By SCOTT SAALMAN
In 2015, I saw Boston 39 years after the release of their best-selling, eponymous-titled album, “Boston,” perhaps the best debut album in rock and roll history. That record still makes me break out the air guitar.
The original lead singer was dead by then, but his replacement was spot-on vocally. You couldn’t tell the difference from the living or the dead front man, the songs sounding eerily similar to their original recordings that played on my 8-track tape player back in the day.
It struck me as funny when the band kicked into their 1978 hit, “Don’t Look Back,” since the thousands of audience members with me obviously disregarded the band’s 37-year-old advice to not look back. We were looking back, listening to a band whose last album to hit the top of the charts was in 1986. Boston didn’t seem to mind that they were being somewhat hypocritical to still be on stage singing those old songs.
Apparently, based on the concerts I’ve attended, my motto is Do Look Back since the shows have starred classic rock bands whose heydays were eons ago based on frequent radio play. Bruce Springsteen. The Eagles. Steve Miller Band. The Doobie Brothers. Tom Petty.
Jefferson Starship opened for Boston. It consisted of one original member. The guy dated way back to the band’s original incarnation, Jefferson Airplane. He looked old enough to be part of Jefferson Hot Air Balloon. But we didn’t mind. We love to look back.
Last summer I saw REO Speedwagon, which formed in 1967. In a few more years, they’ll likely need to rename their early hit, “Time For Me to Fly,” to “Time For Me To Die.” But we won’t mind. We love to look back.
I’ve seen Bob Seger twice this decade. He should rename the Silver Bullet Band the Silver Mullet Band, but other than that, he is, as his song states, “still the same,” still tossing headbands into the audience and showering fans with what is now old man sweat. His 1979 hit, “Old Time Rock And Roll,” was his way of looking back to the old time rock and roll of the 1950s. Now, “Old Time Rock and Roll” is also old time rock and roll. But we don’t care. We still want to go to Fire Lake with Bob.
We love to look back.
Last weekend, I saw Journey, a 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee — finally! The fantastic Filipino lead singer Arnel Pineda looks 15 and has better moves than Justin Bieber but he is a surprising 49 and sounds more like former lead singer Steve Perry than Steve Perry. We haven’t stopped believin’ in Journey. We love to look back.
I saw Bad Company last summer. They opened for Joe Walsh. Lead singer Paul Rodgers and the bad company he still keeps were amazing. At 67, Rodgers can still convincingly pull off “Feel Like Makin’ Love.” What role Viagra has in this, I can’t tell you.
The Doobie Brothers’ guitars still scorch through their set lists like the old days but one can’t help but watch and wonder just how many Minute by Minutes they have left. Tick. Tick. Tick.
A couple years ago, I saw Mark Knopfler. He was the driving force behind Dire Straits in the ’70s and ’80s. After Dire Straits experienced its own dire straits and disbanded, Knopfler went on to a critically-acclaimed solo career — and at 67 is still going strong.
A Mark Knopfler concert is not a Dire Straits concert. He really doesn’t like to look back. A Dire Straits fan from hell sitting directly behind me apparently didn’t know this. “Play ‘Money For Nothing,’ ” she screamed after each song, spilling beer down the back of my shirt. “I want my MTV,” she sang aloud and alone, spilling more beer down my shirt. Ticketmaster must really have it in for me, always seating me near these drunken derelicts. She complained each time Knopfler kicked into one of his post-Dire Straits tunes. Her friend noticed me looking back at one point and said, “I think the guy in front of you is upset.” The reply, “Oh, he’ll get over it.” NEWSFLASH: It has been two years now and I’M STILL NOT OVER IT!!! Venues now require us to go through metal detectors. What they really need are #%&hole detectors.
This summer, I plan to look back and see another bucket list rock band that for all practical purposes is getting long in the tooth, U2RGETTINGOLD (or U2 for short). On that day, when Bono sings “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” he will likely be referencing something related to his failing eyesight rather than the spiritual enlightenment or love he was searching for in the ’80s. But the audience won’t care. We love to look back.
When I mentioned my U2 tickets on Facebook, a few people harassed me about paying money to see yet another “old” band. I didn’t really care. Just wait until they age and get excited to see 60-year-old Justin Bieber sing his golden oldies, I thought. I’ll get the last laugh then. Looking back at my reaction now, I guess I was the victim of wishful thinking. By the time Justin Bieber brandishes his AARP tattoo on stage, I’ll likely be among the grateful dead.
Scott has a new podcast, A Story and A Song, at at https://astoryandasongpodcast.bandcamp.com/releases.