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Revival instinct can't be indulged at cost of new music

Last weekend, as you'll know if you read my review in Monday's paper – or be heartily sick of hearing about if you have actually spoken to me during the past seven days – I was in London to bear witness to the reunion of a band I loved in my teens.

It was a capitulation to the passing of the years and I enjoyed every minute of it.

You may be one of many people who have never heard of Family, who last played together in 1973, but the two nights at Shepherd's Bush Empire were packed to the gunwales, and the music they revived was superbly played and great to hear again. Many of the audience around me were as ecstatic about the nostalgia trip as I. Some had brought tolerant partners and some had brought dancing partners as excited as they were. More than a few had brought inquisitive offspring. I attended the after-show party and met them. I was nearly as beside myself as my 15-year-old self would have been.

That all represents as bit a volte-face, however, as I have been wont to bemoan the takeover of the mainstages of the rock and pop circuit by people who would have been pleased to get a chicken-in-a-basket club date not so very long ago. I can justify my revisionism, of course. This reunion was a one-off (although they all say that when band members bury the hatchet and climb back on stage together again, and then change their minds if there is a healthy Indian summer living to be made) and those of us who loved Family back in the day feel they never got the adoration they deserved then, and have the critical back-up endorsing that view. (If they no longer have the yellowing press-cuttings, they are available as an added extra in a very handsome new boxed edition of the group's entire recorded works, Once Upon A Time.) About Family I am less than rational.

I recognise, though, that my misgivings are justifiable. The display advertising on the entertainment pages of the Evening Standard I picked up on arrival in London last Friday is for gigs by (deep breath) Santana, Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons, Chris de Burgh, Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson, James Last ("The Last Tour 2013, One More Time"), The Specials, Dexy's (formerly Midnight Runners), the Jacksons and (with apologies to them both) oor ain Barbara Dickson and Deacon Blue's Ricky Ross. Not to mention Smashing Pumpkins, who I thought had called it a day in 2000.

The only truly contemporary group on the whole spread of ads is Foals (whose third album will be reviewed in Wednesday's Herald). Somewhat remarkably, they appear to be capable of filling the Albert Hall twice over on the same day, but the faith being shown in them by SJM Concerts and the Royal Albert Hall is almost as remarkable. Promoters, and indeed record labels, seem increasingly unwilling to take a risk on new acts when they can instead indulge the public taste for the familiar, even when the artists have done nothing of any worth since their heyday.

That observation applies as much to those whose success was just a decade ago as much as those whose careers began in the 1960s and 1970s.

The line-up for the Rewind festival, which takes place at Henley in England and Scone in Scotland each summer, features increasingly obscure acts from the past as the nostalgia market expands and the bigger older names can tour in their own right. So while it is an achievement for Jake Bugg (a new name peddling an old sound) to have made the transition from Glasgow's King Tut's to the O2 Academy in just a few months, it is one diminished by the fact that reformed rock groups of the 1970s and 1980s have recently, and more bafflingly, managed the same trick. It's understandable to carry a torch for the loves of your youth, but that can't be at the expense of the new music of today.

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