Saturday, 13 December 2008

Bands Bjorn Again

- James Ellingworth hasn't written the greatest story in the world; this is just a tribute.

I'd like to begin with a short message for the faux world-weary trilby-wearers of Razorlight. At a recent sold-out gig at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange by the Complete Stone Roses tribute band, the management were desperate to sell tickets for Razorlight the next day. Now that's just embarrassing. So Razorlight, please stop now. It'll be better for everyone that way. Right, that's that sorted.
Tribute bands are the methadone of music – filling the gap in the user's life where the full-strength hit should be. And it's a big business. Just look at Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana, who can pack arenas full of screaming ten-year-olds, despite essentially being a tribute to herself.
There are thousands of tribute bands out there, with names ranging from Abba-apeing housewives' favourites Bjorn Again, through the Antarctic Monkeys (billed as “the UK's hottest tribute”) to the frankly rubbish-sounding Oasis wannabes Definitely Mightbe . There are even tribute bands to fictional groups such as Spinal Tap and The Commitments, which prompts all sorts of philosophical questions.
You can even invent your own, given 30 seconds and a stereotype. How about Kneecap, a Northern Irish take on the post-modernism of Elbow? Or Rabbie Williams, Stoke's finest given a Scots twist? Or even Gaye Marvin, making “sexual healing” fabulous?
Some tribute bands have even reached a certain level of respectability, even credibility. The Complete Stone Roses, for example, have played festivals, and even had the real band's bassist, Mani, play alongside them as a 'special guest'. However, there does come a point where the line separating faithful imitation from actually thinking you're the band in question begins to blur. When the Complete Stone Roses played Edinburgh recently, in between the stonkingly-rendered big , numbers, they inserted about 30 minutes worth of obscure early material that left the audience cold, a sign perhaps of the confusing situation tributes can find themselves in if they start to be appreciated for what remains someone else's work.
There are also those acts that pay their tribute in an altogether more creative, some would say bizarre, way. The Red Hot Chili Pipers add bagpipes to Californian rock, while Dread Zeppelin are probably the only people in the world ever to think that what Robert Plant's vocals needed was reggae delivery from an Elvis impersonator.
But finally, spare a thought for the poor deluded souls who are destined to fail, who imitate the wrong band and then wonder why no-one turns up. Yes, I give you Razorlike, “the UK's only Razorlight tribute”. One word: why?

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