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You don't have to be a Manchester United fan to feel nostalgic when you read about the Class of '92. Ordinary boys in the middle of an extraordinary coincidence...
Something weird has been going for the last ten years or so in rock music. I speak of the phenomenon of the tribute band.
Time was you'd go and see a band play their own original material, go home, buy the record and sit listening to it while smoking jazz cigarettes, wondering about the nature of existence and whether you can really fire light out of the end of your finger while eating Monster Munch.
Now you can go and see perfect imitations of the real bands you once went to see. Want to see Genesis in 1974? Well you can as ReGenesis will perform the whole of the Lamb Lies Down On Broadway for you. The Australian Pink Floyd, likewise will let you pretend it's 1973 only with more expensive beer and better underwear. Lez Zeppelin will give you an all woman version of Led Zeppelin and in the same way Joanne Joanne will perform Duran Duran's greatest hits if you should require such a heinous crime to be committed upon you. Tribute acts are infinite in number and almost all have great names. Judith Priest is possibly my fave all-female trib act name.
These are often note-perfect recreations of what has become a modern version of classical music, handed down from generation to generation and performed over and again to new audiences who, naturally enough, still find fantastic music to be fantastic even despite that fact it hasn't been sold to them by Simon Cowell or judged by someone on the TV whose head looks weird.
But if you saw these bands the first time round, it's all a bit unsettling. While there's much joy to be had watching tribute acts, there's something slightly flaccid about it all; it lacks the flared nostrils of adrenalin soaked newness. History is not being made, it is being recreated. It looks like the real thing but it isn't. It's the real unreal thing.
Would you rather go and see a vital, engorged, new-ish band like say Rival Sons, Tracer or Beware Of Darkness or someone playing Zeppelin's greatest hits? I saw Zeppelin live, it was thrilling. No matter how great the tribute act, it won't be that great. Both have their place in the universe, I guess, but the tribute band is surely the musical equivalent of the pre-season friendly.
The non-competitive games that clutter our lives at this time of the year are wholly unsatisfactory affairs and nothing can make them otherwise. As Manchester City raced to a 5-3 half time lead against AC Milan, it only went to show just how damn silly this all is. It is an imitation of real football and you stare at it as such. It all looks right - the players, the strips, the pitch. It looks like real football but it's not.
The trouble is, we get suckered into them conceptually. Oooh look, Chelsea are playing Inter Milan! Arsenal take on Napoli! For a moment it seems like a must see game until you remember it's a pre-season friendly and everything will be half powered, utterly meaningless and utterly pointless.
At any level, football has to have competition at its core, and when it ceases to be competitive, there is no joy in it at all. We need to make up some reason for it to matter and if we don't believe it does matter, then it's worthless. It is merely an exhibition of skill and athleticism and both those things, isolated and stripped of the competitive spirit, are basically a bit dull. It's just people sweating for no reason. If I want to see someone running around aimlessly and not doing very much I can watch Darren Bent most weekends of the year.
That's why, despite a lot of high profile games between top European clubs at the moment, Sheffield United v Notts County in League One on Friday night is far, far more attractive because there is something to be played for: the holy three points. As the Football League kicks off on Saturday it will be a welcome return to the full strength, adult beverage. These weeks of friendly games, no matter how loudly trumpeted, no matter how glamorous sounding, no matter how dressed up to look like the real thing, are merely footballs tribute acts and ultimately we need something new, original and vital.