‘The Show Must Go On’: Why Tribute Bands Are Important

Written by Imogen Bebb 02/2020

Hello again! Welcome to the second instalment in my series of monthly blogs for Manoeuvres. It’s been a busy month so far here in Chester, what with celebrating the fact I am now of an age where I can drink legally in America (how useful) and keeping to various university deadlines (definitely useful if I want to get my degree…). 

I had the privilege of supporting Manoeuvres again at the Hoylake 632 3003 fundraiser event on 8th February too; alternative rock band Weimar also played, and as ever Manoeuvres themselves went down a storm, particularly when they played some new additions to their set like ‘Punishment of Luxury’ & ‘Genetic Engineering’. 

In fact, much of what you are about to read (or glance vaguely in the direction of, depending on how engaging you’re finding this so far), is based on observations made at that gig in Hoylake – one of which in particular led to a little something you might call ‘existential theorising’ (or ‘thinking about stuff’ for those of you less precociously-minded than I seem to have become since I turned twenty one). 

That particular observation was this – if OMD are still touring, and releasing new music, and generally remaining very much active as a band, why is it that Manoeuvres are not only popular, but very much gaining momentum in their capacity as a tribute act?

orchestral manoeuvres in the dark tribute

Manoeuvres, Rewind South 2019

Part of the answer to this can be found by taking Manoeuvres’ setlist into consideration; the fact that they play some more obscure album tracks which OMD themselves haven’t played live for years (or indeed have never played live) is a huge attraction for the more ‘hardcore’ fans, or even just those who want to hear more than the singles every so often. 

Even if that was all people wanted to hear, obviously OMD cannot be on tour all the time. Manoeuvres gigs therefore also act as a bit of a stopgap when the band aren’t on the road, and give fans a chance to meet up throughout the year while also being guaranteed a night of good music. 

Also, it is obvious from the outset that Barry and Sarah do what they do because they love OMD’s music and are passionate about their performance. This passion really comes through when they play, and in my opinion contributes a lot to the authenticity and enjoyability of their sets. 

(And no, I haven’t been paid extra to say any of those things!)

Barry, Manoeuvres 2019

What about tribute bands in general, then? Why are they still relevant in this day and age?

One argument here is that not all music fans are lucky enough to have their favourite artists still touring or releasing new music – or even still be alive! If you want to hear Bowie songs performed live nowadays for example, tribute acts are your only option. 

Furthermore, even if the original musicians are still alive that doesn’t necessarily mean they are still touring or performing in the same way.

A prime example of this is Depeche Mode, whose musical trajectory over the years is often a contentious issue even amongst the most devoted fans. Their early material bears little resemblance to their later releases, and a result if you want to hear more than a handful of songs from the band’s first few albums then a tribute band will certainly be your best bet. 

Also, in keeping with their bigger, more industrial sound, Depeche are a stadium-only band nowadays, and so no matter how much you love the music, tickets for those types of gigs are expensive. Again, for many fans this is where a tribute band are the solution – if they want to hear the songs played live, in an intimate venue, with a zero knocked off the ‘real’ band’s ticket price then they’re sorted.

At the other end of the scale are tribute bands that themselves play larger venues or stadiums, such as The Australian Pink Floyd Show (or simply ‘Australian Pink Floyd’) who formed in 1988 and still sell out gigs worldwide.

As Pink Floyd no longer exist as a band, never mind tour, this does make sense in a way, as the larger venues allow for things such as Floyd’s notorious light show to be showcased to its full melodramatic extent (more so perhaps than in a pub or small theatre), and having done some research into the tribute and reading just how “obsessed” they are with Pink Floyd’s music, it is no surprise that they want to get every little detail of the show just right. 

Let us return then, to my original speculations about the popularity of tribute bands. It is evident that the majority of these acts have been formed out of sheer adoration for the music of a particular artist and a desire to share this music with others. As a result, whether they are playing stadiums or social clubs, this is surely a vital part of the ongoing appeal that Manoeuvres and other successful tributes have, as it keeps them not only relevant, but also enjoyable to watch. 

Manoeuvres crowd, Rewind 2019

Of course, as with anything in music, these bands might not be everyone’s cup of tea; in the past I have seen people on social media declare themselves to be violently opposed to the mere idea of a tribute band, their reasoning being that the performance will not be valid because it is not the original band members. 

No, it’s not the original band on stage. But tribute bands who are good at what they do can still give you that ‘live gig’ fix. It could even be argued that if you love the songs themselves of a particular artist, to hear them played live in any capacity will be a good night out – perhaps even a memorable one.

Manoeuvres, Wirral Festival of First event 2019

I’ll leave you with that thought anyway. Thank you for reading if you’ve made it this far, and as ever don’t forget to check out Manoeuvres’ social media for news of their upcoming gigs and projects.

See you next month!

Written by Imogen Bebb 02/2020