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Friday, December 17, 2010

You're always more popular when you're past it

I’ve been reading about this year’s reunion of Suede. The band, who were a going concern between 1992 and 2003, announced at the beginning of 2010 that they were getting together for just one show. This was so successful it turned into a full tour, much of it in far bigger venues than they would have played back in “their era”.

The excited reception they’ve been given by their fans, many of them now in their forties, reminds me of the way that 60s heroes like Eric Clapton and Neil Young became far more popular in their middle age, when they were past it, than they were in the first flush of their creativity. When Neil Young was writing “After The Gold Rush” he would have been lucky to sell out Hammersmith Odeon. When he was putting out “Fork In The Road” he was headlining Glastonbury.

This is because the market gets bigger all the time and you can’t achieve mega-fame if you’re only appealing to one generation. Time means your original constituency is joined by later generations of heritage kids, the people who weren’t on board first time round and the people who want to see you because you’ve finally achieved legend status. Add in the fact that a middle-aged audience has more money to spend and less entertainment options and you’ve got the reason why Suede ended up at the O2 and acts like Take That sail blithely on into middle age.

But there’s another factor. It’s not just the scale of the reception. It’s also the fervour of the reception. No crowd is quite as passionate as a middle-aged crowd celebrating what used to be before it’s too late.