As the icons of music get older, we can’t blame them if they want to take their achievements and disappear from the limelight, but considering how huge a moment it can be for us to see one of our music heroes playing in person, we’re glad when they carry on playing for their new generations of fans – providing, of course, they still have what it it takes.
The bigger the legacy, the higher the pressure to live up to it live onstage, and we can all name a few bands who probably should have called it quits rather than carrying the name on with just the original keyboardist. The names on this list, however, shouldn’t stop playing any time soon, as they’re still at the peak of their powers and managing to give absolute masterclasses every time they step on the stage.
This list could have been 100 names long, and these are just a few of the standouts when it comes to era-defining artists who have not only continued to perform into their seventies, but manage to do as great a job or better as they ever did.
The Godfather of funk, George Clinton defined an entire genre in the ’70s with his bands Parliament and Funkadelic, and is still going strong to this day as he heads to our shores to play two shows in Australia this week.
Already a music legend by the ’80s, his signature ‘P-Funk’ sound got picked up by hip hop legends like Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg in the ’90s, and its samples defined the entire ‘G-Funk’ era of hip hop.
In recent years he’s still been making music with everyone from Kendrick Lamar to Flying Lotus, and the 76-year-old looks as strong as ever leading the current lineup of Parliament-Funkadelic, giving seriously energetic performances.
Aussies will have the chance to see him this week when he and Parliament-Funkadelic play Melbourne on Wednesday the 27th and Sydney on the 28th – check out their awesome work below.
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Young bands like Slotface still mention punk icon Patti Smith in their lyrics, and for good reason: she basically defined an era of music with her seminal debut album Horses, and the poetic quality of her work has only come to the fore even more in the softer work of her later career.
Punk is often seen as an energy that burns brightly and swiftly peters out, but Smith carries that spirit through into her ’70s in the sort of genuine way that few former rebels can maintain.
She sadly played her last ever Australian shows at Bluesfest and its sideshow this year, joined by Courtney Barnett, but anyone who has the opportunity to see her live on their travels should take the chance to see what true punk really looks like.
While people are always wondering how on earth Keith Richards is still alive, his Rolling Stones bandmate is atill astounding people with his relentless energy as he bounds and struts across the stage with the same ferocity he did half a century ago.
The guy clearly takes care of himself, and whatever combination of yoga, pilates and stretching he gets around has kept him super limber for a 74-year-old – or considering he’s still having kids, maybe it’s something else keeping him young…
Mick’s voice still sounds pretty damn good too, and unlike some other legendary musicians from his era who look as if they’d rather be anywhere else, he still seems excited to be out there fronting the band and running through their long setlist of classics.
One of the all-time great singers, Aretha Franklin’s voice has a huge legacy to live up to, and we might reasonably expect her to falter slightly at the age of 75.
Her performances in recent years, however, have been as assured and spinge-tingling as ever, and her performance of ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ at the Kennedy Centre Honors in 2015 – sung in honour of Carole King – brought the audience to their feet and President Barack Obama to tears.
Carole King’s reactions throughout say it all – Aretha Franklin is, and will forever be, one of the all-time greats.
In the middle of an Australian tour right now, the pop rock icon sounds as incredible as he ever did behind the piano, and while his sets on this tour have been on the shorter side of what we’d expect, what he does deliver has been brilliant.
Always a high-energy performer, he isn’t content to just perch on his piano stool and let his flashy outfits do the talking, and is still seriously great to watch, lurching through classics like ‘Benny And The Jets’ (ssssss) with as much exuberance as he ever did.
Pianist, composer and bandleader, the 77-year-old jazz icon has seen continued success throughout his long career, following his string of hits throughout the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s with an album of the year Grammy in 2008 – only the second jazz album to ever win the award.
It was one of 14 Grammys he’s managed to win so far, and with continued work with the likes of Flying Lotus and Kanye West, he’s not done creating just yet.
Onstage, he and his band are still amazing to witness, giving a masterclass in jazz with every show, and even some awesome keytar – one to pencil in firmly at the top of the bucket list for anyone who has even a passing interest in the world of jazz.
We’ve waited a long time for Paul McCartney to return to Australia – 24 years to be exact – and he’ll be a lot older than the last time most Aussies would have seen him live.
It doesn’t matter a bit, though, as he gives one of the best live shows on the planet, running through a long list of solo and Beatles hits as he jumps from guitar to bass to piano.
Quite often he literally runs and jumps, and manages to fall over in the process, so we’re hoping the 75-year-old doesn’t bust his leg one of these days like many younger rockers have managed in recent years.
We’re grateful for the energy though, and his voice, while not as wonderfully strong and rich as it was in his prime, still manages to do a fine job on all but the highest notes.
Also making his way to Australia early next year for the new Crossroads Blues festival, the 81-year-old blues legend sounds as great as ever, whether he’s singing or playing the guitar.
Eric Clapton once described him as “the best guitar player alive”, and even years down the track he’s still genuinely one of the greatest guitarists walking the face of the earth. With over eight decades of experience in the art of living, perhaps he’s better than ever.
Speaking of Carole King and her Kennedy Centre honours, she well-and-truly makes this list too, as she’s the most successful female songwriter of the last half-century and at 75 years old still an amazing performer to watch live.
With four Grammys under her belt, an iconic album in ‘Tapestry’, and inductions into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it’d be easy for her to rest on her laurels at this point, but she always looks as happy as ever to be onstage.
The legendary electronic pioneer wasn’t content to fade into the history books as electronic music continued its rise to dominance, and Giorgio found a whole new audience in 2013 when he appeared on Daft Punk’s return LP Random Access Memories.
With a newfound popularity, he decided to take up DJing for the first time, and at 77 years of age is now playing festivals like Coachella and a range of big club dates.
While he’s not exactly singing and shredding a guitar, being able to curate bangers for a dancefloor packed with people close to a quarter of your age is an impressive feat, and he looks like he’s having a great time doing it, making him one of the best DJs we’ve seen recently, of any age.
George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic Australian tour 2017
Melbourne, Palais Theatre
Wednesday September 27
Sydney, Max Watt’s
Thursday September 28