Are rock reunions silly and sad?

Two recent New York Times articles discuss the finer points of rock band reunions.

Published May 7, 2007 4:40PM (EDT)

As much as we might be happy to see our favorite bands get back together, rock 'n' roll reunions can be a worrisome thing: Will the band sound as good as it used to? Are we sentimental dupes for wanting to see our old faves, together again for the first time? Are these concerts just a silly waste of time?

Relax. A pair of recent articles by New York Times music critics Ben Ratliff and Kelefa Sanneh offer comfort for the nostalgically concerned.

In "In Defense of Nostalgia," published in the May 6 issue, Sanneh explains that the sentimentality that makes us yearn for rock reunions is really what drives all concerts:

"In fact, if it weren't for sentiment, if it weren't for our strong but ultimately inexplicable desire to be in the same room as people making music, we might not bother to go to concerts at all. In that sense, a reunion show is the ultimate rock 'n' roll concert: a sensory experience overwhelmed by an imaginary one; a musical event that is merely a pretext for a social one. Those people onstage are old friends, in a sense; they have been living in our heads for years or decades. (That's why substitutions are so irritating: what's the point of being reunited with someone you've never met?) At a reunion show, those figments turn back into real people for a few hours."

Ratliff's piece, published in late April and called "Not Reunions, Reinventions (Back and Better. Really.), contends that the music's what matters most -- and that there's no reason to believe it isn't better now than it was then:

"We have to allow for the possibility that Rage Against the Machine -- or the Police, or the Jesus and Mary Chain -- could be as good as it ever was, if perhaps a little more wizened, a little more skeptical. (It will depend on their practicing of course.) If you're still looking for something sacred, it probably can't be found in their values or politics or cult significance. It's in you: It is your own reaction to how they sound."

Now don't you feel better about shelling out for those tickets to Genesis this summer?

-- David Marchese

By Salon Staff

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