published Friday, September 21st, 2012

Phillips: Singing the praises in a tribute to tributes

Tenacious D has been preaching it since 2002, but a tribute can be a wonderful thing. Tribute shows are way cheaper than tickets to see the original artist, and the set lists usually consist of a band's best-known anthems instead of a mixed bag of newer material.

Unfortunately, Chattanooga only sees tributes to a handful of artists, such as Journey, Bon Jovi, Elvis and Pink Floyd. That's why it gave me pause when I saw that a group of local musicians will play a birthday tribute to Bruce Springsteen at Rhythm & Brews on Wednesday.

I've never seen a local homage to The Boss, and after donning my thinking cap, I gave consideration to other artists I'd like to see tributes to. Here are five I think are most desperately needed and what they need to nail to be convincing.

1. Queen.

• Getting it right: Without an energetically operatic frontman to nail Freddie Mercury's vocals, this would never, ever work. Also, he pretty much has to wear red suspenders and have an epic mustache.

• Set-list musts: "Killer Queen," "We Are the Champions / We Will Rock You" and "Bohemian Rhapsody."

• Does a tribute exist? Plenty, but Brian May and Roger Taylor put together an official tribute, Queen Extravaganza, in 2011.

2. Frank Sinatra.

• Getting it right: I staunchly oppose dress codes, but the Chairman of the Board definitely needs a suit and fedora. With the right vocals, a tribute would work, but a big band as backup would make this gold-star worthy.

• Set-list musts: "My Way," "New York, New York" and "I've Got You Under My Skin."

• Does a tribute exist? Way too many to list -- Ol' Blue Eyes is like The King, in that respect.

3. Dolly Parton.

• Getting it right: Vocals are critical, but without cheerful banter and a platinum blond 'do, this would come across as glorified karaoke.

• Set-list musts: "Jolene," "9 to 5" and "I Will Always Love You."

• Does a tribute exist? The U.K.'s Sarah Jayne (of London) is a dead ringer for Parton and appropriately bubbly, to boot.

4. Stevie Wonder.

• Getting it right: Nailing Wonder's warm, flexible vocals is clearly paramount, but if I don't see a pair of dark sunglasses on somebody's face, they're not getting my money.

• Set-list musts: "Sir Duke," "I Just Called To Say I Love You" and "Superstition."

• Does a tribute exist? Surprisingly few, but Britain's Shenton Dixon does a fine Wonder, as well as fine impersonations of Barry White and -- surprisingly -- Elvis.

5. They Might Be Giants.

• Getting it right: Two lead singers with advanced accordion, guitar and puppeteering skills who look just the slightest bit awkward onstage.

• Set-list musts: "Particle Man," "Birdhouse in Your Soul" and "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)."

• Does a tribute exist? Sadly none, but the Giants sometimes open for themselves as a "tribute band" called Sapphire Bullets.

Who's on your tribute list? Send me an email, and we'll dream a little dream together.

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @Phillips CTFP.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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