February 22, 2007

Bands Reunite, Questions Raised

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Last Sunday’s GRAMMY Awards hosted a slew of impressive performances — costumes, sets, glitter and glam — that were, for the most part, just shy of audacious. The Recording Academy has the power to throw together talent and create some spectacular sights, but the most impressive of this year’s show was the reuniting — after 20 years and a history of quarrels — of the Police. The band opened the evening with just one song: the 1978 hit “Roxanne.” But why now? Why did the Police reunite this past Sunday at the GRAMMYs?

Was it for one more night in spotlight? The Police are not the first group to reunite at the GRAMMYs. In 2003, Simon and Garfunkel reunited after many years — the power of the Recording Academy has and will inspire others. Are the classic bands, such as the Police and Simon and Garfunkel, playing reunion shows on TV to gain popularity? Do they need to sell more CDs? Do they miss the screaming fans? Or, do they actually miss playing together?
As the summer creeps up, the anticipation for other reunions heightens. Although Lollapalooza, Summerfest, Bonnaroo and South by Southwest all run multiple days and pull impressive acts, the festival that steals the spotlight for 2007 is the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. On April 29, 2007 another formerly disbanded group, Rage Against the Machine will headline the evening.

The Coachella Valley Festival has an impressive history of reuniting bands: in 2001 Jane’s Addiction performed, in 2003 Iggy Pop & the Stooges performed and in 2003 Pixies performed. As the concert has gained popularity, it has expanded from a two-day to a three-day event. This year marks the first three-day long Coachella, and the first performance by Rage Against the Machine in seven years. What is the reason that Zach de la Rocha can now return to his former band?

Is it for similar reasons that reunited The Police? Was it the sheer mass of viewers? Perhaps the band, or those that represent the talent — record executives, managers and agents — want to make more money. The official website of The Police’s lead singer (Sting.com) even boasts the event to be “an historic GRAMMY moment” — one sure to sell. Are these bands that reunite after so many years only it for the shock, press, fame and money?
If for shock and press, the bands would likely only schedule one performance. For the Police, this is not the case. The band plans on touring across the states through August 2007. For Rage Against the Machine however, Coachella will be their only show.

The single reunion show by Rage does not discredit the band — it is amazing they will perform again at all. Still, it is hard not to question the motives of the band. Especially one that is so adamantly anti-consumer, with lyrics like: “The movie ran through me/ The glamour subdue me/ The tabloid untie me/ I’m empty please fill me,” from “Testify.” But maybe the band’s intentions are honest. Maybe the band hopes to invoke the passion in politics of the Coachella crowd. If so, then why not reunite in 2004 at Bush’s re-election? Why now?

Maybe these shows are favors to their fans. Maybe they are favors to the Recording Academy. Maybe it really is for the fame. Whatever the motives, with the prospect of bands reuniting, fans could not be happier. And maybe these bands are reuniting to play more music: record more classic albums, tour more cities. It is always good to have great bands come back. At Coachella this April, Rage Against the Machine will come together on that desert evening for the first time in seven years as thousands of sweaty fans sing along. The togetherness will be overwhelming — perhaps the reunion of these two great bands only mirrors one of the wonders of music: the power it has to bring people together.