They’re older and maybe a bit grayer, but when it comes to getting down with their favorite rock icons, today’s Baby Boomers are totally up for it.
“I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that good stuff holds up,” said Bobby Russell, general manager of Bangor’s Zone Radio Group and host of a classic rock show on WKIT-FM. “There are plenty of bands from the 70s and 60s that are gone and good riddance, but the cream of the crop is still around.”
Things are different today from when he was in high school, Russell said, when you rarely heard teens listening to music 40-plus years old.
“Now you see kids in high school wearing Ozzy Osbourne shirts and listening to Rolling Stones or The Who,” he said. “I think if it’s good music then, it’s still good music now.”
Russell pointed to the recent Classic West concert in California that brought together 70’s bands Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and Earth, Wind & Fire at Dodger’s Stadium or Desert Trip, also in California, with Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, The Who and The Rolling Stones.
Closer to home, thousands of fans from around Maine and the Canadian Maritimes poured into Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor last Friday for a night of 70s and 80s music compliments of Cyndi Lauper and Rod Stewart. Last summer Jimmy Buffett, 71, drew 15,000 Parrot Heads to the venue, the largest concert crowd so far.
“You know, this is just awesome stuff, it’s classic music,” said Richard Champagne. “Rod Stewart was the first artist that had the real gruff sounding voice — that real earthy voice no one had before him.”
Concerts are aimed at Baby Boomers and are big business, according to an article in The New York Times, which cited the music industry tracking firm Pollsta which calculated the six-day music extravaganza Desert Trip took in $160 million last year.
It’s not unusual, according to the article, for hardcore fans — now retired with with far more disposable income than they had back in their teen years — to spend hundreds of dollars on concert tickets to hear their favorite performers, many of whom can join their fans on the AARP registration rolls.
For Russell, the attraction comes down to simple nostalgia.
“It’s like when you hear these bands songs on the radio, their music takes you back to a certain time [and] trigger memories for people,” Russell said. “I think this is true especially for classic rock music.”
This summer Waterfront Concerts is also bringing 70s and 80s bands Styx and REO Speedwagon to Bangor in August.
Molly Tremble of Bangor, saying only she is “younger than Rod Stewart,” was seeing the rocker for the third time since the 90s at that recent concert.
“Rod Stewart is my true love from way back, like in the 80s,” Tremble said. “His music holds up because Rod Stewart holds up [and] he has the energy and the excitement to keep on performing [and] he is just wonderful.”
That excitement was infectious as fans like 73-year-old Sharon Bennett joined just about every other woman at the concert dancing along to Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”
“There are so many of us that are still around when they did these songs in the first place,” said Bennett during the intermission following Lauper’s set and before Stewart came on. “I love music and I love their music.”
Attending the concert as a birthday gift, Bennett said the music cast a spell of happiness over the audience.
“Everybody is loving it,” she said. “Everybody was just standing up half the time rocking out and listening to the music and didn’t even notice when it was raining.”
Perhaps the best part of being a mature fan at a classic rock concert?
“They start on time and you are home at a reasonable hour,” joked Russell, adding on a more serious note, “You go to these shows and really do see people of all ages — sure there are a lot of grey ponytails, but there are a lot of kids there, too.”
And, as Rod Stewart sang to his fans, “In my heart you’ll always stay, forever young.”
A previous version of this story misspelled the name of Ozzy Osbourne and misidentified the location of Desert Trip.