May 142020

Second to the “Vengeance Is Mine” episode of TJ Hooker, which reunited Kirk and Spock, what’s your favorite reunion in music history, from a single performance to an entire album?


  26 Responses to “Favorite Reunions”

  1. Are we only allowed one?

    I’m going to dig deep for a semi-forgotten reunion. In 1992 or so, Talking Heads took a couple loose jams from the Naked sessions and made them into new songs for a career anthology. Who even knows if they were in the same room for these recordings. Anyway, one of the songs, “Sax and Violins” also appeared on a Wim Wenders film soundtrack and I remember it getting a fair amount of radio play. I think it stands up with the best of their stuff.

    Adding to the “these people can’t stand each other” vibes, only David Byrne and Jerry Harrison appear in the video.

  2. 2000 Man

    I’ve got two. Rocket From the Tombs when they first reunited and added Richard Lloyd and toured and melted my face the first time I saw them, and The Reigning Sound who just recently did a few shows with the original lineup and only did songs from the first few albums. I saw The Reigning Sound about a week before the world shut down, and if it’s the last concert I ever see, I’m okay with that. They were fantastic and my son took me. He had never really heard them and decided he wouldn’t even try to get familiar with them before going. He thought they were great and had a great time.

  3. More than one entry is allowed, Oats. I had no idea about this Talking Heads track and video! I’ll have to check it out. Just yesterday, I was saying to my wife, “It’s too bad Talking Heads can’t do a reunion tour and make some retirement money. They’d sell out like Pink Floyd!”

    2000 Man, you’ve just reminded me that Pere Ubu’s 1987 tour was a reunion era for them. That was one of my Top 5 concerts, featuring most of the “classic” lineup with second drummer Chris Cutler added.

  4. Happiness Stan

    Seeing Roger Waters reunited for one night only with Floyd at Live 8, not long before Richard Wright died, was a dream come true.

    Also, having missed them the first time round, the Sex Pistols Filthy Lucre tour.

    I loved seeing the Soft Boys reunion (about fifteen years ago?) Kimberley Rew wasn’t with them the night I saw them, but a few years later he was playing with almost the same line up doing a Robyn Hitchcock gig. Considering how mad he is, he doesn’t seem to fall out with anybody, which makes me like him even more. I took our daughter to see him when she was seventeen, a couple of years ago, and she enjoyed him hugely.

    I did enjoy seeing the original Robin Williamson, Mike Heron and Clive Palmer Incredible String Band reunion about twenty years ago.

    Most poignant for me at the moment was seeing The Rutles last year. We met Neil Innes afterwards and he seemed so well and full of life, what a lovely, lovely bloke.

  5. That Talking Heads song was on par with the surprisingly strong finale by them, Naked. I bet Jerry Harrison would have done nicely with that thread we did years ago on the most-employable rock musicians. The guy seems like a total team player.

  6. Great call on Jerry Harrison—you’re right, outstanding utility player.

    My favorite reunion is absolutely Dinosaur Jr: I didn’t think there was ever any chance they’d get back together, and that they not only did, but went on to produce four (soon five) albums which are, on balance, every bit as strong as their original run was is beyond improbable. And yet there ’tis.

    Also the terribly named Anderson Bruford Wakeman and Howe: getting 4/5ths of the best Yes lineup back together was a lovely surprise. Sure, the album ended up being just okay, but the tour was a delight, Bruford’s Simmons kit notwithstanding. Too bad they were kneecapped by financial pressures before they could do more.

  7. I went to see a reunion of The Remains in NYC, probably 25 years ago at a Little Steven’s Underground Garage event. I’m generally a little suspicious of reunion shows, for example a Flamin’ Groovies show I saw at Johnny Brenda’s a few years back, which was pretty mediocre, but these guys kicked ass. It probably helped that I had only experienced them through their mid-sixties recordings, which were not very forcefully recorded. Barry Tashian had been playing with Emmylou Harris for year coming out of the Gram Parsons era, so I expected him to be up to his game. But the other guys sounded great, especially the drummer, who looked like an old, bald, Italian grandfather from South Philly. Hearing them play like that, 30 years on, made it a lot more credible that they had shared the stage with the Beatles on a U.S. tour.

  8. Talking Heads should not reunite. They could make boatloads of money, but it would be pointless. As a band, I don’t think they have anything left to say.

    I missed the Pavement reunion, although I would’ve liked to see it. Again, though, I think they’ve run their course.

  9. Question: Who gets more from reunions more, folks who want to re-experience the past, or folks who want to catch something they might’ve missed?

    I lean heavily to the latter.

  10. The first Television reunion tour in the 90’s was really pretty good. I think they could’ve had more to say but alas, they didn’t.

    That Rocket From the Tombs show with Lloyd was really excellent.

  11. Happiness Stan

    Geo, if you’re talking reunions, the latter, definitely. Getting back together after a hiatus and producing music that’s worth hearing is possibly another matter, but incredibly rare.

  12. Geo asks, “Who gets more from reunions more, folks who want to re-experience the past, or folks who want to catch something they might’ve missed?”

    I’d like to take the Wilson Choice here, BOTH! I’m sure the odds are high of it working out this way, but what I most want to see is a trace of the DYNAMIC of the band in its prime. Will the musicians look across the stage at each other and find joy in their eye contact, in their locking into a groove the way they once did, or – of course – the way we imagined they once did? That’s something that struck me when I saw Pere Ubu’s 1987 comeback show – how much joy they got out of that strange brew they played. I saw them another half dozen times in various formations, and some of those shows were fantastic, but only one other show, when I saw a radically different lineup with cellist Garo Yellin in place of Ravenstine or the next synth replacement (Wheeler?) and a new rhythm section that would stick with David Thomas for a few years, exuded that sense of joy and discovery.

  13. “Who gets more from reunions more, folks who want to re-experience the past, or folks who want to catch something they might’ve missed?”


    My favorite was the Replacements tour. I wanted to reexperience those songs and I never begrudge an under-appreciated band a victory lap once everyone has had a few years to get some perspective. It also gives the Kids a chance to see some of the bands that get named checked. Even though Big Star was quite spotty when I saw them (in what I think turned out to be their last show), I was still psyched to see them in person (with two Posies).

    I saw the Replacements three times originally and three times on the reunion tour. The reunion tour shows went steadily downhill. The Riotfest show in Denver was frigging great but by the time they made it to Philly, I could tell the reunion was going to be short lived. But that Denver show was everything I hoped it would be, Paul and Tommy, and two other guys who really seemed to just be delighted to get to play those songs live, racing through a catalog of great songs. It was a similar vibe to the first Westerberg solo show at the Troc when it was the same band, minus Tommy. The Replacements always stuck me as being their own worst enemies but it still must be thrilling to strip away all of the bullshit and just play great songs with an enthusiastic and righteously ragged band in front of an adoring crowd. It’s a shame that it’s always so fleeting but I guess that’s what makes it so memorable.

  14. Also, who was at the Plimsouls reunion at the North Star? I’m assuming geo was there but that’s because I have trouble remembering a show that I didn’t see him. That place could hold about 300 people and only 50 or so of us turned up. I was kind of bummed out in the beginning because of the sparse turnout, but what a fucking great set. The crowd was way into it and the band crushed it.

  15. The Undertones. I didn’t mind that much not getting Feargal. Every song was thrilling to hear live by the actual (otherwise) full band.

  16. I was not at the Plimsouls show. I have the record and think it’s fine, but I did pick it up in a cheapo bin years, possibly decades after it came out, so I was never invested in them. In short, I can’t remember seeing that show was happening, but if so I didn’t bother. Wish I had now.

    I only saw the Replacements reunion show in Philadelphia and, yes, it kind of lived down to my expectations of reunions in general. The Westerberg show at the Troc is another thing entirely, possibly the best argument against Scott’s anti-auteur tract on another recent thread. I generally agree with him that the magic is not resident in only the apparent “mastermind,” but rather in the body of the band as a whole. But the Replacements were like a power hitter with a miserable average, ugly strike outs interspersed with magnificent drives that sail out of the park. A huge part of the magic is that struggle between the two possibilities.

    I don’t mean this on a song by song basis, but rather as an essential balance in the band chemistry. They were fuck ups including Westerberg, who may have been the highest functioning fuck up, but they all brought something to the table on the plus side, too. As the band rolled on, Westerberg’s writing became self-conscious to the fact that he was the song-writing “genius,” and by the time they got to “Don’t Tell a Soul,” his best lines felt like “best lines,” not spontaneous brilliance.

    So let’s call “All Shook Down” Westerbeg’s first solo album, which for all impractical purposes it actually is, marketing being the practical purpose that made it the Replacement’s last album. By that time, Westerberg got over the romance of the dysfunction and, on the other side, was able to use it without self sabotaging. I think tat album is way better than “Don’t Tell a Soul,” without the curdled self aware genius of the previous album.

    Westerberg’s first billed solo album does seem like a bunt, as if he was reluctant to really go for it. Maybe he was starting to worry that the magic was dependent on the fuckup/brilliant balance and that he was shortchanging the former. At the Troc, he seemed to be able to get out of his own way and let that shit rip. The band seemed more like elite Rangers than mercenaries, sure they were selected and hired because they were superior, but they believed in the cause. And that allowed Westerberg to believe in it, too. I think I saw the Replacements five times, once on each album starting with “Let It Be,” but I don’t think any of the shows were better than the Troc show with the new guys. It felt like he could’ve built from that and moved forward.

    But I think Westerberg was at heart, a fuckup, and a thoughtful one at that. He worried about whether he’d left the magic behind; he didn’t have the dysfunctional foil of the original guys. Hey, they were largely gone, Bob having become a dedicated fuckup and Mars, booted because he was no longer adequately fucked up. Westerberg never again fully reconciled himself to balance the magic and the craft in a way that could let him into the big leagues. “Eventually” and “Suicaine Gratifaction” seem like they’re handicapped by the self-consciousness that had crept into “Don’t Tell a Soul” paired with a whiff of desperation to get to the next level. Later records, “Stereo,” “49:00,” and the I Don’t Cares album, are willfully casual, with moments of brilliance. I do wish he could throw together a performing group and try the casual approach live: it might be a really worthwhile move.

  17. BigSteve

    I eagerly bought tickets to the Gang of Four reunion in 2005. Hurricane Katrina intervened, and that date was canceled. The reports I heard indicate that they did not disappoint. I’m glad they made some money one last time, which apparently was the driving force behind that Return the Gift album, where they re-recorded songs from their initial run. Those new recordings were fine though clearly non-essential.

    I saw youtube clips of the Stones bringing Mick Taylor onstage for a go at I hear You Knockin’. I love Mick Taylor-era Stones, so I thought it was a nice gesture, even if Taylor did not exactly achieve liftoff.

  18. I’ve seen lots of different Gang of Four reunions, including the Return the Gift tour. The first was just Jon and Andy, in 1991, when they put out “Mall.” Gail Anne Dorsey was on bass. They were alright, although clearly not as good as the original run including the Sara Lee era, with the exception of the line up I saw after Steve Goulding finally replaced Hugo. I was generally disappointed.

    It was about four years later when they toured “Shrinkwrapped” and I saw them at a small club, the Ambler Cabaret. It was Jon and Andy with a new lineup otherwise. I remember a bassist with a shaved head a’la Andy Doughty from the Wacos. Hell, it might’ve even been him. They were quite good, more together, and powerful, while they sounded disjointed at that previous show.

    I was very excited about that Return the Gift tour. I saw the original Gang of Four lineup at least four times and they were some of the most exciting live shows I’ve ever seen. They combined volume and power with a bounce that made it seem weightless. The minimal but effective theatricality was a perfect illustration of the themes of the lyrical content. But the reunion didn’t capture the bounce: they seemed sludgy and a step slow. I think the Return the Gift recording suffers from the same problem. Not only is it not essential, it doesn’t approach the blend between gravity and anti-gravity that the original lineup had in the original recordings. I liked seeing them again but, as with many reunions, I was disappointed.

    When Gill and King reemerged after Return the Gift with the album “Content”, I saw them again. Hey, what can I say, I loved this band at one time. It was ok, like seeing an old friend after a long absence, but similarly uncomfortable.

    In the group’s original hiatus, I saw Jon King with his group Mechanical Preacher at Revival. They were great and I haven’t seen a single GO4 reunion show that touches that one.

  19. Great post geo.

    I really like All Shook Down, and I’ve long named that Westerberg show as one of the best shows I’ve seen.

    I would recommend that you check out the live Plimsouls album One Night In America. Their major label album missed a bunch of excellent indie singles like Hush and Now. They’re all there on the live album along with some cool covers and played with an energy a few notches up from the studio stuff.

  20. I remembered another reunion show that was really good. After years of acrimony, Camper Van Beethoven made up and finished up a cover of the Fleetwood Mac Tusk album that they had been playing around with during their original run. I think they had possibly done a few shows in the intervening years, but at this point they recommitted themselves to doing the Camper thing, at least as a recurring part-time hobby. The first reunion show that I saw was really something because they played their old hits really well and they also did a lot of interesting messing around with the Tusk material. I remember a long version of the title track, with Lowery using a laptop to trigger all sorts of effects as an abstract stand in for the UCLA marching band on the Mac version. That was a great reunion show.

    CVB continue to tour and show up annually in a twin bill with Cracker. They are consistently pretty good and the shows include old stuff and some new stuff from albums they’ve put out since the reunion. The new albums, while certainly not the equal of the best in their original run, are in no way embarrassments.

  21. Happiness Stan said the following: ” Getting back together after a hiatus and producing music that’s worth hearing is possibly another matter, but incredibly rare.”

    I thought of a band that did this in spades. The Mekons. It is pretty much forgotten that in the early 80’s, they essentially fell apart and gave up. So they had the Fast singles, the Virgin album, that noisy album from 1980, called “The Mekons” and some increasingly weird experiments in noise, narration and chaos like “This Sporting Life.” Langford played with an early version of Sisters of Mercy, formed the Three Johns and they seemed down for the count. The Miner’s Strike inspires them to perform live, they start adding new members like Goulding, Honeyman and Timms, who become absolutely central to the band, and they proceed through at least a dozen albums and nearly as many changes in direction, maintaining both quality, personality, and inventiveness. A “great band” or “Greatest Band Ever?”

    Even Jonathon Franzen thinks the world of them. But who the fuck cares what he thinks?

  22. 2000 Man

    cdm, I think One Night in America is one of the best live albums I’ve ever heard. I had the CD for a long time, and then when Peter Case got sick and needed some money he released two other live records that are good, but not as good as One Night in America. I always wanted to find the vinyl of One Night in America, and I never saw it anywhere. One day I was in Florida at a tiny record store with barely enough room to breathe in it and my wife asked if there was anything she should look for because the neighborhood was sketchy and she didn’t want to take a walk while I looked at records. I told her to look for Flamin’ Groovies and Plimsouls. She pulled out One Night in America, and it’s an absolutely perfect copy and she says, “Are you looking for this one?” I think I actually jumped up and down. I love that record!

  23. ladymisskirroyale

    Geo, I’m with you on CVB! I was going to mention two of the bands from my Holy Trinity of Rock.

    1. Camper Van Beethoven returning to their scene with their cover of Tusk. As geo mentioned, this was a pretty good cover record that sounded great when they started to perform portions of it live; Lowery’s version of Tusk was interesting, but I was floored by Victor Krummenacher’s “Never Make Me Cry.” I continue to see CVB perform live as they play around SF quite frequently and they never disappoint. Related, the CVB offshoot, Monks of Doom also reunited and released The Bronte Pin. That live show was one of the most kick-ass I’ve ever seen.
    2. The Go-Betweens. After chasing some sort of recognition beyond the music critics, they threw in the towel in 1989 but McLennan and Forster started to play some shows together in the late 90’s and then formally reunited around 2000 and released several albums, that while not as wonderfully quirky as their first, are still earnest and interesting. I saw their first testing-the-waters reunion, billed as McLennan and Forster, in Providence and then their iteration as the Go-Betweens in 2005 or so. Robert Forster now tours both his solo and Go-Betweens material, and it continues to be heartfelt and beautiful; we saw him in SF last year and he continues to seem surprised that people want to hear his music. BTW, he’s also a pretty great music critic and is currently working on a novel.

    I saw the Pavement reunion and it was great. Their first drummer, Gary Young, chatted us up before the show: we thought he was some homeless dude let into the show by mistake; imagine our surprise when he joined them on the stage for an impromptu drum bashing.

    Some of the reunions end up being just plain weird: the music might sound great, but then you look up at the stage and see fatter, grayer musicians and it plays too much with your head. In this category I’d group the Pixies, Teenage Fanclub (teenage no more!) and, while I hate to say it because I love the band so much, My Bloody Valentine.

  24. 2K man, this makes sense, as I have long considered you to have the best taste in music on this site, after me of course. I’m very jealous of the vinyl version. I had no idea it existed. And yes, I would put that album up in my top 5 live albums too.

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