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More Bands Rolling Out Classic Albums In Concert

Of the Oakland Press

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This summer you won’t have to drop a stereo needle or pop in a compact disc to hear some of your favorite albums.

You’ll be able to do that by buying a concert ticket.

A number of bands on the road during the next few months are spotlighting some of their most famous albums, played in their entirety — part of a trend that’s been growing in recent years.

Aerosmith will roll out its 1975 classic “Toys in the Attic” during a tour that finishes Sept. 16 at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Heavy metal icons Judas Priest will start the 30th anniversary celebration of its 1980 breakthrough “British Steel” during a July 15 stop at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, and fellow hard rockers Motley Crue will crank out all of “Dr. Feelgood” to commemorate its 20th anniversary when its second CrueFest plays Aug. 15 at DTE.

Green Day is expected to play much, if not all, of its new “21st Century Breakdown” on July 14 at the Palace. And though it won’t happen at the group’s Sept. 6 performance at the MotorCity Casino’s Sound Board, Steely Dan is performing its albums “The Royal Scam,” “Aja” and “Gaucho” during multi-night residencies in several cities.

“What’s not cool about it?” Rick Franks, the Farmington Hills-based president of LiveNation’s North Central Region, says of the full-album trend. “You hear songs you’ve never heard before, that third or fourth album cut you and your roommates listened to every day and Friday at 5 to start the weekend. It takes a little of the mystery out of (the shows), but there’s definitely some marketing appeal.”

Booking agent Troy Blakely of Agency For the Performing Arts (APA) also thinks the trend is “a great idea” that works for both original fans of the bands as well as new generations that have been turned on to them by “Guitar Hero,” “Rock Band” and other video and Internet portals.

“People that like these bands in general like the body of work,” Blakely explains. “They’ve listened to the whole albums. They’re very familiar with everything, not just the cuts or singles that got played °t ,

on radio. It gives people a chance to hear something and see something they otherwise wouldn’t.”

Bands have, in fact, been playing albums in their front-to-back entirety for four decades — though not with the current frequency. The Who, for instance, performed its rock operas “Tommy” in 1969-70 and “Quadrophenia” in 1973-74, while guitarist Pete Townshend took his “Psychoderelict” on the road in 1993. Pink Floyd began playing entire albums with “Dark Side of the Moon” in 1972, and the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson recreated the band’s classic “Pet Sounds” and the unearthed “SMiLE” earlier this decade.

Others rolling out entire albums live in recent years have included Slayer (“Reign in Blood”), the Lemonheads (“It’s a Shame About Ray”), Van Morrison (“Astral Weeks”), Queensryche (its two “Operation: Mindcrime” releases), Stryper (“The Yellow and Black Attack” and “Soldiers Under Command”) and Testament (“The Legacy” and “The New Order”). Cheap Trick, Wilco and Lucinda Williams have done residencies during which they performed a different album each night, while Bruce Springsteen revisited 1975’s “Born to Run” and 1978’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town” at a May 2008 benefit in Red Bank, N.J.

“It gives the fans something special,” says Testament’s Eric Peterson. “If you’re a band that’s lucky enough to have a ‘classic’ kind of album, it’s fun to play the whole thing and get into stuff you haven’t played in years — or maybe never played at all.”

And, Peterson adds, “We’re all better musicians now, so the stuff just sounds that much better.”

Judas Priest feels much the same way about playing “British Steel,” and getting beyond hit tracks such as “Living After Midnight” and “Breaking the Law.”

“I can’t wait to belt those songs out and look at everybody’s faces,” says Priest frontman Rob Halford. “Priest has always tried to go to places we’ve never visited, and that’ll be certainly the case with playing (all of) ‘British Steel’ — and what better place to do it than in America, which is where ‘British Steel’ really solidified the band’s solid fan base throughout the entire nation.

“ ‘British Steel’ obviously means a lot to everybody in Priest. This (tour) is something we’re really excited about.”

Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx says his band is equally stoked about airing more obscure tracks from the “Dr. Feelgood” set. “There’s some stuff ... like ‘Sticky Sweet’ and ‘Slice of Your Pie’ and ‘She Goes Down’ — there’s some cool stuff in there,” says Sixx. “Forget about the fans; we can’t wait to hear ’em, either.”

Judas Priest, who headlined last year’s “Masters of Metal” tour, and Motley Crue are also finding that spotlighting entire albums also provides a hook that allows them to return to cities just a year after their last visit.

“The way the market is with the financial climate and everything, we needed to do something a little different, have some kind of little gimmick or something to try to sell tickets,” says band manager Jayne Andrews. “We initially said ‘How about doing one show and filming it,’ and the band said, ‘Well, why don’t we do a whole tour?’ ”

And, adds LiveNation’s Dave Clark, there’s also nothing wrong with giving fans something they’ll enjoy.

“It’s fun — the familiarity, hearing the classic albums like that,” Clark says. “So many bands put out new albums and that’s really what the show’s about, and then the greatest hits come in the encore.

"Now artists are embracing the fact their fans want to hear certain things. It speaks volumes of what it means for an artist to write a great album and also embrace it in a live performance.”

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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