Not to worry, rock and roll conservatives: Reports concerning the death of classic rock have been somewhat exaggerated. Sure, album rock radio programmers may be replacing their copies of Jailbreak and Escape with Sixteen Stone and Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Nonetheless the tireless Frankenstein's monster, created from the most familiar fragments of Seventies rock, keeps on choogling. Classic rock has settled quite comfortably into the nation's outdoor sheds and indoor arenas, including several right here in South Florida.
Taking a gander at upcoming local shows is like perusing the upper rungs of a Billboard album chart circa 1976: Rod Stewart's coming to Miami on May 11; the Steve Miller Band is playing two dates in Fort Lauderdale on May 3 and 4; and Gary's Sports Bar in Davie will be graced by the Atlanta Rhythm Section on April 20 and Springsteen sound-alike John Cafferty on April 27 (not exactly a Seventies act, but a has-been nevertheless).
West Palm Beach is quickly becoming the South Florida destination of choice for these doddering old monsters of rock, thanks to the Coral Sky Amphitheatre, owned by Pavilion Partners, a conglomerate of Sony, Blockbuster, and Broward's Cellar Door Concerts (which also does the booking). Since it opened in March, the 20,000-capacity venue has lined up some of classic rock's supreme lords for its maiden concert season. On April 26, Bachman-Turner Overdrive appears there, with moldie opening acts Edgar Winter and Survivor. Warhorse ensembles Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Doobie Brothers will meet there on May 9, while Ozzy Osbourne is slated for a May 25 concert. Steely Dan will hit the shed on July 13 and, perhaps most frightening, Crosby, Stills and Nash and Chicago will be there on May 26.
These groups are members of what Cellar Door chairman of the board Jack Boyle calls the Fifteen Club. "These are bands who've either been together at least fifteen years or have had at least fifteen albums that have sold really well," Boyle states. "Over that time they've been touring, and a lot of people have been coming out to enjoy these shows. For the past ten years or maybe longer, these acts have been the bread and butter of the concert business, and we've been very, very pleased with ticket sales so far." (As of last week, none of the concerts had sold out.)
Boyle has a point: All of these artists were hot stuff back in the Seventies, and many of them are hot stuff now. Rod Stewart has been a steady concert draw for more than twenty years, whether he's had a hit on the charts or a flop in the budget bins. Stewart's 1993 set Unplugged . . . and Seated, his ninth variation on the greatest-hits formula, has sold more than five million copies; his latest release, A Spanner in the Works, is his first worthwhile album since 1976's A Night on the Town. Ozzy Osbourne's current tour is his first since his self-imposed 1991 retirement, which he's come out of to (1) promote Ozzmosis, his new album and (2) walk the kids through new versions of "War Pigs," "Iron Man," and "Crazy Train." Steely Dan's 1993 reunion tour A their first in twenty years A was one of the year's most successful road shows, so it's only natural that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker would climb back aboard the tour bus. (They might also be trying to recoup losses from their respective solo-album bombs: Fagen's 1993 Kamakiriad and Becker's 1994 11 Tracks of Whack were practically instant cut-outs.)
Steve Miller hasn't had a major hit since 1982's "Abracadabra," and he hasn't had a good one since "Jet Airliner" in '77. Nevertheless, his annual greatest-hits tour pulls in both Gen-X postmodernists and fortysomething backtrackers. The Doobie Brothers have recorded sporadically with their new old lineup (original vocalist Tom Johnston is back; his late-Seventies replacement Michael McDonald is not), but their summer tours of the past couple years have been steady draws. Lynyrd Skynyrd, meanwhile, has defied all odds and racked up hits on rock and country radio nearly twenty years after a plane crash robbed the group of vocalist Ronnie Van Zant and two other members.
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Woody Graber, Coral Sky's public relations whiz and a self-described child of the Sixties, says the venue isn't trying to be a memory-lane mecca, but is merely booking the acts available to them. "We've got some current country acts coming," he promises. "You have to realize, though, that these are good draws in South Florida. We want to book acts that will sell and will reach as wide an audience as possible."
A sound business move, to be sure, but also a grim forecast for summer music in South Florida.
Harry Pussy is crawling out of its live-gig exile for a string of Thursday-night shows at Churchill's Hideaway. "We promised [Churchill's owner] Dave Daniels that we'd play a month of Thursdays," Pussy frontman Bill Orcutt notes with typical nonchalance. The seldom-seen noise trio has already performed two shows at the Little Haiti dive and will return on April 18 and 25, all in preparation for an upcoming U.S. tour with England's Shadow Ring. Meow Meow, an extracurricular group composed of Pussy drummer Adris Hoyos and Kreamy 'Lectric Santa vocalist/violinist Priya Ray, among others, will open the shows.