Phillips: Singing the praises in a tribute to tributes

Phillips: Singing the praises in a tribute to tributes

September 21st, 2012 by Casey Phillips in Chattnow Music

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.