Given Scotland is awash with the music of the past – in the form of ageing stars and tribute acts – Brian Ferguson questions whether young bands will be able to compete.
It is hard to believe that Kylie Minogue was to blame for one of my most underwhelming music festival experiences. I was not the only one who was left a bit cold by the Australian pop superstar’s reinvention as a rock singer at the 1995 T in the Park festival. A surprise on-stage collaboration with Nick Cave was unable to stem the flow of dismayed punters away from the festival’s main stage, wondering what on earth had become of the chart-topping icon.
Why, then, did I feel a flutter of excitement at the news that Kylie is heading to Edinburgh Castle next summer for her first headline show in the city for an incredible 28 years? What has become of me that I have circled my diary on the date of the Spice Girls gig at Murrrayfield a few weeks before Kylie is in town?
It pains me to say it but I might just be getting swept up in an unstoppable wave of nostalgia which seems to have a tightening grip on the entertainment world. Although not new, it’s now become almost impossible to avoid and seems to be infecting venues, festivals and events of all shapes and sizes.
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A flick through a programme for a concert hall in Scotland offers an interesting insight into the phenomena. Perth Concert Hall’s forthcoming line-up has an Elvis impersonator, a “Magic of Motown” night, an Eagles tribute act, and a visit from The Osmonds and UB40. Among the acts being served up at the Caird Hall in Dundee are nights devoted to the likes of The Bee Gees, The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson. Falkirk Town Hall’s programme has tributes to Bon Jovi and Whitney Houston, alongside Abba, Blues Brothers and Buddy Holly tributes.
To be fair to all of the above, Scotland’s biggest venues are serving up a similar menu. Culture Club, Belinda Carlisle, James, Ocean Colour Scene, Franki Valli & The Four Seasons, The Australian Pink Floyd Show, Madness, Chic and Paul McCartney are all booked into the Hydro in Glasgow before Christmas. Tributes to George Michael, Abba, Arentha Franklin and even The Spice Girls are jostling for attention in the Edinburgh Playhouse’s spring programme.
A few years ago, the nostalgia circuit was largely the likes of The Rolling Stones, Sir Rod Stewart and Elton John. Perhaps aware of the increased competition, the latter has just put tickets on sale for a tour in the autumn of 2020.
More than a quarter of a century after the death of Freddie Mercury, Queen are enjoying a major revival thanks to the film Bohemian Rhapsody. Even before its release, they were headlining Glasgow’s TRNSMT festival.
Conscious of their ageing fanbase, Belle and Sebastian have kindly lined up a Mediterranean cruise for their followers, which sets sail next summer. It is hard to think of a Scottish indie, pop or rock act from the 1980s that has not recently reunited or staged a classic album tour.
On the one hand, it could be argued that everyone is a winner from the conveyor belt of reunions, revivals and tributes. Promoters and venues would not be booking shows unless they were damn sure of selling tickets. Musicians get to relive their heyday and in many cases fans get to see and hear their actual heroes, though they may have to part with several hundred pounds for an up-close and in-the-flesh experience.
But where does this nostalgia-fest leave the modern-day musical mavericks? Do young bands stand a chance against promotional juggernauts behind acts with tens of millions of record sales? And is there anyone out there willing to take a gamble on an untried act?