25th December 14:54
Unrelated or Essence of the Times?
For bikers, Rocket Man never took off
Harley's hush-hush guests mostly flop
By DAVE TIANEN
Last Updated: Sept. 1, 2003
Elton John is the Rocket Man. He is Captain Fantastic.
He is not a biker brother.
As expected, Elton turned out to be the big mystery guest at
Harley-Davidson's 100th anniversary bash Sunday night at Veterans Park.
In keeping the entire lineup secret, Harley planners forgot what would seem
to be a basic fact of life in the concert business - people go to concerts
because they happen to like the performers in question. By keeping their
lineup secret, Harley guaranteed that their all-star lineup would play for
an audience that was essentially indifferent to their presence.
Moreover, it was a lineup that seemed selected by someone who didn't know
any bikers. Bikers like their music with a streak of the renegade, a touch
of larceny and a nip of danger. These are party-like-Cossacks,
show-us-your-you-know-whats folks. ZZ Top and George Thorogood are their
fare. Elton John is a pop star, arguably a great pop star, but a pop star
nonetheless. For a biker audience he figured to be an awkward fit, and he
Wisely Sir Elton stayed with the hits: "Bennie and the Jets," "Daniel,"
"Philadelphia Freedom," "Rocket Man," "The Bitch Is Back" and "I Guess
That's Why They Call It the Blues." Mostly huge hits, and it scarcely
mattered. Monster hit after monster hit was met with scattered applause and
a smattering of boos. At the end the crowd had thinned out so much up front
that the concert staff let down the barriers and let everybody filter into
the VIP area.
It wasn't so much an outright disaster as an unmitigated flop. Things were
worse with Tim McGraw. Tim is a country singer with a fan base that skews
young and female, not exactly the prime Harley demographic. From the start
it was clear that the crowd didn't know songs like "Where the Green Grass
Grows," "Indian Outlaw" and "She's My Kind of Rain," and they weren't in any
mood to learn them. Two songs into McGraw's set, the guys behind me were
yelling "Take the rest of the night off" or "You're done. Thank you. You're
McGraw certainly didn't help his cause with love songs like "She's My Kind
of Rain." These guys came to party, and he gave them a romantic weather
The day's one bright spot was Kid Rock, who blasted into the middle of
McGraw's set as a guest and stayed for a three-song solo set. Rock has
charisma and energy to burn, and he got the crowd briefly fired up with
"Cowboy," and his talking blues rumination on a possible Kid Rock
presidency: Turn the churches into strip clubs and give all the at-home moms
two weeks paid vacation. Although his rapping clearly irritated some older
bikers, he did seem to find a possible constituency with their younger
Opening were the Doobie Brothers. The younger portion of the crowd seemed to
have only the vaguest idea who they were, and they never quite succeeded in
getting the older folks pumped. Moreover, they were supported by the
Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in one of those ridiculous supporting roles
where the orchestra is totally drowned out by the rock band. In a battle
between amplified guitars and an acoustic string section, always bet on the
Appearing as emcee was a portly and apparently unprepared Dan Aykroyd.
with lines like "I love all of you! We are all part of the brotherhood!"
After about 10 minutes, the crowd was clearly tired of the patronizing.
From the Sept. 1, 2003 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel