That is a pretty big question I hear you say but just bare with me here as there is a lot to get through. Firstly this is not a new thing, oh no, this has been bubbling along for some time and one way or the other 2017 is the year that this music we love HAS to change.
Lets get this in perspective so you need to do a Scooby Doo flashback(accompanying noise and wobbly screen optional) and go back a few years to Gene Simmons unforgettable statement “Rock is dead”, I like many of you would have had the same reaction “ fuck you Gene, you do not know what you are talking about” but in hindsight and taking in his distorted view and grasp of the only thing he loves...money, I can see where he was coming from now. It also ties in with Andy Copping’s yearly moan about the lack of big bands left to play Download.
Well in those respects 2017 is the year the shit hits the fan people. Gene bases Rock on success and Dollars and that means arena bands. The demise started last year with the likes of Motley Crue saying goodbye, this year we had Twisted Sister and next year we may only have the official goodbye of Black Sabbath and Aerosmith but if you look at the roster of arena bands already announced for an appearance in the UK next year, the likes of Kiss, Maiden, Guns’N’Roses, The Who and Alice Cooper when do you think they will next make an appearance outside of a festival on these shores? With the gaps between their last UK tours I think you can safely say it will be another five years minimum before they come back( if they come back).
This means that from 2018 things are going to look very sparse on the Rock/Metal arena front and I for one say it is about time. Arena shows are fading on me and fast. My last one was the Alterbridge tour and although I think the three or four band line up is the only way arena shows will stay relevant in the future they have to be better put together. I ended up going just for two of the four bands and the whole thing reminded me of the good old monsters of rock festival where you got six or seven bands and you were lucky to like three at most. This meant lots of drinking, general debauchery and good times but things are different now. I do not want to pay £50 to see two bands, I do not want to pay £5 for a pint in-between the bands I like and although I get to catch up with a lot of people the arena show is a whole different kettle of fish when it comes to fans.
The fact that the Alterbridge crowd was made up of hundreds of people in Christmas jumpers tells a story. It is like the people who have already raced out and paid ridiculous prices for Guns’N’Roses, Sabbath and Maiden tickets. I get that people still want to see these bands and I get that they want to say goodbye(although I done this in the 90s already Ozzy) but the majority of the people sitting on their PCs at 9AM on release or presale day are arena whores(yip, I just made that up and I like it). Their last show would have been an arena or a festival, those people who go from one year to another holding out hopes that the big guns will tour...well you guys have hit jackpot in 2017 but you are stuffed for the foreseeable future after that.
I know a lot of regular gig goers and it has pleased me to see some drawing a line in the sand and saying no, I am not paying that kind of money no matter who it is. This has to be the bottom line. Lets be honest here, we are paying for Black Sabbaths retirement, Slash’s divorce and probably another plane or balloon for Bruce Dickenson. We should also suck it up and and face facts, I am old enough to have seen all these bands first time around, back when they were a driving force, when they were pushing the barrier and raising the roof. It does actually pain me to say this as some of these bands are held like a religion to me but it has been a long, long time since any of them have been at the top of their game. At best you could say some of them are still pretty good live and have released decent( I am being very kind with that word) albums. They are not in their prime, they are not grabbing the industry by the balls and sadly they are not lighting the way anymore and this is where our saviours step in.
I live in Glasgow and pretty much every day of the week you can go to a gig in this city, this year alone I have attender well over 50 shows and three festivals...that is a lot of bands in total and I can count on one hand the amount of bands I would class as sheer crap or talentless. I may have see a fair few I did not like but they did not fit into those categories.
The young bands of today are a different breed from when I first saw bands back in the 80s. Back then NWOBHM was taking off and everybody was jumping on the wagon, everyone thought they could form a band, get a record deal and make a fortune. This kicked into overdrive when MTV( the M stands for music...who would have guessed huh?) hit the screens. As long as you looked good you got a record deal and we got a shitstorm of talentless wannabees and abysmal videos.
Those days are long gone and I suspect they will never return so the new breed of musicians have had to accept it is going to be a struggle, that they may never reach the heights of the arena bands bowing out next year but they still do it and this is the mindset that has literally rocked my world this year. I have been blown away by bands I have seen in clubs this year, bands who have done all the hard work in a bedroom, then a garage and finally taken it to a stage. By the time they have travelled to Glasgow they have hundreds of gigs under their belt and it shows.
If you appreciated the big boys back when they were firing on all cylinders, if you saw them live you will remember the feeling of knowing without doubt that the band was something special. My first ever gig was Iron Maiden in 1980 in a tiny town hall and I knew instantly they were going to be massive. 2016 was the year I have said the same thing so many times that I cannot count them.
If you want some proof of this I am going to throw some names at you, names of bands you may or may not have heard but have the technical ability, talent and the best balls out live performances that you can hope to see today. They capture what the big bands had in their prime and they far outshine anything those guys can produce nowadays.
So take down these names and go check them out, do it on youtube first if you must but go see them live and then come back to me and tell me I am wrong. One of the most entertaining live bands on the circuit is Massive wagons, Devilskin may be big in their homeland of New Zealand but I expect them to break here as they have two huge albums and an incredible sound live. Stone Broken are touring with Glen Hughes next year so they will be playing on the largest stages they have and I expect to see them win a whole host of new fans, they deserve it as they are the nicest bunch of people and stunning live. Inglorious are Download headliners in waiting. The Dead Daisies have said goodbye to the smaller venues and are now an arena act without the arena. Bad Touch have just released an album that is finally worthy of their quality live. For Blues/Rock King King cannot be surpassed on a stage by even the biggest of names. If NWOBHM was your thing back in the day then Kaine are your band. With the likes of Green day and Blink 182 also coming here next year get yourself to see Love Zombie and Altered Sky as you will not see two better Pop/Punk bands on a small stage. If you are a thrasher buy Damaj’s new EP wrath of the Tide and pray they come to your town and finally another Glasgow band that I would bet my mortgage on in making it are Mason Hill. They may not have even played a headline show yet but this band are destined for greatness.
I honestly think the small guys are going to have a tough year in 2017, far too many expensive gigs means a lack of funds for the smaller shows but I urge everyone to make the effort to get out there, go see new bands...your next big thing could be behind that tiny, scruffy venue door. Another request is if you are contemplating spending £130 for a ticket for one show ditch it as a bad idea, you can get a weekend ticket for an amazing festival for less than that. You will see a multitude of bands and have a brilliant time with people who are there for the music(not to tick a musical bucket list). There are some brilliant new, young and fresh festivals out there who showcase the best in upcoming talent. Just look at the likes of Wildfire Festival, Breaking bands, Winter storm and Mearfest( which is also helping a fantastic charity).
The industry’s future lies with these bands, your enjoyment lies with these bands so get out there and do your bit people, enjoy your 2017 but when the dust settles on it open your heart to a brand new dawn. I have looked into our future and it is very bright.
A small postscript to the bands now. Firstly thank you for all that you do and just hang tough in 2017, it may be a tough ride but the darkest hour is always before day breaks.
Article by Ritchie Birnie