By Greg Pratt
Every time a band announces they are playing one of their classic albums in its entirety, I cringe. No one is asking me why, but I should probably tell you why anyway: it’s boring!
Look, say you’re Lagwagon. Hi, Lagwagon! You’re one of the best punk bands of our time, and you have under your belt a handful of amazing, truly classic albums.
Now, say you’re me. Hi, me! How’s the bad back and increasingly hostile demeanour coming along? Good. So, I’m heading down to Fat Wreck Chord’s 25th anniversary celebration in California, and I’m going to see Lagwagon play for the first time since they were touring for Trashed, an amazing, astounding album. Trouble is, the band was set to play that album in its entirety at the show I was seeing them at.
For Christ’s sake, you’re telling me I need to sit through their cover of “Brown Eyed Girl” instead of one of their many, many amazing originals because they’re doing the full-album deal? I mean, sure, a fun cover, but I’m hearing that instead of “May 16”? Every song they’ve written since I saw them play last (I live on an island, okay?) is going to be ignored? Bum deal.
Don’t get me wrong: I love albums. I’m a start-to-finish listener, almost always. I’ve had some of the best, soul-seeking, mind-enhancing nights of my life listening to full albums start to finish. But when I see a band live, I want the excitement of not knowing what’s coming next. I want context destroyed and predictability erased. I don’t want to listen to an album; I want to see a concert.
Plus, don’t most bands get better with time? Why focus on classic albums? (Can I just be clear I’m not talking about Lagwagon here? Their older albums actually are classics that still sound great and stand up, for the most part, to their newer material.) When I see another insufferable press release with a subject line about a band playing a classic album I just think, “That’s too bad their new stuff isn’t as good as their old stuff,” and then I go listen to Propagandhi for the millionth time in my life (case in point: Propagandhi are the best band on planet Earth, and Potemkin City Limits is their greatest moment; yet, if they were playing that album in its entirety if they were to ever play the city I live in again, I’d probably weep a little, even though I think it’s one of the greatest albums of all time).
I love nostalgia. I love classic albums! Good grief, I spend much of my life talking about classic albums. But there is a context, a time and place, and a purpose. When a band wastes valuable live time ignoring new material to play exclusively old material, I can’t help but be a bit disappointed.
Now, back to California: Lagwagon made it three songs into Trashed and decided to play a regular concert instead. NOFX, who were billed as playing The Longest Line EP in its entirety, played a few songs off it, barely even trying to pretend they were supposed to play it all. And I was smiling ear to ear.
Bands, I love your classic tunes. But if you’re doing things right, I love your new tunes even more. I can have my mind blown with a start-to-finish album at home. Use the live experience to blow minds in a different way.
Now, if Jawbreaker roll through town playing 24 Hour Revenge Therapy in its entirety, am I going to be there? Of course I’m going to be there. Don’t be stupid. But I’ll be more excited for a regular concert than a classic album concert every time, and bands are selling themselves short by playing old albums start to finish.
So, Lagwagon, thanks for cutting that shit out in California. You made my first time seeing you in many, many years that much more special by living in the present, not in the past (and the new tunes were some of the best of the night).