Are Classic Rock Bands 'Idiots' for Playing New Songs Live?

According to Twisted Sister's Jay Jay French, "no one cares" about new songs from old bands.

Ultimate Guitar

If you're going to see a classic rock band, it's fair to say that you're probably in attendance to hear the old stuff. Still, many vintage acts on the road continue to write and record new songs and often feature newer material in their set alongside the classics.

One band you shouldn't expect to hear any new stuff from, though, is Twisted Sister. In a new interview with Goldmine (via Ultimate Classic Rock), guitarist Jay Jay French has slammed groups that perform recent material, or change the arrangements on their greatest hits:

"[L]et's be honest. Any classic band that releases a new record is an idiot for playing it. I mean, they can justify it all they want but no one cares. Let me tell you, you're a bunch of stupid fools if you think that anyone gives a shit. They don't. They say they do but they don't. Which is why most of these classic bands make a new album, go out on a tour, start out with five songs from the new record, after a few weeks there are two songs and then they just want to play that one new song and get it over with. Because no one knows it and no one gives a shit about it, and they're delusional to think they do."

He continues: "Another delusional thing is, 'let's alter the arrangements and be hip.' No one gives a shit about that, either. If you're a great entertainer, you'll give them exactly what they want to hear, exactly how they want to hear it. That's what great entertainers do. Idiot entertainers don't do that."

So we're not entirely on board with French on this one. Sure, we like to hear a band's classic hits, but there are classic rock bands out there that are still putting out great new records. We didn't hear anyone complaining, for example, when Rush played "Clockwork Angels" on tour a couple years back.

What do you think? Should bands just shut up and play the hits? Or are you up for hearing some new stuff? Let us know in the comments.

102 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Well, I guess if you're in Twisted Sister and have only released two or three songs anyone knows, then yeah. But then you get bands like Rush who just keep releasing absolutely top-fucking-notch shit almost 40 years into their career and the fans are almost begging them not to play "Tom Sawyer" for the krillionth time.
    kill it
    This is probably one of the reasons Nikki Sixx folded Motley Crue and went on with SiXX AM. Motley Crue were stuck playing songs they wrote 30 years ago and nobody cared about new material. With Sixx AM he can write new music and play it live for receptive fans.
    Look at Bowie. A classic artist who released one of his best albums two days before he dies. Classic artists can still put out classic albums if they put the effort in.
    It really shows what artists are able to grow and adapt over the course of decades rather than get mentally trapped in whatever time period they started in.
    yeah but he died, unfortunately iconic artists material tends to shoot up the charts due to untimely death
    Yeah but blackstar was getting crazy good reviews from fans and critics before it happened.
    if you're in music industry because of the money, then you do what your fans want to do. If you're in music industry because of music, then you do what you want to do. King Crimson, for example, until recently, when they went on tour, they would play the songs from the last album + a few oldies for the encore. But i guess that prog and hairy glam metal are different
    Yeah I think it's more about bands who had a ton of radio hits. I imagine he's talking about Def Leppard or Van Halen or someone similar, where they have a lot of casual fans who only know them from listening to the radio in the 80s and 90s.
    For a band like Twisted Sister this might be true, but fortunately there are other classic bands that pull off successful albums and playing them live, like Black Sabbath for example
    i mean what do you expect from a band, whose last album is titled "A Twisted Christmas"? And the last album of all-original material was released in 1987?
    No. People who expect to only hear the same songs over and over are idiots. If you want to do that, play the fucking album on repeat at home and let the actual fans enjoy the show. And I'm sick of good bands bending to the pressure and playing only the overplayed, boring songs over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and fucking over again for 20 years and letting plenty of brilliant tracks remain under a layer of dust because they didn't manage to enter "it's popular because it's popular because it's popular" cycle. And on that note, enormous respect to awesome bands like Dream Theater who have the balls to have an entirely different set every tour with a mix of popular songs and stuff they played like once 15 years ago. Which is why they're just as enjoyable to watch the sixth time as they are the first.
    You still believe that the music industry is Wonderland But I can understand your point of view too bro !
    Nah, it's far from Wonderland. I'd just be glad if dumb people didn't decide what bands do just because they scream the loudest. (Admittedly I'm a bit amused by my own rant, though. :p )
    It's not about screaming, it's all about cash man ! Sorry but those people aren't simple guys jamming in a garage, they're professional, and what doesn't bring money is useless ... It's a pity but it's true
    What a cockhead, why would older rock bands be forbidden from evolving their sound and/or releasing new stuff? If they're proud of their new stuff they should be allowed to show it, the second you play solely for what the fans want is when artistic integrity dies.
    It's not about forbidding. Whilst his expression is incendiary he's actually talking from a financial/legacy perspective. And let's be real here, even if the modern material is good (which is rare to be frank) it's not the most financially viable thing unless you're still an absolutely massive band that still contends with the Katy Perry's of the world. The deck is stacked against the old timers, without question the most profit they can gain is by just doing their old songs. And from a performance perspective it's probably more enjoyable for them and the crowd. I hate that moment when - even if the new song is good - the crowd just loses interest and just kind of bears through it until an old song comes back around. The amount of people who go to shows to hear the old stuff will always vastly outnumber that one guy who is their for everything. That's just how it goes sadly
    My point is that he said that you have to compromise yourself over what the fans want though, which is never a healthy mindset in my opinion. And in the case of the bands he's referring to I don't even think it's a financial necessity to get into that mindset since most of them are set for life anyways.
    I don't think you understand just how hard a lot of those older bands got screwed by the contracts they signed when they were writing their 'classic' material, and how little financial security they actually derived from it.
    I can't say he is entirely wrong, because he is not. But he can't blame other bands for trying. A band like Europe could easily prove him wrong. The new stuff they do, their 'heavy blues rock' is great and the fans dig it really and their sound is now light years away from their 'classic sound' from the 80's. Is it a problem ? Absolutly not. Just because this fool failed doesn't mean others won't succeed. Creativity is the essence of a band. That's what musicians do, they create. And if the fans don't care, it's fine, you can also create for yourself, your well being, for your very own pleasure, and last but not least for the couple of fans who care even if they aren't the majority of fans. He is the idiot IMO.
    I saw Europe live last year, their new songs were actually better to listen to than the old ones, the set just sounded fresh. I was almost disappointed to hear "The Final Countdown" as their encore, strange as it might seem
    Can't agree more. Europe has made really great albums the last 5-10 years.
    "Another delusional thing is, 'let's alter the arrangements and be hip.' No one gives a shit about that, either. If you're a great entertainer, you'll give them exactly what they want to hear, exactly how they want to hear it. That's what great entertainers do. Idiot entertainers don't do that." Uhm, I'm sorry, but when I go to see a band play live, especially with Deep Purple, I WANT to hear the songs arranged differently than on the record. If I want to hear the band play their songs so they sound like they do on the album, I will put on the fucking album, not spend 100$ on a concert ticket...
    I feel like UG focuses on old bands way too much. There are so many good new indie bands out there making waves on all sorts of music websites, such as Unknown Mortal Orchestra (psychedelic rock), Metz (an actual punk band in 2016?), and especially bands in their prime such as Animal Collective. Why reminisce on bands that were in their prime during the 1970s? Why not just witness potential legends of now? Yes, the classics are important, but the longer I'm in this website the more it becomes apparent it's full of kids who were born in the "wrong generation".
    I saw Twisted Sister a couple years back and it was horrible watching Dee shit on the bands who played before him, even their shitty two hits couldn't save that show.
    What bands were those? When was that? I really doubt Dee shat over those bands, unless something really odd happened.
    Queensryche and Anthrax, 2013 and the whole show he kept going off saying that these bands didn't have to work as hard as he and the TS boys did, and he continued to tell the audience that the previous bands didn't put on a good enough show.
    There should be a reason for that. Really, I don't see Dee doing that for no reason.
    I can't agree with French. His point of view may be kind of true but also kind of dumb.
    You hear songs based on what tour a band is on. If Metallica releases an album called Death- whatever, then goes on their Ride of Death tour, you're gonna hear several of their newer songs. Bands tour in support of their albums. If you catch them on their Rewinding Time tour, you will hear lots of their older songs. You should know as a viewer what show you are gonna see. I think considering most classic bands put out albums after long breaks, there is plenty of time for them to tour for their newest album, then tour playing the hits. Just my thoughts.
    Yeah, people who love the classic bands have usually seen them a bunch of times already and are more up for hearing the newer stuff I think. It's all about balance - open with the newer stuff, close with the older stuff, that would please most. I'd rather see a band be really into playing what they want than them churning out the hits whilst wishing they were dead.
    Exactly. REAL fans don't want to hear the Enter Sandman's, Living After Midnights, and Number of the Beasts anymore. They want the deep album cuts, songs showing the bands REAL essence. Singles are a means to an end.
    Very simple. Are they releasing new albums frequently? Are people buying them? Are they used to hearing about new releases? If so, then why shouldn't the classic rock band be playing those damn songs? It's likely the fans will expect them to do so anyway, and a few new songs on a full concert is not a night ruiner. I mean sure, the band should gauge expectations in the audience if they want those tickets to keep selling. But to claim the fans aren't gonna accept new stuff just because IS the disservice to the fans.
    I lose a lot of respect for bands that do that. Metallica are one of my favorite bands but their setlists have gotten so stale. There was a period last year where across 30 different gigs they only played 22 different songs. It's boring! Even the bands themselves get bored of it, I bet. There's a video on Metallica's YouTube channel where Kirk gets a little mad and starts yelling because he thought he'd get to play Unforgiven 2 but The By Request vote was for One instead.
    Same with AC/DC, they have played the same setlist since 2009. What point is it to go see them again if it's the same exact show but they're another few years older and don't sound as good? Glad Axl got them to break out a few rarities.
    Maybe it's different because I'm from Australia and Metallica doesn't come here often; but they had surprisingly fresh setlists whenever they come here. They even play a few different songs at different shows on the same tour. Granted it's not as great variety as a band like dream theater, but I was pretty impressed with the variety and range of stuff Metallica played when they came here :shrug: Granted, I can understand getting a bit sick of the classics like enter sandman which is played at like every gig...
    Learn from Iron Maiden. Bad example - Metallica. I love both bands.
    Death Magnetic and Beyond Magnetic are good albums.
    I totally agree. But I was talking about live setlists of Metallica, always the same songs, nothing new.
    hmm, dont know about that, last few times I've seen them they played one or 2 songs of Death Magnetic and Lords of Summer (along with old stuff - they dont talk about St Anger), and thats fine by me, I never was a massive fan post AJFA, Black album is ok but played to fucking death.
    Good example.....Dee went off on Iron Maiden for releasing new material and not touring just the classics. Yet the last IM disk is amazing. I think it comes to Twisted Sister has very little talent, had one, maybe 2 "successful" records that was it.
    Twisted Sister are/were a good live act, and it never came across on studio records. Dee worked the crowd, and the band provided a good support for him.
    I don't know about other markets, but here in Denver, there aren't any radio stations that will play new music from classic bands, no matter how good it is. You have the classic rock stations, and there is one that plays new metal stuff, but nothing for straight up rock. So instead of hearing something new and thinking "Hey, that's good, I think I'll get the album", you have to search for new stuff; there's a difference. I like to hear new stuff from old bands; and I get that they're trying to make an income, but if you're an artist, you have to create, right?
    That's the format. Almost no rock bands have more than a 3-4 chain of classic albums. So, after that phase, the albums are for the existing fans only. Radio is about the mainstream, many of which just want to hear hits. Only a small percentage of music listeners are music fans/collectors. Noone discovers Deep Purple through "Now What?!" or Iron Maiden through "Final Frontier".
    Wait we have metal stations? Seriously? I just moved to Boulder a few months ago, don't really listen to radio that much but when I did in DC there was NO hard rock or heavy metal going on.
    I think is very sad and pathetic when the bands get stuck in one or two hits... it's just sad...
    I get bored of bands who play the same thing day in day out, sure sometimes when they change it up they may play a song I'm less familiar with but that's what I enjoy, discovering songs in a live setting that I might not necessarily have gotten into on record, plus it makes each set feel unique and thus, much more exciting, rather than a band touring the exact same setlist throughout 100 different venues.
    as fred durst said in an interview "we aint playing new shit, people only wanna hear break stuff"
    I'm getting quite tired of ''classic'' acts putting out new albums just to tour with the same old stuff again. I'll go to their show once and that's it - but I guess playing a best-of-set every evening for 20 years is a more secure way to get your money than just try and not fuck up your new stuff, huh? Have a poll for people to vote whether they want new songs or not. If they wouldn't want new songs, no one would buy the records.
    I'm not sure I can take this argument seriously from someone who literally re-recorded an entire album and sold it to their fans as part of a reunion.
    Sounds like a bunch of projecting. Oh wait, that's not right, they have no new stuff at all.
    I have to disagree with French on this one. An example is Toto. They are considered a classic act, and their prime was in the 80's. But they are still making new music and touring. I saw them a couple months ago, and the fans wanted to hear the new music, and they delivered. Of course they played the classics too, but having a mix of the old and the new and the rare tunes really makes a good experience. The problem is when your latest studio album came out in 1987, and you are living on a handful of songs in over 30 years of touring. Of course you need to play the old songs, you don't have any new!
    I understand the point (and yeah, not many people would be thrilled to hear the Stones or McCartney play a set dominated by their recent stuff, to say nothing of everyone else), but the most satisfying setlists for fans are probably ones that have the hits but also throw in deep cuts and such every so often. Despite age and mental illness, Brian Wilson's sets tend to have that balance (while Mike Love is all about the corny hits). Tom Petty also does this well, and arguably so does Bob Dylan (although he mumbles through everything so it all sounds the same anyway). Funny he'd be so angry, since he seems to be promoting the attitude of bands that auto-pilot through their hits, and would dislike bands that actually put in the effort to rotate in deep cuts, newer tunes, and covers every so often. wouldn't fans always prefer the second way, as long as the hits are still played? pfft.
    BIG time disagree. If the "vintage" band is still honestly writing new material, IE, quality material, I EXPECT them to play it on the supporting tour. If THEY don't believe in it, why should we? For bands whose newer albums are more placeholders, adding just one song to the setlist makes more sense.
    Sorry to say I can't agree with the dude. The Screaming Jets are a good example against his comment: everyone hangs out for them to play 'Better' for sure, but their new shit is god damned phenomenal and getting wild praise in Australia. Try again Jay.
    Just give me the gold medal already.
    Absolutely true, when you consider the bunch of shit that are every new materiel from Scorpions to Metallica - Iron Maiden - AC/DC etc. Absolutely nothing innovative wich disappear in a few month from the shows tracklists. I mean ... such bands haven't anything to prove anymore ... so why would they make out a new album again and again, doing even more farewell tour
    Iron Maiden has just been getting better and better since Bruce and Adrian came back though
    I would argue that they peaked with a matter of life and death
    Totally agree on this BUT this came out 10 years ago now ! Then (and that's only my own POV) they're getting down since then... wouldn't even talk about this damn Book of Souls.
    No, because they never signed a contract that says "if you get famous in the 70s and 80s you are not allowed to play songs that have been written later"
    Totally Kyle
    Not just classic bands, but even when you go and see Limp Bizkit/Alient Ant Farm etc., you wanna hear Rollin'/Movies/Smooth Criminal, not the Golden Cobra album and so on lol.
    Really, as long as the new material is good people will want to hear it. I saw Megadeth not too long ago and wanted to hear the new songs off of Dystopia.
    I think bands should mix up setlists. Sure, play big hits, but not all every show. Rotate the hits each night and dig deep with the rest of the set. Who cares if they occasionally sound a bit rusty on a song because they're not constantly repeating it.
    I remember a few years ago, Manowar came to play in my city, and at that time, they were doing only newer songs. People hated that. So OK, some people are into the newer stuff, but most are not. You can take any "big bands" like Metallica: from a 20 songs setlist, how many are from their past, let's say, 3 records? And how many are from their first 3 records? It's clear to me that Jay Jays says that because he doesn't want to make music, if he did, he'd be doing it either if he would or would not play it live. But I also understand that some bands want to make music, so they should go and do it. Just don't expect everybody to be super excited about it, but go and do it anyway.
    I think he's somewhat right but it's not a problem with the bands but the type of music and age of the audience, Aerosmith and Bon Jovi were making huge new hits in the 90s and they had been around since the 70s and 80s, as well as Madonna was still pretty relevant in the 2000s, someone gotta accept that older music is not as appealing as is used to be to younger audiences and older audiences maybe won't care about new songs, and you can't expect kids to relate to guys in his 50s and 60s. I wouldn't call them idiots though they are musicians and they want their new songs to be heard.
    disagree. If the new material is good then they should play it. for instance I really liked the 2 recent albums Kiss did and wish they'd play more tracks from them. sure they still have to play Rock and Roll All Nite and some of their other hits but there is room in the set for new material as well. a few bands have put out good albums and they should be proud of them.
    jacquelynwallace44 · May 30, 2016 10:35 PM
    I agree with previous posters about looking at Iron Maiden as a positive example. I saw them on tour for the Book of Souls Tour and set included half the new album. First time I saw Maiden was the Matter of Life and Death Tour and they played the entire album start to finish, took a break and came back to play the classics.
    Nero Galon
    I remember Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem talking about how he as a HUGE Bob Dylan fan went to a show of his where he completely rearranged every song he played to the point they were almost unrecognisable. Brian even admitted to walking out early because of it.
    rush is the only exception to the rule with older bands. Their new stuff is always amazing