Pointing the way to the future of rock….
Much has already been written about the first of two planned tribute concerts honoring Taylor Hawkins, and with good reason. These massive, star-studded events, while well-intentioned, often fall short of the mark, but in this case, Dave Grohl pulled off the impossible by putting together an engrossing, inspiring evening of music that exceeded five hours in length. No need to recap the entire line-up here, there are plenty of articles that have already done so. (This one is particularly comprehensive – https://www.loudersound.com/news/heres-every-single-special-guest-and-song-played-from-foo-fighters-taylor-hawkins-tribute-show-at-wembley). What follows are stray observations after consuming this epic live stream.
- Rock and roll is not dead. This might be overstating things a bit, but part of me feels like this event could signal a rebirth – or perhaps a reawakening – to the power of rock music to move, to inspire, and to bring people together. When Gene Simmons complains that rock and roll is dead, what he’s really referring to is a specific aspect, and – let’s face it, business – of rock and roll. Yes, gone are the days of bazillion selling physical albums and mindless hero worship, but if the Taylor Hawkins tribute proved anything, it’s that rock and roll is now part of human experience, somehow embedded in our DNA. It’s not the only art form that does this, and I’m not saying it’s even the most important, but at one event we saw QOTSA’s Josh Homme channeling David Bowie, backed by Nile Rodgers and Omar Hakim, and pop star Ke$ha fronting Hawkins’ former cover band, Chevy Metal, like she was born to rock, alongside tributes from Dave Chapelle and Chris Rock. The spectacle of talented musicians making music together, and pouring every once of passion into it, will invariably strike a chord (no pun intended) somewhere deep in the human psyche, across cultural and musical boundaries.
- Rock and roll will outlive us all. I’m about to release a new single under my musical moniker, The Sum, that was inspired by Steven Hyden’s excellent Twilight of the Gods, a book that explores the impending end of the classic rock era. A major tenet of this book rests on the increasing rate at which our rock and roll heroes are departing this mortal coil. This is an indisputable reality, and ultimately inevitable. Hyden’s book gave me the idea to start on the lyrics, and the passing of Charlie Watts motivated me to finish it up. This Taylor Hawkins show gives me a reason to release it, and not because his death is just the latest – and sadly one of the most premature – but because it proves that the magic created by the entire lineage of legendary artists lives on past their time on Earth, carried on by the next generation of musicians and fans. The death of the artist does not signal the death of the art. Though I shudder to think how the world will react when Paul McCartney dies (I hate even typing those words…), the facial expressions in the audience when he and Chrissie Hynde walked out on stage leave little doubt as to how his legacy will continue to reverberate once that sad day arrives.
- The kids are alright. Rock and roll won’t just live on in the memories and recordings of its originators. Though one might nitpick that a good deal of nepotism permeated the lineup, the fact remains that many of the performers offspring not only chose to follow in the footsteps of their rock star parentage, but excel at it. Close your eyes as Wolfgang Van Halen rips through a couple of his dad’s classic solos, and you’d swear it was EVH himself up there. Witness Dave Grohl’s daughter, Violet, deliver spine-chilling interpretations of Jeff Buckley’s “Grace” and “Last Goodbye” (Buckley himself the child of folk singer Tim Buckley, and another artist gone too soon yet whose music continues to resonate). During Queen’s set, when Roger Taylor steps from behind the kit to sing “I’m In Love With My Car,” his son Rufus takes over the drum throne – only to reappear back there during the Foo Fighters set, himself bearing an uncanny resemblance to Taylor Hawkins. Pre-teen sensation Nandi Bushell pops up behind the kit for “Learn To Fly,” exuding an astonishing level of confidence in front of what Violet herself noted as: “Wow, that’s a lot of people.” And most moving of all, the night’s penultimate song, “My Hero” with Hawkins’ son Shane on drums. Not only does he play with more skill and drive than any 16-year has a right to, the catharsis evident on his face and in every walloping hit provided one of most powerful performances witnessed on any stage in recent memory.
- Joy. In the grin on drummer Jim Fox’s face during the James Gang set, reunited just for this event (itself an echo of the disbelief on display from Taylor Hawkins during a clip shown from the “Sonic Highways” documentary, when Joe Walsh himself laid down a solo on a Foo Fighters track). When Omar Hakim practically jumps out of his seat after filling in for Neil Peart with the surviving members of the “holy trinity” for a note-perfect version of “YYZ.” The “I-can’t-believe-I’m-actually-doing-this” awe on Pat Smear’s face while jamming with Queen. And the aforementioned audience reaction to Sir Paul making an unannounced appearance. The mere fact that so much joy can be wrung from such a tragic occurrence is a thing of wonder. It may be a cliche, but the ability of music to be truly transformative never ceases to amaze.
Dave Grohl gets a lot of guff for being the “Forrest Gump” of rock music these days, the go-to guy as the face of guitar-based music (from myself included), but it may well be the case that he is the ultimate curator, his efforts ensuring that despite being in the twilight of the classic rock era, the music will rise again tomorrow. The music world was fortunate to have Taylor Hawkins, and is all the poorer for his loss. But if there is a silver lining to be found, it’s in the spectacle of events like this that reinforce the power of music to lift and unite us.
Leave a Reply