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I’ll Catch The Next Tour: The Importance Of Legacy Acts

“I’m sure I’ll see them eventually” was something I said many times about a band until 2011. After all, the band I was talking about had been touring for decades and showed no signs of slowing down. That band was Sonic Youth and my eternally tentative plan to “see them eventually” came to a thudding demise when Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore decided to divorce, permanently ending one of Alternative’s oldest institutions.

Pretty much anyone who considers themselves a real music fan has had this experience in one form or another. Maybe you passed up a few chances to see Led Zeppelin in the late 70’s because you didn’t care for their later stuff. Maybe you passed on a ticket to a Tupac show because you were too tired, and he’d play again soon. One of the easiest traps to fall into as a music listener is the idea that a musician that has been around forever always will be around forever.

So it was that I found myself at Radio City Music Hall on June 10th to see Willie Nelson. My knowledge of Willie (and Country Music in general) is extremely limited, and in years past I may have at balked at seeing such an old legacy act at this stage in his career. This time, however, I thought about Sonic Youth, and the assumption that they would always just sort of “be.” Willie is 81 years old and one of the legends from the genesis of modern music still actively performing. Chances are he won’t be touring that much longer, and then another chapter of musics ever evolving history will be closed.

As I sat there watching Willie and his band shamble through a sloppy but committed set it dawned on me; sure, I’m not getting the best performance of Willie’s life at this stage in his career, but this man wrote chart smashers when The Beatles were still playing The Cavern, and has maintained a near constant touring and recording schedule since then. What I was seeing wasn’t some drab cash-in reunion tour, it was a man who had been doing this for a very, very, very long time, and while the world of music and the world at large have changed drastically in that time, seeing Willie Nelson allowed me to see the last dim remnant of a different era that is very rapidly fading into our collective cultural memory.

The moral of the story with legacy acts is that there are always going to be innumerable reasons not to go see them. Whether it’s the legends of the old guard like Willie Nelson and The Rolling Stones or the newest crop of Millennial fixtures like Jay-Z and Radiohead, you are ultimately going to overpay for a concert that probably won’t be mentioned in their extended biography, but don’t let that stop you. Once a musician reaches this legacy threshold, where they can reliably play sizable venues without adding a single song to their discography, they are easy to take for granted, but everything ends. Whether by age taking it’s course, or some unforeseen event, nobody plays forever, so go see these musicians while you still can.

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