On Saturday night, we took a break from the whirlwind of constant activity so that we could spend time seeing a few tribute bands at the Anaheim House of Blues. My sister-in-law invited my husband and I to go see The Cured with them, and while we had no business taking any time away to do much of anything, we said yes anyway.
Rule #1 – buy the concert tickets. In this case, they were free, so why not, right??
I was thrilled to get away from this house, to be honest. Selling a house is stressful, and we’ve been working on this place for months now. Any deep desire to stay here and not move has long since been squelched. I’m ready to bid farewell to Rancho Santa Margarita and welcome what comes next.
Turns out, not only was The Cured playing, but Planet Earth (which ended up being Arena, because Planet Earth suddenly retired) was also on the bill that night, along with Substance, a New Order tribute. I was in luck!
This show was at the new Anaheim House of Blues. On the inside, the venue is big, clean and beautiful, but I dislike the way you enter. It used to be that if a concert-goer dines at the restaurant, entrance would be granted through the dining hall, and there wouldn’t be a wait at the door. No more. Customers may certainly eat at the HOB, but afterward, you exit the restaurant and still wait in the long line. Not the end of the world, but definitely an inconvenience and a hassle. Fine for tribute band shows, particularly this one since we had free tickets, but for a well-known band? No way. Why would anyone want to eat dinner at the House of Blues, particularly when their once-ample menu has now been paired down to less-than-a single-page of offerings, and then be forced to stand at the end of the very long GA line for a band like Duran Duran, for instance? The wise decision would be to forgo the dinner and just wait in line, or be happy hearing the concert from one of the side bar areas that offer an obstructed view.
The venue itself is big and airy like a warehouse conversion, along with dark and intimate feeling inside the actual concert hall. It is a nice, ample space for GA shows, similar to most other HOB locations I’ve been in. Believe it or not, the space filled very quickly. When the first band took the stage around 8pm, the house was packed.
And what was that first band, you ask? Arena!
I’ve learned a few things about tribute bands over the years. They tend to use the tribute thing as a bit of a gimmick. Some create as real of an experience as you can get without seeing the actual band live. They strive for authenticity, and that means if you’re playing Simon Le Bon, you’d better BE as close to Simon as possible. There’s no taking “artistic license” with his vocals OR with the lyrics. The costuming has to be accurate. “Simon’s” wig cannot look like it once belonged to Donald Trump, for instance. The music has to sound as close to the band as possible without it being karaoke or merely a lip sync performance. Sure, there might be some smoke and some mirrors, after all, even the real bands use backing tracks and a zillion other effects. However, the goal is for it all to feel genuine. Other bands use the tribute as shtick. It’s comedic, and it’s not really meant to be authentic, although it might still get audiences in the door. That said, there’s good comedy, and there’s really bad comedy, right? The same can be said for tribute bands. Some might be hilariously funny, but the musicianship is top-notch. Others might be funny because they’re trying to hide the fact that they can’t really play. Still others are a blend of all of it.
The whole tribute band scene is rather incestuous, so to speak. While you might see a band like Arena, or even The Cured—later on that same night, you might see people from those same bands performing in other tributes. While I can understand the economic issues in doing so, it all feels a little awkward to someone like me who might be paying attention. What band are they actually IN, and why is everyone trading members? Those things bug me. Even so, if the guy (or girl) can play it all, so be it.
Lastly, there’s me, obsessed Duran Duran fan. I am probably not the best audience for any DD tribute band, because A. I’m a huge fan. I know every single Duran Duran song down to the tiniest chord and glottal stop. and B. I own a blog.
The reality is, I’m a great audience member for any other tribute band besides Duran Duran. I don’t know anyone’s music the way I do DD’s, and I’m happy just to hear Blue Monday, Love Will Tear Us Apart or even Love Cats. I know the hits pretty well, but not obsessively so, and it’s all great fun. So, when I tell you that I was not entirely taken by Arena, understand that my standards are unapologetically high. They were good, but not great.
All of that aside, the band was fun. I definitely spent time bobbing my head and instinctively doing all the same things I might do at a Duran show—except for maybe screaming at the guitar player and rolling my eyes when they played HLTW—I’ve got to save something for the real deal, you know. I can’t review Arena the way I initially thought I might, because it would be unfair. I did have fun that night, and maybe that’s the takeaway for me – I can’t and shouldn’t intensively review a DD-tribute band.
I’ve come to the realization that I am the nightmare audience member for a DD tribute band, outside of maybe any actual, real, band member. I’m the person you can and should call in for a quality control assessment, because I’m brutally honest. However, no one needs me in their audience, particularly if I’m writing a review.
On the other hand, I loved Substance – the New Order tribute, because I’m a casual fan of New Order. I have their albums, I know their songs, but I don’t know them in the same way. The vocals weren’t exactly the right tone, but the music was good, and I heard songs I hadn’t heard in years. The same holds true for The Cured. The vocals were fairly close, and musically the band was fabulous. They have a professional quality about them that I very much admire, and I’d go see them again.
The escape, even for just a few hours, was a welcome respite.