The Genesis cover band Musical Box recently announced a rare concert date in Denver this March. This caused quite the heated debate between myself and my dear musical snob Just Plain Bill.
As a lover of live music performed exceptionally well, I am fine with cover bands. In fact I often seek them out to watch the best of them. That list includes the aforementioned Musical Box, Dark Star Orchestra (The Grateful Dead) and Led Zeppelin 2. Just Plain on the other hand despises them. All cover bands. Even as a devout Dead Head he disdains the DSO stating “I’d rather chew on broken glass than go see Dark Star Orchestra.”
Harsh indeed, but I had to respect his opinion because he is avid about his pursuit of live music. In fact he loves dropping in on no name bands in small Denver pubs just to hear original material. I,on the other hand, am a bit more judgmental. As host of KZYR’s 6 O’Clock News each week when we explore new music extensively, I listen to hoards of new bands. However, I find much of it spittle.
Though Just Plain does concede that there exists a great deal of less than mediocre music, it’s the art of new creation that warrants his attention. He’s not down on a band covering a song as long as they bring a piece of themselves to the mix. He sites Warren Haynes recent performance with the Colorado Symphony in a tribute to Jerry Garcia’s music. He loved it because Haynes and the orchestra were making it their own- in a respectful manner to the original composer.
I contend bands like Dark Star are doing the same even if their shows are near exact replicas of the original performances. In fact, it is this precision that attracts me. Musical Box for example has gone to painstaking detail in their theatrics. In addition to securing endorsements from Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel, they have secured the original costumes and the actual instruments Genesis used in those late 1970s performances. Even down to the inbetween song banter, the Musical Box deliver a flashback performance that you actually remember this time. And for those of us who never saw the band with Gabriel and Steve Hackett this is a welcome respite.
Just Plain just doesn’t agree. When I relay the fact that some of the world’s best musicians cover artist like Beethoven and Bach every night around the world to adoring yet discriminating crowds, he says “yea but they don’t dress up in period clothes and look like Verdi.” I counter with Opera that has been duplicating masterful performances for hundreds of years. To which our thespian friend Milford adds “Fiddler on the Roof is a classic piece of theater that restricts creativity. Whether performed on Broadway or at a high school gym, licensees are required to follow the script and staging to a ‘T’. “
In the end, Just Plain says it like the debate of Widespread Panic fans who dislike String Cheese who dislike Phish-To each his own. So I will not judge you if you go to see an artist at a saloon performing his first concert ever or go to Musical Box at the Ogden in March to see an absolute stunning recreation of a progressive band at their peak. It’s live music and it still moves.