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Rock and R’old: Rockstars Who Have and Will Age with Grace

March 29, 2011

Recently, I was compiling research for a freelance article I’ve constructed for the Village Voice, regarding the greatest ‘last shows’ in the history of rock.

While examining German rock band The Scorpions, who have released their ‘final album’ and are now continuing an international farewell tour, I discovered an interesting interview with guitarist Matthias Jabs. Jabs went on to explain that The Scorpions feared ‘growing old onstage’ and slowly disintegrating a loved fanbase, as opposed to going out with a bang, while their legs will still let them.

While I highly respect Jabs and his fellow Scorpions’ decision to call it quits while they still can, Jabs referenced more fortunate rock and roll acts, who might never have to face this difficult decision of when to retire.

Citing classic rock acts KISS and ZZ Top, Jabs explained that the makeup and beards that accentuate their images overshadow any signs of aging that could turn a rock show from rad, to sad.

Let’s be honest…nobody wants to see grandparents rocking a concert hall. Can you imagine Eddie Van Halen melting the crowd with “Eruption” from a wheelchair?

Aging rockers is an issue that has only just begun to rear its head in the last decade; musicians whose physical demeanor and capabilities are not up to par with the level of energy necessary to throw a hard rock show.

As for the bands that can potentially escape the punishments of time…

Daft Punk

Daft Punk are the prime example of a band's image that will not decay in time, but live forever.

The electronically-inspiring duo from France, known best as Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, are perhaps the most enigmatic figures in modern music. Since 1999, the two have donned full-body, ‘robotics inspired’ suits while performing. It’s a performance aspect that not only retains focus on the music, but preserves a lasting, onstage image that will not falter in the slightest throughout the years.

KISS

The "Spaceman," "Starchild," "Catman" and "Demon" make-up designs worn by the members of KISS have become recognizable worldwide; and for good reason.

At least in the realm of rock ‘n roll, there are seldom more classic acts than KISS. The fireballs, spitting blood and of course, infamous make-up, create a circus-like spectacle that strays into the maniacal shadows of performance art. The four-piece began performing as their trademark images in 1973, although by 1983, had ‘unmasked’ themselves in search of a refreshing direction. The altercations led to a divided fan base and decreasing record sales, until the band reclaimed their nightmarish alter-egos in 1996 for their top-selling reunion tour. Like they say…just give the people what they want. If KISS continues to do so, there’s no time limit…and with that, rock immortality I suppose.

ZZ Top

While Dusty Hill (left) and Billy Gibbons (middle) are protected by their stout Texas-sized beards, Frank Beard is vulnerable to future photo shoots.

Although this rock group from Texas has been breathing life into the blues since the late 1960s, it wasn’t until 1977 that the signature, chest-length beards first emerged. Strangely enough, Frank Beard is the only member with a last name not fitting of his stage likeness. I guess that’s why bands always keep drummers in the back. Either way, Hill and Gibbons are always the spotlight at ZZ Top shows, with their synchronized two-step sways and cheap sunglasses. Such a classic look for such a classic band.

Gorillaz

Russell, 2-D, Murdoc and Noodle have grown a legend of their own that in some ways, eclipses the reality of the project.

Often labeled as one of the first popular ‘animated bands,’ English group Gorillaz have carved themselves a special place in modern music that almost seems to mythical for the present. Created by former Blur frontman Damon Albarn and visual artist Jamie Hewlett in the late 1990s, the band’s debut album, Gorillaz, dropped in 2001. The band has since then, released two additional albums, including numerous ‘visually-based’ performances, in which the actual performers were offstage, while their three-dimensional counterparts took the spotlight. However, the supporting tour for their last album, Plastic Beach, took a more recognizable turn, when Albarn decided to openly perform onstage with his bandmates, due to the extremely high costs of running the intended visual shows. Regardless, if the project ever reverts to its original forms, there’s no death in this band; visually, or according to their wacky universe.

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