The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Seasoned Rock Stars Need to Retain Same Spark as Early Career

3 min read

By Susannah Clark

Of the obnoxious amount of concerts I splurged on this summer, the two most worthwhile were the two most expensive: I dropped over $100 each to see the hardest working senior citizens in show business: Bruce Springsteen and Sir Paul McCartney.

Along with allowing me to cross two items off my list of life goals, both shows restored my faith in Rock ‘n Roll. Even with wrinkles, Springsteen and McCartney still got it.

What the Walrus and the Jersey Devil share is undeniable, unyielding passion. They’ve been playing the same songs, cuing the same audience participation, for over 30 years, and still manage to perform with the same vigor as their nightclub days. While both artists have a seemingly endless repertoire of mediocre work from the past two decades, neither shy away from the crowd-pleasing hits that got them selling out arenas in the first place.

Springsteen and McCartney play for their audience, and not for themselves. Their elation is contagious.

Not all seasoned rock stars have embraced this concept. At the Lollapolooza music festival this summer, I was stoked to see Lou Reed, another ‘70s icon I’d grown up listening to.

After he came on stage 20 minutes late, my excitement quickly turned into disenchantment when I noticed my favorite Velvet Undergroundsman was reading his lyrics off a teleprompter. And he still came in at the wrong time during “Sweet Jane.” During the same song, he summoned his roadies to switch his guitar five times.
Throughout the six songs he played, Reed looked and sounded bored-to-tears, managing to make his already monotone voice even more lifeless. I never thought the song “Walk on the Wild Side” could sound so depressing.

At the end of his set, which, by the way, bled into Band of Horses’ show on the adjacent stage, Reed muttered the names of his band mates and pointed to himself last.

“And me,” he barked. Most of the crowd ate it up. I missed Snoop Dogg for this?

I get it. Lou Reed’s whole persona is based on not giving damn, and I know I can’t compare him to goody-goody pop stars like Springsteen and McCartney. But, if Lou Reed really was such a badass, he wouldn’t have signed up to play at a commercialized festival in the first place.

Frankly, Reed doesn’t sound good enough anymore to justify acting like a jerk on stage. Not respecting authority is one thing, but not respecting your audience, the very fans that gave you a voice in the first place, is another. It’s hard to enjoy a concert when the performer clearly isn’t.

My reaction to Lou Reed’s apathy was similar to when I heard Bob Dylan’s abrasively strained singing voice back in 2006. That show wasn’t actually pleasing to my ears, but it’s nice to say I’ve seen a legend.

Thank God for the sell-outs. To Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney: yes. We still need you. And even with triple digit ticket prices, yes, we’ll still feed you.