I think one can make a passable argument for comparing musical appreciation to appreciation of the opposite sex. Were I to adopt that metaphor, I think it would be safe to say that I hit musical adolescence in the 80s but popped my musical cherry – if you will – in the 90s.
The 80s were a strange time, musically speaking. Classic blues-based rock took a back seat to punk and early alternative. And pop plugged itself into a 12o volt outlet and became powered by drum machines and synthesizers. The late 80s saw a bit of a change. Hair metal rebelled against the synth-pop of OMD, Duran Duran and The Thompson Twins and, instead, honored blues-rock forefathers like Zeppelin, AC/DC and The Rolling Stones. The alternative angst of the 80s shed its eyeliner and transformed into grunge dirges.
Of course, as the early 90s progressed, hair metal went the way of Adam Ant and Soft Cell and grunge ruled the day. Until…well…two words – boy bands.
When I was in high school I was heavily invested in hair metal. There were bands you’ve heard of – Guns N Roses, Whitesnake, Cinderella, Great White and Skid Row. And bands you haven’t – Bang Tango, Tyketto, Tangier, Savatage, The Electric Boys, and Shark Island. During my senior year, I picked up three albums that changed my life – Louder Than Love (Soundgarden), Temple of The Dog (Temple of The Dog) and Ten (Pearl Jam). And endless stream of inspiration followed in the form of Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Mother Love Bone, Green River, Mudhoney and Alice In Chains. But I never forgot those hair metal bands that produced some brilliant albums that still manage to hold up (Appetite For Destruction, anyone?). Nor were the icons – Led Zeppelin, The Who, Deep Purple, Aerosmith – lost on me.
This summer, Beth and I have managed to see four acts ripped from the 80s and 90s Billboard charts – Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, Slash and Aerosmith.
My biggest fears were Aerosmith and Soundgarden. I set my expectations low expecting that the two vocalists – Steven Tyler and Chris Cornell, respectively – would have lost something over the years. I was never a big Nine Inch Nails fan so I had no expectations. I expected Slash to rock.
What did I walk away with, you ask?
Nine Inch Nails were the big disappointment, primarily because I’ve never been a huge fan. They sounded fine but I couldn’t tell one song from another and felt like they were trying too hard. But again, not a NIN devotee. Soundgarden sounded fantastic. Sure, I was worried about Chris Cornell’s voice but I shouldn’t have been. It sounded – literally – better than ever. It was amazing to watch him sing and the band behind him support him. Slash rocked as expected. Myles Kennedy – his lead singer – was amazing and the band was tight. Slash himself proved that his position as one of the world’s greatest guitarists is well-earned. I saw Guns N Roses back in 1992. Slash and his band were better. I’ll never forget the version of Sweet Child O’ Mine I heard this past Saturday.
The big story is Aerosmith. Admittedly, I’ve always been a casual fan but never a worshipper. I have all their albums, dive into them occasionally, but I’d never pictured myself heading to one of their shows until Beth told me she could get a good deal on tickets. Aerosmith took the stage and for two hours these five 60-year olds absolutely rocked Washington. The Toxic Twins – Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry – were brilliant and the rest of the band followed suit. I entered a skeptic and left a believer. See for yourself.