical conditions during his long career.
Whilst the Vivid organisers were no doubt given assurances by his US management that he was in good health and would perform accordingly, it was not the first time an international star had arrived in this country in not only questionable health but way past their illustrious prime. If it’s either the first and or the last time local music fans get the opportunity to catch one of their idols, tickets tend to sell regardless. A farewell performance was certainly in the mind of fans when a somewhat frail B.B. King played the State Theatre in 2011, informing fans ”I said I was 85, but I didn’t say I was dead.” Unlike the Womack concert fans had pretty much anticipated what to expect and if anything were there to pay homage, rather than expect the classic B.B. King of old.
Whilst the B.B. show was probably an exception there is a long list of imported artists who have been promoted with considerable hype but failed to deliver when they finally hit our theatres and clubs. They might have been big in the 60s and 70s but decades later are but a mere shadow of their halcyon years. There are exceptions of course and many artists, well into their twilight career, deliver with an evergreen gusto that defies any kind of ageism. On the other hand there is a devoted fan base who will flock to see their favourite artist, even if they are performing in an iron lung. Let’s face it, if Elvis were alive today, he would pack every venue in Australia, even though he would be 84 years old!
If you are shelling out $60 to $100 plus to see one of your all time favourites, playing this country for the first and possibly last time in 20 or 30 years, you need to do your homework. Check out some of their more recent performances on YouTube for starters. If their voice is shot, if they look like death warmed up or they babble on too much between each song, then maybe you are better off spending your hard earned on a bunch of their best of CDs and staging your own living room concert.