The Big Session concert series is set to swing into New York on Friday, September 26 at Terminal 5, followed by a stop at Boston’s Royale on the 28th. The Stunning, Mundy and Ash are on the bill, all headliners in their own right. But the biggest buzz comes from the reunion of the mighty Boomtown Rats, who have been on a tear throughout Europe.
Bob Geldof has been invigorated by the old band since their Isle of Wight Festival headlining last year and has even penned a few tunes for the reunion.
The shows will be hosted by Irish comedy star Joe Rooney, whose TV appearances include Father Ted. Tickets, priced at $48, can be purchased at bit.ly/bigsessionNY for the New York show at Terminal 5 and at bit.ly/bigsessionBOSTON for show at The Royale in Boston.
I spoke with Geldof about the reunion and how he feels about facing off against American audiences again. Here’s how it went.
Why a Boomtown Rats reunion now?
People have been asking us to get together. I’ve been doing my own stuff. I did an album that was an affirmation of life, How to Compose Popular Songs. I have been touring behind it, and it went very well.
So, I was approached about this by the guys. My policy is: no rearview mirror in this car. I’m not interested in re-living old glories. Nostalgia doesn’t interest me at all.
There was a decent offer for the festival from the Isle of Wight. I would say vanity, curiosity and cash made me do it. The vanity: playing that giant stage that Hendrix and Leonard Cohen played on in 1969. I was in the audience back then and always thought it would be cool to play that stage.
What were the first shows like?
We went to the Isle of Wight and we just killed it. We then did a sellout tour with a bunch of festivals, so the people want to see it. With the Rats, I put on a snakeskin suit and I’m Bobby Boomtown all over again.
How has the band gotten along? Does time heal wounds?
Time doesn’t heal wounds -- it accommodates. You just find a vacant spot in your brain to stash this. When you spend 10 years in each other’s pocket, living in the same house with the crew and girlfriends, crammed together in the back of the plane -- you try it. Things come up and that and that creates tension along with group politics.
Live Aid overwhelmed the band and by then, we had said what was needed to be said. We never broke America with MTV.
Has it inspired new music?
It has. I think the seventies sound of guitars really out there in front is back in fashion. I wrote the song “Back to Boomtown” and another song “Boomtown Rats” just to hear people chant it in the festival.
The truth is, very few people are interested in new music. Who wants to hear a new Rolling Stones music? Rock has been replaced by social media anyway. U2 is giving their stuff away online and that’s what music has become.
What were your thoughts about how they released their new album?
I haven’t heard the album yet because my phone was made in 1932 and not made by Apple. U2 -- they’re my mates. You can bet iTunes had to pay them a bunch of money -- they’re too smart to give it away for free.
That said, it’s sad that a great band has to mass distribute their wares at the behest of a medium. The medium is the message. It’s not important to get U2 -- it’s important to get an iPhone 6 to get it.
Are you looking forward to playing the U.S.?
We’ll see who shows up. They never got me in the states. The reviews were amazing at the time we released music but it didn’t translate into an audience. They never got the Clash or Sex Pistols at the time either, by the way.
They get it now, once they got the music re-fed on soundtracks. Back then you had Boston and Foreigner. Add the Ramones -- I don’t think so.
Having said that, I want to play in America!