Thursday, October 20, 2011

Original Band or Tribute Act?

I went to see one of my favourite early ‘70s bands, ‘Canterbury sound’ legends, Caravan, at the Shepherds Bush 02. They don’t tour that much now; getting on a bit I suppose, and only a couple of original members are still in the line-up (though founder Pye Hastings is still the rock on which Caravan park).

Great night of memories; girls growing plump in the land of the grey and pink, so to speak. Musically as strong as ever (though the sound mix left something to be desired) with Hasting managing to get most of the required vocal notes. But if left me wondering; how many changes in line-up can a band perform with and still legitimately call itself the original band? Especially when they make a virtue of playing the band’s ‘seminal’ music made 40-plus years ago.

Sharing the bill with Caravan was another progressive rock legend, Curved Air, stalwarts of the student union, who produced three memorable top-twenty albums (one being the first picture disc issued), and half a dozen stand-out tracks (Back Street Love and It Happened Today). Initially, Sonja Kristina was on vocal, the wonderfully named Florian Pilkinton-Miksa on drums, the amazing Darryl Way on violin, and on guitar, maestro Francis Monkman. The band admittedly had many changes over the years (including soon-to-be Police drummer Stuart Copeland) but the sole survivors at Shepherds Bush were Kristina and Pilkington-Miksa.

OK, you can’t expect to be seeing exactly the same line-up (or even the majority) as those playing in those dim dark day; time and excess inevitably thin the ranks. But when the ‘band’ is down to a single representative surrounded by newly acquired band members young enough to be the survivor’s grandchildren, then claiming the original name is perhaps disingenuous.

Would I have gone to see two newly-named bands, one featuring Hastings and the other Kristina? Probably not. It was the original branding of Caravan and Curved Air that attracted me. On the night I came away happy but was I listening to the originals or superior tribute acts, I wonder?

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