Millions Take Offense: Not One Cent For Tribute Bands

OK. This has got to stop.

“Tribute” band shows, I mean. One site defines the basic “tribute band concept” in extraordinarily blunt terms:

Can’t afford tickets to see your favorite pop icon? Is he/she dead? Insane? Try these bands and let your imagination fill in the difference.


This has nothing to do with imagination. It has to do only with the ability to willfully defy reality. If you’ve been in a bad marriage, admire Sarah Palin, or have ever bought a lottery ticket, you just might be just able to pull this off. To check your own ability to abide tribute bands, see how long your candle can stand up to the following video wind.

If you’re able to watch this promo and not think, “Hey, looks like Elton John is headed for this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, floating over forty people with ropes,” good for you. If you didn’t notice the rather ham-fisted attempt to simulate John’s midline diastema… using some black wax, I’m guessing… you can potentially save time and money via tribute bands.

But careful – there are two parts to the equation as you take your seat to enjoy the incredible simulation that is The Folie A Deuxbee Brothers. Recognize that you enter into a conspiracy to defraud with the performers as they climb onto the stage and pretend to be someone else. This is the unspoken agreement that powers all of the bands that do Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) as their encore, including Abbalanche, Rebjorn, Abbasolutely Live, Abbalicious, Abbaration, and the misleadingly named 100% Abba (above left). Their act “can incorporate Benny and Bjorn on request,” so right there, they’re no more than 50% Abba. And since, in the course of their performance, they also do a little Debbie Harry and some dead-on Tina Turner, a more accurate band name might be Ballpark 28% Abba, Give or Take.

Members of the coalition of the willing for tribute bands include those concert-goers who can pay premium prices for last-row seats – those who leave their distance glasses at home to further enhance the fantasy that they’re actually in the presence of John and Yoko, often ridiculed as the “gateway act” for tribute musicians, since white suits, floppy hats and long wigs are plentiful and  inexpensive. And, heck, nearly everyone has the ability to emit shrill, ear-piercing screams.

Jed Town as John and Lianne Rowe as Yoko don’t just sing – they  perform dialogues in their show about “bed-ism, bag-ism, and acorns for peace” on the off chance that there are people out there in the world who want to hear all that stupid claptrap again. They bill their show as “…a happening that can be tailored to all occasions – be it weddings, parties, corporate events, product launches…”

So. No longer can we complain about annoying wedding DJ-MC’s who intimidate guests by shouting, “C’mon now… everybody up… I want to see everybody out here on this dance floor for some fun.” Hell, that sounds like a walk in the park compared to a wedding that offers, as its entertainment component, John and Yoko impersonators sealed in bags talking about acorns for peace.

If you find choosing a product from among the above brands “a real brain-teaser,” order your tribute band tickets today.

The guy at left is a dead ringer for Springsteen, if you squinch your eyes up real tight.

Unfortunately, unlike other facial muscles, ear muscles have their own accessory nucleus, a control area for muscle function, in the brainstem. That’s the reason you can’t squinch up your ears, in case you were wondering.

Do you think CSN&Y are “honored” by the “tribute” stage show presented by 4 Way Street? More likely they see wannabes scooping up the low-hanging ticket fruit that makes it even more difficult for the real band to fill  big venues. CSNY is a brand name hemorrhaging market share to cut-rate store-brand look-a-likes.

To be fair, the members of 4 Way Street get points for trying real, real hard:

  • The Stills guy gained more weight for his role than Jared Leto did for the John Lennon assassination movie that no one with a conscience went to see. 
  • The Crosby guy had his liver replaced even though there was nothing wrong with it, stating “…the audience will know.” 
  • The Neil Young guy is such a perfectionist that he refuses to tour with 4 Way Street for years at a time.
  • And the guy impersonating Graham Nash takes his job so seriously that he patterns himself not directly on Nash, but rather bases his performance on the artist Nash stole his persona from, Errol Flynn.
In a Quinnipiac University poll,
87% of respondents
failed to identify Graham Nash
when shown the above two photographs.

On a recent evening in Manhattan, two of the Steely Dan Tribute Bands – Aja Vu and Steely Scam – performed at B.B. King’s in Times Square (opening acts: Stolen Dan, Nearly Dan, Reely Dan, and Stealy Band) on the same night that the actual Steely Dan, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, were also trying to perfectly replicate the sound of their old hits just 32 blocks north at The Beacon. This provided the first real opportunity for Consumer Reports to burst onto the rock journalism scene with their totally unprecedented comparitive review.

 Our trained concert-goers pitted the original Steely Dan band against two “tribute versions,” Aja Vu and Steely Scam.

To level the playing field, we selected one track from each Steely Dan album from October, 1972 to February, 2000 that each band performed on the selected evening.

Scores were recorded in 10 categories, which, when combined, represent overall satisfaction with visual and aural aspects of the concert-going experience. Differences of less than two points on the ten-point scales were not considered significant. (Ratios of ticket price to overall satisfaction are considered elsewhere).

Results: Aja Vu’s performance used 17% more energy, but low marks on stage presence and pitch accuracy dropped the band’s average below CR’s “Don’t Buy Tickets” threshhold. While Steely Scam’s Donald Fagen easily outdistanced Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, Walter Beckers were judged comparable across all bands.

Barrytown proved a difficult accomplishment for all three bands, with the lyric “I can see by what you carry that you come from Barrytown” proving problematic for all, but we gave the edge here to Steely Scam, who easily surpassed the original band’s attempts at recreation. Steely Dan’s years of experience performing “Don’t Take Me Alive,” however, left the tribute bands in its wake.

Between Steely Dan and Steely Scam, we’d have to say “too close to call,” since the concert-going experiences were on par in nearly all respects. Either band will suffice, but those looking for value in ticket price versus overall satisfaction might best spend their future dollars on Steely Scam tickets.

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