The list of concerts coming to Philadelphia this summer got shorter by one at the end of March when it was announced that the Rolling Stones had postponed their summer tour because Mick Jagger had to undergo heart surgery.
Jagger, thankfully, appears to be doing well. But when many heard the news, chances are the question that followed asked, “How old is Mick Jagger, anyway?”
The answer? He's 75 years old.
Keith Richards is 75, too. And even beyond the Stones, one thing that stands out about this summer's lineup of A-list local concerts is that many of them skew surprisingly old.
This summer will also see The Who coming to Citizens Bank Park, with its two remaining original members both being over 70. Remember, this is the same band that sang the line “hope I die before I get old” over 50 years ago. Cher, 72, recently played the Wells Fargo Center and will be back in December. Billy Joel, playing his annual Citizens Bank Park show later this month, celebrates his 70th birthday this week. ELO, led by 71-year-old Jeff Lynne, is also headed to Wells Fargo in July and 78-year-old Ringo Starr is playing the Met in August.
Queen is coming to town too for a Wells Fargo Center show in August, with its famous lead singer Freddie Mercury long dead and its second and third most important members both over the age of 70. In Queen's case, a concert tour is absolutely preferable to another bad, self-serving movie.
Iron Maiden, playing Wells Fargo in July, could be the spring chickens of the bunch, as frontman Bruce Dickinson is a comparatively youthful 60. Sitting Philly out on this season's tour, but playing elsewhere in the world, are Bruce Springsteen (70 in September), Paul McCartney (76) and Bob Dylan (78 later this month).
Ozzy Osbourne, 70, postponed this year’s tour after hurting himself in a fall. Ozzy launched something called the "No More Tours" tour, billed as his last ever in 1992. The next one, now scheduled for next year, is naturally called “The No More Tours 2 Tour.”
But that doesn’t mean you won’t have a chance to see a former Black Sabbath frontman this year, as modern technology has enabled the possibility of something even beyond elderly rock stars: dead rock stars. News broke last month that a hologram of Ronnie James Dio is coming to town for a Keswick Theater concert, even though Dio has been dead since 2010. This just takes the exploitation of nostalgia to a sad new low if it’s apparently no longer necessary for a performer to even be alive for money to be made from their name.
Yes, there is some youth playing big shows in Philly this summer – Ariana Grande, John Mayer, Shawn Mendes. But even the boy bands coming to Wells Fargo this year in New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys aren't boys anymore.
The youngest Backstreet Boy is 38, and the youngest New Kid is 46.
Now, let’s make clear that just because these performers are at an advanced age doesn't mean they aren't still capable and engaging performers, as many of them clearly are. Don't begrudge these bands and rock stars for continuing to tour and perform, nor look down upon anyone who goes to one of their shows and has a great time. Nostalgia is an important force in popular music, and it can be a wonderful one, especially as new generations of fans discover classic bodies of work.
Furthermore, there's a long history in the music industry of artists getting screwed out of money, and if you have music idols of your youth who you assumed must be independently wealthy, there's a good chance they're not. Look at the sad story of Dick Dale, the surf guitar legend who died earlier this year and was forced by catastrophic medical bills to stay on the road until, essentially, his death at age 81.
It just doesn't indicate health in the music industry that the touring business is so heavily dependent on rock stars who are over 70 – and, by extension, dictated by the tastes of the boomer generation. That doesn't strike me as a state of affairs that's especially sustainable.
What will the concert business look like in 10 years? Either everyone will be in their 80s, many of them will be dead or we'll all just have to get over the ick factor of holograms and see all of our favorite rock stars virtually instead.