When I was invited to the High Voltage Festival in London last weekend, I made all kinds of cracks about the lineup being terminally geriatric. I had visions of signs above the backstage entrance that read “YOUR PROSTATE MUST BE THIS BIG FOR YOU TO PERFORM!”
I mean, Argent? They hadn’t played together in 38 years. Uriah Heep was going to run through their entire 1972 album, Demons and Wizards. The combined age of ZZ Top is 182; for Emerson, Lake and Palmer (together for the first time since 1998), it’s 187. Ian Hunter was going to sing All the Young Dudes again — even though he just turned 71.
I joked about the average age of the crowd, too, and the need for walkers and wheelchairs. But in the end, I was dead wrong.
Instead of a barrage of irrelevant, outdated songs by over-the-hill performers, I witnessed how enduring and ageless good rock ’n’ roll really is. Bachman-Turner (Bachman-Turner Overdrive in all but name) cranked out their still-muscular hits. There were a couple of 20-somethings next to me who not only new all the words to even the deep album tracks, but sang their parts in perfect harmony.
Over on the metal stage, the legendary Saxon bludgeoned an appreciative audience of young metalheads. On the prog stage, Dweezil Zappa’s young band ripped through some Mothers of Invention material so effortlessly it would have brought a tear to dad’s eye. And it was fascinating to watch all the rockers, punks and metal freaks pay their respects to the late Ronnie James Dio as Heaven and Hell — the collaboration between Dio and Tommy Iommi and Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath — played their last-ever set with Glenn Hughes (ex-Deep Purple and one-time Sabbath singer in the non-Ozzy years) on vocals.
And despite the wide availability of alcohol I did not see a single drunk person. Not one. And there were no police anywhere, either. There were security personnel to be sure, but no bobbies anywhere on the festival site.
At Heathrow, I found myself behind Randy Bachman in the security line. He was as giddy as a kid. “Wasn’t it amazing?” he gushed. Yes. Yes, it was.