May 2015: Classic Rock Month in Review
Our May 2015: Classic Rock Month in Review begins with a continuation of a story from April: David Lee Roth responded to Sammy Hagar's criticisms of a new live Van Halen album with shots of his own. And then Hagar returned the fire. Elsewhere, a Who concert was briefly stopped when Roger Daltrey got a whiff of some sweet leaf, we got the first taste of Steven Tyler's still-unreleased country album, Rush launched what may be their last major tour and classic rockers paid tribute to a late-night talk show legend. B.B. King, one of the most important blues guitarists ever, also passed away, and, finally, we take a look at the month's new music releases.
Six weeks after Sammy Hagar criticized the vocals on Van Halen'sTokyo Dome Live in Concert, David Lee Roth returned the favor, saying a "credibility issue" is why Van Halen won't play Hagar-era songs anymore. “Good, bad or in the middle, you know Roth means it; the other guy doesn’t," he said, not even mentioning Hagar's name. "And that’s why it sold half as well. ... This hamburger don’t need no helper. Ain’t no rehearsing pants in my closet.” Hagar laughed it off: "Sometimes the guy says the wackiest things. But there’s a lot of truth in that. A quality issue, you think about that. Think about them with Diamond, singing this next song, it would definitely be a quality issue, okay? It would definitely be a quality issue.”
While toking up at a concert is a time-honored tradition for many classic-rock fans, it might not be a good idea to try it if you have good seats at a Who concert. Roger Daltrey, who is allergic to marijuana smoke, threatened to stop a show at Long Island's Nassau Coliseum unless someone near the stage stopped smoking, claiming that weed affects his voice. Fortunately, the fan complied and the performance continued as planned.
After teasing fans for more than six months, the first fruit from Steven Tyler's country album, and solo debut, "Love Is Your Name," saw the light of day. The Aerosmith singer promoted the song by making high-profile TV appearances on American Idol, CBS This Morning and Entertainment Tonight, as well as numerous country radio stations. "Love Is Your Name" reached the Top 20 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. The album is due sometime in 2016.
Rush's R40 Live, which they say is most likely the last full-scale tour they will undertake, began in Tulsa. The show was designed to bring the group's history full-circle, featuring a set list unspooling in more-or-less reverse chronological order, a pre-performance video that contained numerous in-jokes and references and stage design that changed to correspond with each song's era. In November, Rush commemorated the tour by releasing R40 Live, a CD/DVD compilation of the two shows they performed at Toronto's Air Canada Centre.
As David Letterman wound down his 33-year career as a late-night talk-show host, many of his favorite classic rockers stopped by to pay tribute. Tom Waits, who rarely appears on television, performed a new song called "Take One Last Look," and Elvis Costello marked his 27th spot on the show with a medley of Rockpile's "When I Write the Book" and his own "Everyday I Write the Book." On the final two shows, Bob Dylan stopped by to sing the standard “The Night We Called It a Day,” and Letterman asked Foo Fighters to close out his last broadcast with "Everlong," a favorite of Letterman's and his son. Meanwhile, musical companion Paul Shaffer recalled his favorite musical moments from the show's history, and we took a detailed look at Letterman's friendship with Warren Zevon.
B.B. King, who influenced virtually every blues-based rock guitarist (many of whom he worked with), died on May 14 at the age of 89 after a series of small strokes. King's last few days were beset by controversy, as some of his children accused his business manager of elder abuse, fraud and even murder. All of the allegations were eventually proven to be unfounded.
May 2015 was a big month for lovers of progressive rock and music with prog leanings, with reissues of classic albums by Jethro Tull (Minstrel in the Gallery) and Rush (Hemispheres) landing alongside new concert recordings by Jeff Beck (Live+), Santana and, in a 14-CD compilation, Yes. In addition, Styx put their entire A&M catalog into one vinyl box, and Sammy Hagar and the Circle gave us the live At Your Service.