Last weekend I had the opportunity to catch Tom Petty deliver an amazing, two-hour long performance at Wrigley Field in Chicago. He played “Won’t Back Down” and “American Girl. It was incredible. This coming weekend, I’ll be making the drive up to Milwaukee for Summerfest so that I can watch both Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson in concert. In a little less than a month, I’ll also see both Roger Waters and Paul McCartney in a three-day span. Actually, you know what? Stephen Stills has a gig right in between them, maybe I’ll try and fit that in too.
One of the sad realities that classic rock fans increasingly are forced to come to grips with is that all of our favorite artists are getting older and older, and lately, have been dying at an alarming rate. They aren’t the immortals we all once thought they were. 2016 was particularly brutal. We lost David Bowie in January, Glenn Frey of the Eagles not too long after that, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, Paul Kantor from the Jefferson Airplane, and so on and so on and so on. This year, we’ve already had to endure the losses of the great Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden, both Gregg Allman and Butch Trucks from the Allman Brothers Band, and the father or rock and roll himself, Chuck Berry.
All that being said, if an opportunity exists to witness one of the greatest, most impactful artists from the last half century live and in-person, I say take it. Are they missing a member or two? Take it. Has the singer lost an octave? Take it. Are they playing one or two towns over? Take it. A year, a month, hell, maybe even a week after the fact you might come to regret not making the gig.
I’ll tell you the band that haunts me: AC/DC. Despite several opportunities, I never managed to catch the Aussie rockers when they’ve landed in my area. It wasn’t always lack of desire that prevented me from seeing them — the tickets ain’t exactly cheap –- but I could’ve made more of an effort. They played Wrigley Field in 2015 and the United Center in 2016. I should’ve gone to one of them, but didn’t. Now, because of an ear ailment that lead singer Brian Johnson suffers from, I’ll never get my chance to belt out “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” with a towering inferno of flames blasting at my face. I regret it very much. And don’t even start with that Axl Rose business. It’s not AC/DC.
Later this month, the great classic rock events of 2017 will take place at both Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and Citi Field in New York. They’re called the Classic West and the Classic East and they’re set to go down on July 15 and 16 and July 29th and 30th respectively. For fans of breezy ‘70s-era yacht rock, the lineup couldn’t be more stacked. Fleetwood Mac tops the bill on the first night, supported by Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, while a newly constituted Eagles with Glenn Frey’s son and Vince Gill leading the second evening’s show following Journey and Earth, Wind & Fire.
“While I was still in shock during some interviews after Glenn passed away, I did say that I thought that was the end of the band,” singer/drummer Don Henley told Rolling Stone. “But I reserved the right to change my mind. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.'” The group’s manager, and the powerhouse behind both Classic gigs added, “To me, the fans and the legacy and everything was saying, ‘It doesn’t have to be over.'”