Rock 'n' roll can be a fickle beast. It treats none with less regard than those confronting the universal bummer that is aging. Something so representative of youth, built as the perfect vehicle for young rebellion, it's at its absolute best when the most audacious.
Thus, rock 'n' roll is no easy game for those long in the tooth. Physical requirements aside, there is a certain attitude required for great rock music that seems to fade in people as they age. And that's fine; after all, there can be only one Iggy Pop, right?
Sting is sharing the BB&T Center stage with Paul Simon this week. And since Sting's descent into easy listening is particularly notable, we thought we'd take a look at the careers of the former Police frontman and four other British ex-rockers who invested in some later-life complacency.
Few rockers have done so much to ensure graceful aging as this guy. He has steadily navigated from the turbulent waters of British new wave to perfecting white reggae to a solo career rife with AM favorites like "Desert Rose" and other tracks seemingly composed with the waiting rooms of dental offices in mind.
However, Sting's coup de grâce, his final affront to rock 'n' roll, was his album of lute music, made without even a splinter of irony. We don't think we're out of line when we say that he has completely forsaken the rock 'n' roll spirit in his late career. That said, Sting is in good company.
4. Rod Stewart
There was a time when Rod Stewart was a hard-drinking soul shouter who used his golden pipes to narrate a slew of rock 'n' roll opuses while fronting the best iteration of the Jeff Beck Group and then the Faces.
Stewart was an integral part of early '70s rock glory, particularly with the Faces, a band that bred its brand of from-the-hip blues rock in a petri dish of booze, swagger, and adrenaline. Since the '80s, Stewart has slipped from the catchy pop-rock of "Young Turks" to singing jazz standards in a tuxedo. He's signed on to reunite with the remaining Faces in 2015, but we're not holding our breath after his failure to appear at the band's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
3. Mark Knopfler
No, Dire Straits were never exactly the hardest-rockin' band of their day. However, they did roll their blend of bluegrass pickin' and rock together with a cool, collected edge that brought it to the peak of arena success in the '80s. "Money for Nothin'," with its beefy guitars and big synth drums, was a proper burner, right?
Knopfler — a former English teacher — has spent his late career indulging his inner storyteller, penning albums of detailed yarns punctuated with the intricate, lushly adorned guitar work we've come to expect from the ax man, albeit with a mature twist. Knopfler concerts are now an intimate experience with the man and his guitar, far removed from the On the Night-era bombast of Dire Straits.
2. Robert Plant
We do not need to tell you that Robert Plant was a rock 'n' roll god, an earthbound deity with gilded vocal cords put on this planet with a singular purpose: to deliver the greatness of rock music at the highest of decibels. You already know that. Despite getting back together with guitar wizard Jimmy Page for a successful tour in the '90s and a short-lived Led Zeppelin residency at London's 02 in 2007, Plant has dragged his feet harder than any of the remaining members of Led Zeppelin for a real reunion tour.
When coupled with the man's entirely relaxed recent discography, including albums with the Band of Joy and a Grammy-winning collaboration with country crooner Alison Krauss, we believe Plant has given up on rock music forever. There are rumors of the Zep reunion spinning about the web, but as with the alleged Faces deal, we're not getting our hopes up.
1. Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton is the reason people play Les Pauls through Marshall amps. Period. Though Clapton has never exactly identified himself as a rock 'n' roll musician, the man's amped-up approach to blues guitar catalyzed absolutely massive changes in the sound of rock.
He's an odd individual: a formerly reclusive alcoholic who has led an astoundingly difficult life. However, since collaborating with producer Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds in the '90s, Clapton has released almost exclusively AM fodder. Clapton's acoustic records (possibly the archetype for the "acoustic album") and easy-listening fare have recently all been eclipsed by the ultimately chilled-out Old Sock, which sounds like a bluesy Jimmy Buffett and features a #selfie of Clapton as the cover art.