BERLIN (Reuters) - Rock stars from the 1960s and 1970s have been hitting Germany’s lucrative concert circuit but many of the grandpa-generation acts have disappointed fans and provoked withering reviews in Europe’s biggest music market.
The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Genesis, the Who, the Police and Black Sabbath are among the acts appearing this summer in arenas between the Black Forest and the Baltic, in Europe’s richest nation with a wealth of top-class concert venues.
The German dates are part of a wider trend as bands try to compensate for falling record sales, but never before have so many old-established acts swept the country, known for its loyal rock fans, efficient organization and high ticket sales.
“You can see the trend most clearly in Germany,” said Christian Diekmann, chief operating officer at Deutsche Entertainment — one of Germany’s main concert organizers — of the proliferation of wrinkly rockers taking the stage.
“It’s got Europe’s biggest economy and the most purchasing power,” he told Reuters. “There are good-sized cities across the country and they all have football stadiums or good venues.”
However, the reviews — and ticket sales — have been mixed.
“The question is ‘why are they bothering?’,” said Harald Peters, culture editor and music critic of the newspaper Welt am Sonntag. “Some of these groups are just plain burned out. Others are just old and boring.
“They’re getting torn to shreds in reviews. I’m not saying all of them should have stopped at 40. But with some, it’s so bizarre and you wonder why. Do they need the money? Didn’t they get an education? Can’t they do anything else for a living?”
Other critics have mocked the ageing rockers and some newspapers published unflattering pictures of performers who have lived the rock-star lifestyle, looking older than their years.
Ticket sales for a Rolling Stones’ concert in Frankfurt in June were sluggish. The Peter Rieger concert agency then announced it would cut the capacity at the arena by 10,000 to 25,000 and reduced the lowest ticket prices to 59 euros ($81) from 82 euros.
“Some people should retire at 30,” Mick Jagger, 64, was quoted as telling Kirsten Szastrau of the newspaper Allgemeine Zeitung Mainz when she asked him bluntly when he was going to quit.
“I know that there’s a lot of talk about that (retirement). But those are rules bureaucrats make. If you’re an artist, poet or musician, other things matter. We have the feeling we’re still a very good band, and we love what we’re doing. Besides that, I’m a terrible plumber. There’s nothing else I could do.”
Other older bands such as Aerosmith and Genesis have had unenthusiastic reviews.
“The fondness for travel by the senior citizens has nothing to do with art,” wrote Jochen Temsch, a critic at Munich’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
“It is business interests that are keeping them going. Sales of recordings have been falling for years in face of the digital challenge and new sources of revenue are needed: live concerts.”
Diekmann, whose Deutsche Entertainment is Germany’s number two organizer, said revenues from concerts would hit a record 3 billion euros ($4 billion) in 2007, double the value of record sales.
“The live concert market is growing rapidly,” Diekmann said.
He said there was enough demand in Germany for the ageing stars. Ticket prices were often higher than elsewhere. But he conceded that not all the acts lived up to expectations and some seemed to be cashing in on past glories.
“I think you have to differentiate when talking about ‘old rockers’,” he said, referring to one of the unflattering terms used in Germany to describe musicians with thinning hair, wrinkles or expanding waistlines.
“Some of them have developed their music further, adapted to the times,” Diekmann said. “But there are others who haven’t.
“The market is the ultimate determining factor,” he said. “Where there’s demand, there will be concerts. These are artists. They won’t be putting on concerts if no one wants to see them.”
Bild am Sonntag gave the “rock dinosaurs” ratings from one guitar (“Hey grandpa, get off the stage!”) to five guitars (“world class”). Genesis topped the survey with five guitars while the Rolling Stones got three.
“The rock used to be so much better, a real celebration of music,” said Rainer Franz, 45, a Stuttgart engineer. He has been Genesis fan since seeing them live the first time in 1983. “I’ll still go just about anywhere to see them live.”
Advancing age is noticed not only in their music.
Police drummer Stewart Copeland, 55, observed in his blog of a stop in the band’s first tour in 23 years this summer that vocalist and bass-player Sting was not as agile as he used to be.
“Last night Sting did a big leap for the cut-off hit, and he makes the same move tonight but he gets the footwork just a little bit wrong and doesn’t quite achieve lift-off. The mighty Sting looks like a petulant pansy instead of the god of rock.”
Others performing in Germany this year included Meat Loaf, who turns 60 next month, Lou Reed, 65, and Peter Gabriel, 57. The latter needed a teleprompter to help him remember the words.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung critic Sebastian Gierke said it was “almost tragic” to see Ozzy Osbourne, 58, at a “farcical” concert.
“He kept screaming ‘I can’t f—-ing hear you!’ over and over again. You felt like shouting back ‘buy a goddamn hearing aid and maybe you’ll realize you’re singing everything off key’.”