Alluring power of nostaglia — and big paychecks — drive wave of reunions.
Your favorite ’90s band broke up? Fear not, they’ll be back. Seventies and ’80s bands, too. And if not this year, maybe next.
This summer’s concert calendar boasts tours by reunited rockers and relics — Stone Temple Pilots (split in 2003) and New Kids on the Block (split in 1994) — and recently re-energized bands such as the B-52s, the Black Crowes, Motley Crue and Yes. A round of reunion shows filled last summer’s slate as well, with the Police, Led Zeppelin, Genesis and Van Halen playing their time-tested hits for fans.
It seems that no matter how storied the split, almost every band is bound to get back together — and that could make the magic of an anticipated reunion a little less magical.
“If you can say it’s a reunion of some sort, it does make it feel special and unique,” said Michael Endelman, senior editor of Rolling Stone magazine. “But some you hear and it’s exciting and some you hear and say, ’Didn’t they just tour last summer?”’
The reunion-tour trend is inspired by money and the alluring power of nostalgia — for both fans and artists — so don’t expect any slowdown, Endelman said.
“To go back on stage in front of an adoring crowd and relive some of these great moments and play all these old songs of theirs, psychologically it must be very seductive and very powerful for them,” he said. “Because it’s become so profitable for so many bands, it’s become very attractive and it’s bringing out a lot of bands to try that. ... There’s a lot of money to be made in cashing in on people’s nostalgia for things they were excited about when they were teenagers.”
Not all reunion tours are created equal. They must be examined on a band-by-band basis, said Erik Pedersen, music coordinator and news editor at The Hollywood Reporter. Some are really for the fans, some are really for the bands and some are really for the money.
Feeding the beast
Stone Temple Pilots could hit all three. With songs still on radio playlists, the band has younger fans who know the tunes but have never seen them played live, Pedersen said. Their breakup was “spectacular” and like “a rock ’n’ roll soap opera,” Endelman added, so fan interest remained. And the quartet “ran out of money,” singer Scott Weiland quipped at a press conference announcing their summer tour, which began Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.
The guys thanks their devoted fans for standing in the rain and talk about where they'll be performing this summer.
The New Kids on the Block tour, on the other hand, inspired shrugs.
“That’s pretty weird since they aren’t new or kids,” Pedersen said.
“I’m sort of surprised they ended up doing it,” Endelman echoed.
The group sold millions of albums and played to stadiums of screaming teens during their heyday in the early ’90s. After they disbanded, four of the five members enjoyed modest success in entertainment, and one left show business to work in real estate.
They often toyed with the idea of reuniting and were offered various opportunities, said New Kid Joey McIntyre, but they wanted to wait until the time was right.
“I’m sure there’s a way we could sleepwalk through this thing, but that’s not who we are,” he said. “We want to make it real and make it last; make it last like last time.”
The group is recording a new album that will be released in late summer or early fall, he said.
New music is a must for reunited and revitalized bands. It shows they’re not just touring for dollars and helps older bands avoid the risk of “becoming a tribute act to themselves,” Endelman said. Plus record sales aren’t what they used to be.
And new albums too!
“If you’re going to reunite, you have to tour because that’s the only way it’s going to be worth it financially,” he said. “If they want to be taken seriously, that they’re getting back together for artistic and creative reasons, they have to make an album, too.”
Weiland said Stone Temple Pilots would record a new album after their tour. The B-52s and the Black Crowes have new albums out, and thus new material to play at their shows. Motley Crue’s new album is due June 17.
Kate Pierson of the B-52s said new music makes reunion shows more exciting — for the musicians and the audience.
“Having a new record is just like a whole new life,” she said. “I’ve seen so many bands that I’ve loved and when they come around again, it’s really an amazing thing. You get another chance to experience it.”
But Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee said it’s fans’ familiarity with classic tracks that make reunion tours hot tickets.
“It’s a completely different experience going to see a new band where you only know one of their songs versus a band you grew up with and know five or six or seven albums worth of their material. I think that’s what people dig,” he said. “That’s gotta be why a lot of the bands are getting back together. It’s like, ‘Dude, get your (act) together. People love you.”’
Another trend in rock reunions is the packaged tour. Motley Crue is hitting the road with Buckcherry, Papa Roach, Sixx:A.M. and Trapt for a multi-band show dubbed Crue Fest. The nationwide Regeneration Tour is a hodgepodge of ’80s acts including Human League, Belinda Carlisle, ABC and Dead or Alive. Seventies bands Journey, Heart and Cheap Trick are also touring together this summer.
The package deal is good for bands that couldn’t sell out arenas on their own, Pedersen said, and it’s good for fans who want to maximize the nostalgic bang for their buck.
“If people are going to spend $75 for a crummy ticket, they’re going to want to see big bands playing their big hits,” he said, “and ideally more than one of them on the bill.”