11 of the Best Tribute Bands in the World
It’s an unfair fact of fate that many music fans have missed out on ever seeing their favorite artists perform live. Whether it’s because of a beloved singer’s untimely death or a seminal band’s notorious breakup (happening all before some fans are even born), a lot of the biggest names in the pop music history can no longer be seen doing what they do best — playing for an audience. Obviously, live recordings (both official and bootleg) can simulate the experience, but they don’t come close to watching and hearing one’s musical idols on stage… or at least not as close as catching a show by a tribute act.
Tribute band or acts trace their roots back to the founding fathers of modern pop music: The Beatles and Elvis. At the height of Beatlemania in 1964, a New Jersey band named The Buggs released an album of Beatles covers and crafted a similar appearance in style to the fab four. A flood of acts reproducing the band’s iconic songs and image followed after they broke up in 1970. The ‘70s also saw the rise of the classic American art of Elvis impersonation (although there are documented cases of entertainers mimicking the King as far back as the ‘50s). Over the years, a whole cottage industry developed of minor bands and performers replicating on stage (as well as at bar mitzvah parties) the songs and likenesses of the biggest music stars around.
And while we get the financial benefit of shelling out for tickets to see Only One Direction instead of One Direction, we think it’s probably best to use the tribute act business to enjoy a show that you won’t be able to because of your place in history (and not because of the decimal place in your bank statement).
So in no particular order, here are eleven tribute artists and bands that revive acts that are no longer around. Call them music nostalgia incarnate. Call them simulated symphonic history. Just DON’T call them cover bands.
Dark Star Orchestra (Tribute to Grateful Dead)
Any rundown of tribute acts is going to have to include Dark Star Orchestra. Since 1997, DSO (as they’re known to fans) have been dedicated with not only bringing the music of the Grateful Dead to life, but in probably the most intricate and detailed way possible. DSO essentially recreates whole Dead shows from start to finish (thanks to the band’s infamously massive catalogue of recorded live shows) with exact set lists and meticulous recreations of additional sounds. DSO also share the Dead’s love of touring and will be playing shows in the Northeast at the end of December and early January, followed by a tour of the American South in February.
One Night of Queen (Tribute to Queen)
Yeah, Yeah. We know that Queen is technically still around and playing shows with Adam Lambert, but if you’re a snob about the British rock band than you’ll probably prefer this stage show inspired by the group’s heyday with late frontman Freddie Mercury. Clocking in at two hours, the show is led by Mercury sound/look alike Gary Mullen and backed by his band the Works. The guys are currently playing the UK and Europe from now until mid-February, when they’ll land stateside and play shows in America until the middle of April.
The Fab Four (Tribute to the Beatles)
As mentioned before, Beatles tribute bands were arguable the first iteration of the trend back in the day. And while there’s still plenty of Beatles tribute bands around, none can boast the accomplishments of the Fab Four, which, over their 17-year history, includes a mastery of their subject’s complete works, international tours, stints in Disneyland and Las Vegas, and a PBS special. They guys are currently playing out West but will be making the rounds throughout the US in 2015.
Cody Ray Slaughter (Tribute to Elvis)
Elvis Presley tribute acts are undoubtedly the most numerous and picking through and listing the best and their differing merits is another post in itself. So we’re just going to go with one of the best and hardest working artists paying tribute to the King of Rock and Roll, Cody Ray Slaughter. In 2011, Slaughter won the “New Horizon Award for best new Elvis Tribute Artist” at Elvis Fest in Las Vegas and followed that up by being named that same year’s Elvis Presley Enterprises’ “Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist.” Since then, he’s gone on to a healthy touring career and will be joining fellow Presley tribute acts Shawn Klush and Ryan Pelton on the road in 2015 for a tour celebrating Elvis’ 80th birthday.
Who’s Bad (Tribute to Michael Jackson)
Even though their inspirational idol died in 2009, the Michael Jackson tribute Who’s Bad has been moonwalking in celebration of the King of Pop since 2004. That means they’ve been at this for full decade and had five-year head start on most other tribute acts that started after Jackson’s death. And it shows. Who’s Bad, whose act runs the gamut of Jackson’s career, constantly book and sellout major venues around the world. They’re currently playing shows in Vegas, California and Utah, but they’re schedule to extensively play throughout the US in 2015.
Nervana (Tribute to Nirvana)
Headed up by Irish singer Jon O’Connor, Nirvana tribute band Nervana has gained a reputation and honorable mentions on various countdowns of tribute bands and acts. Although the guys in the band have been busy recently creating original tunes under the name Freaks Like Me and even have an album dropping in the March on Pavement/Sony, they’ve confirmed on Facebook that they’ll be playing shows in homage to the seminal grunge group in 2015, although almost exclusively in Europe and the UK.
Zoso (Tribute to Led Zeppelin)
Claiming the title of the “ultimate Led Zeppelin Experience”, the Connecticut-based Zoso is known not just for their twenty-years of sounding and looking like Led Zeppelin but also resurrecting the ‘70s band’s sprit and essence on stage. It’s a reputation that’s earned them a healthy fanbase and regular touring schedule throughout the United States. They’re currently booked with shows from now until May 2015.
The Rocket Queens (Tribute to classic Guns ‘n Roses)
While Axel Rose still tours, plays Vegas residency stints and even releases the occasionally epically delayed album with his reconstituted Guns ‘n Roses, most GNR fans will forever miss the group’s classic lineup of the early ‘90s (you know, the one that was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). Luckily they can catch an act dedicated to one of rock’s greatest bands at its peak, the Rocket Queens which just happens to be all women (an actual common twist in the tribute world, see the Iron Maidens). If you’re in Connecticut around January 3, you might want to swing by the Palace in Stafford Springs to see them play their first show of 2015.
Arrival from Sweden (Tribute to ABBA)
With nearly 400 million records sold worldwide, ABBA is without a doubt the most popular Swedish musical act EVER. And even though they broke up in 1982, they’ve experienced a bit of revival as of late with a successful Broadway musical-turned-film and an official ABBA museum in Stockholm, but Arrival from Sweden predates all of that. Formed in 1995, the band has since toured the world and even gotten permission to record a previously unreleased ABBA song. The band is currently playing in Sweden and Europe, but will arrive in North America in January and already has a slew of dates scheduled this side of the Atlantic until August.
Australian Pink Floyd Show & Brit Floyd (Tributes to Pink Floyd)
Pink Floyd is known for creating amazing albums to listen all the way through while just sitting in the dark (preferably stoned), but the group was also known for putting on a damn good live show. Currently there are two bands working to recreate the experience of seeing Floyd live: The Australian Pink Floyd Show, which contributes to the long held tradition of the land down under producing many of the world’s tribute acts and is scheduled to play extensively throughout Europe for the first six months of 2015; and Brit Floyd, who claim to be “the world’s greatest Pink Floyd show” and will be playing South and North America for the first half of 2015.