Tuesday, January 24, 2012

at what point is it a different band? (part 2)

A few days ago I considered the question of when a band, after multiple lineup changes, is no longer the same band (even if they still retain the same name). But other things happen as well. Bands break up and reunite.

For me, a case in point is Ducks Deluxe. The Ducks were one of the premiere pub rock bands of the early to mid '70s, and they were my absolute favorite band for several years, starting in the early '80s when I was in high school.

Before going on, let me share the following clip of the Ducks in their heyday, performing "Coast to Coast," one of their signature songs. I will use the video to illustrate a point later in this post.
This was the classic Ducks Deluxe lineup: Sean Tyla (vocals and guitar), Martin Belmont (guitar), Nick Garvey (bass and vocals), Andy McMasters (keyboard) and Tim Roper (drums). They broke up in 1975 -- more than half a decade before I ever heard of them -- so I never actually saw them perform live. And I would have loved to see them live. The YouTube clip gave me a taste of what they were like at their raw energetic best.

In 2008, the Ducks announced that they would be doing a couple of reunion concerts. Unfortunately (for me, anyway), the concerts would be in England. And they would be during my busy season at work. I considered going -- figuring out how to fly to England, see the show, then fly back to New York. If I could do it just right I could manage to miss little enough work that I could swing it. I really gave it some thought -- the cost, the insanity and of the hectic trip for the chance to see the band that had meant so much to me and that was such a huge influence on my musical taste. In the end I didn't go. It was just too much money. There was just too much possibility of it causing trouble at work.

I'm glad I didn't go. The following is a clip of the Ducks new, reunited lineup performing the same song:
Sean Tyla is still playing guitar and singing. Martin Belmont is still playing guitar -- he even still moves the same way. The other personnel have changed: Kevin Foster's on bass, Jim Russell's on the drums and there's no keyboard player. But those changes aren't the issue here; Tyla and Belmont had been the heart of the Ducks back when. But that energy is gone. The hungry twenty-somethings with the passion and energy (and sweat) of youth have been replaced by 60 (or so) year-olds reliving their past with an audience that is similarly reliving its past. It's not the same band.

To be fair, I should note that I still like the music these guys are doing now, and have bought the material they released since reuniting. Also, after three more decades of honing their skills they are, technically, better musicians. But if I had gone to England expecting to experience what the first clip above shows, I would have been very disappointed. If they ever come out to New York I'll come to see them perform. But I'll be doing it without any illusions.

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