It’s old rock’n’roll but I really like it

By Joe Joseph, June 4, 2009
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Forget all those creams. Stop swallowing that snake oil. Refuse those facelifts that stretch you so tight you end up with your forehead covered in ankle skin. You want a youth elixir? Go to a concert given by a superstar who made their name in the 1960s.

I have just been to see Eric Clapton at the Royal Albert Hall (yes, fabulous, thank you) and I was the youngest person in the audience by maybe 20 years (and I’m not so young that I can’t remember a time when Michael Jackson’s face wasn’t the colour of cream cheese).

Believe me, it makes you feel like a teenager in comparison.

When you’re young you assume that you’ll grow out of rock music just like you once grew out of short trousers, and that your tastes will progress, as your hair turns greyer, to Frank Sinatra, and then later to Mozart.

But then you realise that you can enjoy listening to oldies like Sinatra and Mozart at the same time as you’re buying albums by the Beatles and Clapton.

So why shouldn’t Jagger and Dylan and Clapton continue to perform for you into their (and your) old age, just like Sinatra did before them?

And frankly it’s lucky that Clapton’s audience ages with him, because teenagers couldn’t afford the ticket prices, or the cost of a concert programme.

But it does mean that the atmosphere in the stalls is not what you remember it being. When you are young, half the audience is so high they can’t remember their own names.

When you go to a concert by a star of the sixties, most of the ageing audience won’t even drink coffee during the interval because they’re worried it might keep them awake all night.

At the Royal Albert Hall, everyone was too tired after a long day’s work (or else didn’t trust their knee joints) to dance. When two young women stood up during the encore and began dancing, people stared at them like they were showing off their suppleness.

This is not what concert-going used to be like when you were a student. And you know what? I kind of liked it. Great music. Tunes you recognised. Comfortable seats. Nobody standing up and gyrating and blocking your view. A show that starts and ends exactly when it says on the ticket. Taxis available outside to take you home afterwards.

I tell you… this growing older business is not as grim as it is painted.

Joe Joseph is a writer for The Times

    Last updated: 12:00pm, June 4 2009