THE HERALD'S OPINION: Ageing rocker Billy T. Gibbons needs to explain to his fans

GROOVIN' THEN: Billy Gibbons (right) with Dusty Hill as ZZ Top prove a highlight of the 2011 Byron Bay Blues & Roots Music festival. Performances on Gibbons's latest tour have been reportedly shambolic. Picture: Edwina Pickles.
GROOVIN' THEN: Billy Gibbons (right) with Dusty Hill as ZZ Top prove a highlight of the 2011 Byron Bay Blues & Roots Music festival. Performances on Gibbons's latest tour have been reportedly shambolic. Picture: Edwina Pickles.

THERE once was a time when punters went to the shows of ageing rock stars with their fingers crossed behind their backs.

Older musos would find themselves out on the road beyond their day for all sorts of reasons, most of them financial.

Some shows were good, but often as not the audience became quickly aware that the singer on stage was very much simply going through the motions, and eager to get out of the spotlight as quickly as possible.

In recent years, however, the ageing of the rock and roll generation has meant a stronger market for rockers who might otherwise have expected to have been pensioned off.

The self-titled “Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band in the World”, the Rolling Stones, arguably led the revolution in middle-age (make that old-age) rockers, touring through their ’50s, ’60s and ’70s with a gusto and precision that may have eluded them in their younger and less sober days.

As the fan bases aged with their heroes, promoters worked out they could charge huge amounts of money for shows, and even more if the performers threw in the now-obligatory meet-and-greet. But if punters are going to fork over hundreds of dollars of hard-earn cash for a concert, they need to be reassured that the artists are up to it and up for it. For the most part, nowadays, they are.

But as the Newcastle Herald has reported in recent days, a storm surrounding a show featuring ZZ Top founder Billy Gibbons has been rolling up the coast towards Newcastle, leaving some very angry (former) fans in its wake. The disappoinment continued on Wednesday night, with Gibbons disappearing from the stage 45 minutes into what was billed as a two-hour combination of music and talk. There was too little of both, according to many fans, with Gibbons then failing to appear for the after-show meet-and-greet.

ZZ Top has been a valuable franchise over the years for Gibbons, and there may well be good reasons why a man who played to rapturous reviews at the Byron Bay blues festival not that many years ago should turn in such an alienating series of performances. Perhaps he was ill.

The promoter’s only real response has been to cancel a final show in Brisbane, with no explanation as to why the star attraction appeared off his game. The Gibbons experience has hurt some of his own fans, but what’s worse, he’ll have put doubts into the minds of many more punters next time an ageing act comes to town.  

ISSUE: 38,696.

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