Monday 14 May 2012

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Rock of Ages

When they arise, I like to take opportunities to explain to my kids what life was like when I was their age. Not the "10 miles uphill, both ways" stories that my parents used to tell me about their youth, but some of the serious hardships that we faced like having no internet, cell phones that needed to be wired directly into the car, and the inexplicable popularity of the Volkswagen Rabbit. My kids do their best to grasp these lessons, but there's one part of my youth that they just can't understand....the 80's. For some reason it's hard to explain the attitude of the 80's (and it's impossible to explain the hair), so when the Rock of Ages tour came through Vancouver, I made sure to get us all tickets. Hopefully the professionals would have an easier time explaining spandex pants than I did.

Rock of Ages is a Broadway musical set on the Sunset Strip during the late 1980's, where a lot of the Glam-Metal bands got their start. Bands like Poison, Guns N Roses, and Motley Crue all learned their trade in the clubs along the Sunset Strip, and anybody who was young, had a dream, and a decent amount of hair, found themselves there at one time or another. It was one of the first places that I ever traveled without my parents, and thanks to the notoriously slack I.D. requirements of the Sunset Strip nightclubs at the time, I got to experience the birthplace of Hair Metal twenty five years before my kids got a glimpse of it at The Centre for Performing Arts in Vancouver this weekend. Somehow it seemed much cooler twenty five years ago.

There's always one troublemaker...

If you're worried about the appropriateness of exposing my children to the 80's lifestyle (and if you were alive in the 80's, I'm sure you have valid concerns), I should mention that Lori and I saw the original Broadway version of Rock of Ages in New York shortly after it opened in 2009. We knew that there were a couple of parts that might embarrass our kids (especially while they were sitting with their parents), but considering where the bar had been set with the Lady Gaga concert last year, we felt pretty sure that they could deal with a little bit of sexual innuendo. Besides, we keep the line of communication pretty open with our kids. If they had some questions, we were more than willing to answer them.

Of course the only question they had was "Did you really wear that?" Apparently 80's music has stood the test of time far better than 80's fashion. I was never the lead singer in a Glam rock band, thus ensuring that there is no photographic evidence of my ever donning leather pants and a tiger stripe tank top, but I can't deny the wind blown, feathered hair look. Of course, thanks to the cost of developing 35mm print film, there are very few pictures of that era floating around, so I can deny all I want. Today's youth are screwed, as every bad outfit they ever wear will be presented eternally on the internet for their grandchildren to look up and shake their head at. Good luck with that kids.

Since my kids weren't asking questions though, I decided that I'd better take this opportunity to make sure that they were paying attention. I remembered a scene that was upcoming in the play about being too "friend" oriented in your dating quests. I looked over to the boy and told him that there was a valuable life lesson coming up in the play, and that he should pay attention. Of course, touring versions of shows aren't always the exact same as their Broadway counterparts, and the producers added in a scene during which Stacee Jax effortlessly snatched the shirt off a cocktail waitress. I knew it was coming, and sure enough the boy leaned over and whispered "You're right Dad. Great life lesson. Thanks for pointing it out." I'm done trying to teach life skills through Broadway plays.

Lori and I loved Rock of Ages, but our kids gave it mixed reviews. One liked it, one thought it was OK, and one said she'd rather have been doing homework. Not quite the unanimous round of accolades that I'd hoped for, but I'll give it some time to see if opinions soften. With any luck, the disenfranchising parts of the play will fade away, leaving only the memories of laughter and great music. Failing that though, all I ask is that my children take away one simple lesson from the play: That most of the greater evils in the world can be blamed on long hair and spandex. As long as no more pictures from my teenage years are left to surface, then I think that's the important thing we can all learn from Rock of Ages.