It’s just come down the pipe that the original line-up of the Kinks will be reforming this year; Ray Davies, Dave Davies, Mick Avory, and Pete Quaife. The original line-up of the band that brought you “You Really Got Me”, “Waterloo Sunset”, “Victoria”, “Sunny Afternoon”, and “Where Have All the Good Times Gone” (among others) haven’t played together since 1969.
What is driving this sudden glut of reunions? They all seem to be happening in a very short space of time, as if they put something in the water in 2007 – The Police, Led Zeppelin, The Stooges, Van Halen, The ‘pop’ line-up of Genesis, and Crowded House all reformed last year with varied results. Even the Spice Girls got back together! I suppose the cynical answer, and maybe the most obvious, is the money to be made by sticking to a brand. In some cases, the brand is more compelling when it’s the original recipe. I suppose on this level, I should be suspicious of the motives behind reunion gigs. But as it is, I’m not. This is because I think I know the score.
It seems to me that once rock artists age, they are in a no-win situation. They either get criticized for continuing so long in their respective outfits (see the Rolling Stones), or get criticized for getting the bands back together. And there is a certain embarrassment factor which music fans feel to see their heroes complete with the ravages of age; it reminds them of their mortality, perhaps, instead of their youth. There are many other music fans who are concerned with the tarnishing of legacies – that reunion tours and album somehow impact the quality of tours and albums of the past. Whether this has any validity or not is not really the point. We’re dealing with perceptions here. With rock music and rock fandom, the histories of the bands are intertwined with those of their fans. That’s another burden carried by the aging rock star.
For me, I like to think of reunion shows without cynicism. I saw the Police this year and Crowded House too. Admittedly, I was a target audience in more than one way. They are two of my favourite bands, both of which I never thought to see live and jumped at the chance to do so. I am a demographic, a cash-cow for promoters everywhere, I guess. Yet, what I get out of it, and got out of it, was not a revisit to my youth or some vain attempt to travel back in time. What I saw were shows put on by guys who were clearly having a ball playing music. I didn’t get the impression that I, or they, were attempting to get back to the past at all. For me, the appeal was all about the present, about how the musicians were interacting on stage, about the energy shifting and dancing between musicians and audience. In short, I saw two great shows. And to me that’s the point.
As for the Kinks, who knows what is driving them to get back together; money or a legitimate intention to create something new together? It doesn’t matter. The proof will be in the pudding.
Take a look at this footage of Led Zeppelin playing their 1975 classic “Kashmir” at their recent reunion show in London’s 02 Centre. Hover over the symbols below, and click the ‘play’ button. To make the window a bit bigger, click the magnifying glass icon in the upper right hand corner. Enjoy!