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George Harrison tells us all things must pass and Axl Rose reminds us nothing lasts forever (even cold November rain). Bands are no exception. Some groups find success that extends for decades and some barely make it past their first gig. Some maintain a steady membership with no breakups, others fizzle from the start.
There are also the fairly rare occasions when bands split up and later reunite to make more music together. In 2016 fans of many disbanded groups were treated to reunions that included one-off gigs and full blown tours. Below is a look back at 10 of those acts that reconciled and rejoined in the past 12 months, featuring long-established rockers, Bay Area legends, a supergroup, jam scene vets and Ween.
Presented alphabetically, these 10 reunions helped define the musical landscape of 2016, and here’s hoping there’s more ahead from these performers in the years to come.
1. Bela Fleck & The Flecktones
The mighty Bela Fleck and the Flecktones returned with a vengeance in 2016 after a four-year hiatus, and every show felt like an unearthed time capsule, harkening back to a heady time 25 years ago when Bela Fleck, Victor Wooten, Futureman and Howard Levy were delivering night after night of stringy-jazzy-funky-experimental fusion. Fans won’t have to wait four years again as The Flecktones have already announced an August 2017 co-headlining tour with the Chick Corea Elektric Band. And us? We’re hoping Bela will make good on a suggestion that one day a version of The Flecktones featuring both Levy and Flecktones alumnus Jeff Coffin might hit the road.
2. Guns N’ Roses
When Guns N’ Roses wrapped up a tour in support of their Use Your Illusion LPs on July 17, 1993 in Argentina frontman Axl Rose and guitarist Slash went their separate ways. There was so much bad blood between the pair that it was hard to imagine a time they would ever share the stage again. Yet time heals all wounds and as 2015 came to a close the rumor mill went into overdrive with word Axl, Slash and bassist Duff McKagan would indeed tour. Just four days into 2016 GNR’s appearance at Coachella was confirmed and the band went on to hit the road for the extensive Not In This Lifetime Tour, which will continue into 2017. Axl, Slash and Duff were joined by Dizzy Reed, Richard Fortus, Frank Ferrer and Melissa Reese to form the current version of Guns N’ Roses. The band played career-spanning sets featuring choice covers and even teamed with old drummer Steven Adler at a handful of shows.
3. Heart Of Gold Band
Jerry Garcia’s birthday, August 1, has played host to many a starry-eyed occasion, and if you were in the Bay Area this past August, you might have born witness to a memorable one. The short-lived, 1980-era Heart of Gold Band — Donna Jean Godchaux Mackay, Steve Kimock, Greg Anton, Dexter LaBlanc, Greta Rose — came together along with Mookie Siegel, David Mackay, Brian Godchaux and special guest Bob Weir for a lovely show at Sweetwater Music Hall, focusing on songs from their short time together as well as Dead and Jerry Garcia Band classics.
4. LCD Soundsystem
Mastermind James Murphy closed the first chapter on LCD Soundsystem with a blowout final performance at Madison Square Garden on April 2, 2011. Just shy of five years later, New York City once again hosted an LCD Soundsystem concert – this time at the intimate Webster Hall. Murphy, Pat Mahoney, Phil Mossman, Tyler Pope and Nancy Whang opened their reunion with the Sound Of Silver track “Get Innocuous!,” signaling their proper return. The rest of the evening was not without flaws – Whang suffered technical difficulties leading to the abandonment of “I Can Change” – and no new material surfaced, but the reunited outfit did deliver a number of favorites from each of their other two studio albums, including the encore of “Dance Yrself Clean” and “All My Friends.” Many festival headlining slots soon followed (but still no new songs), but the night at Webster Hall was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those in attendance both onstage and off.
5. Percy Hill
One of the top albums released by a jam act at the end of the 20th century was Color In Bloom from New Hampshire’s Percy Hill. The band issued the LP after withstanding a handful of lineup changes and eventually parted ways in 2005. While the original Percy Hill lineup reunited in 2009 and 2011, the Color In Bloom lineup finally came together again back in March for a performance at a benefit and two headlining gigs. The shows featuring Nate Wilson, Aaron Katz, Joe Farrell and John Leccese along with newcomer Yahuba Garcia went so well the reunion continued with occasional gigs through the end of the year. Thankfully Percy Hill isn’t finished yet as the band is set to make its Jam Cruise debut in January.
6. Reed Mathis & Brian Haas
Brian Haas and Reed Mathis, two of the scene’s most accomplished musicians, were foxhole buddies for many years in the heyday of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. Mathis left the ensemble in 2009 under not a small amount of fan angst, but seven years later — with much water under the bridge — Mathis played a JFJO show, joining Haas, Simon Lott and Jason Smart in early November in what had to have been one of the least publicized, but most jam scene-significant reunions in years.
7. The Revolution
The unexpected and tragic death of beloved musician Prince was the sad catalyst for the reunion of his former band The Revolution. Minneapolis music venue First Avenue – shown prominently in the feature film Purple Rain starring Prince and featuring The Revolution – was the location of the first The Revolution concert since 2012. A lineup of guitarist Wendy Melvoin, keyboardists Lisa Coleman and Dr. Fink, bassist Brown Mark and drummer Bobby Z reunited along with special guests and former members Dez Dickerson and André Cymone for the night at First Ave. The setlist saw Prince hits “Raspberry Beret,” “1999,” “Little Red Corvette,” “Purple Rain” and Lisa and Wendy dueting on a touching rendition of “Sometimes It Snows In April.” Soul singer Bilal was brought out for additional renditions of “The Beautiful Ones,” “Private Joy,” “When Doves Cry” and “Kiss.” The Revolution reunion continued with another show the following night, also at First Avenue.
The Woodstock-era Santana band had a famously prickly breakup, but time has a way of healing wounds, and in 2016, Carlos Santana re-assembled one of his greatest ensembles for the first time since 1971 — and with an album, Santana IV to boot. Here’s hoping Santana, Gregg Rolie, Neal Schon, Mike Carabello and Michael Shrieve — rounded out by current Santana band members Karl Perazzo and Benny Rietveld — have some more in them. Schon was reportedly the catalyst for the reunion — Carlos, Neal, any chance we can nudge another residency or two, or even a tour? Yes, Journey can come too.
9. Temple Of The Dog
Temple Of The Dog‘s lone 1991 self-titled album came about from well-documented circumstances: the supergroup was formed following the death of Mother Love Bone frontman Andy Wood by his roommate, Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell and Wood’s former band mates bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard along with their Pearl Jam band mate, guitarist Mike McCready and Soundgarden/Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron. While Temple Of The Dog found success with the Eddie Vedder aided single “Hunger Strike” the band only played a handful of gigs and never properly toured. Thanks in part to a 25th anniversary reissue of their debut LP a full blown coast-to-coast tour was finally realized. Shows on the eight-date tour featured TOTD originals, Mother Love Bone and Mad Season tracks, and covers by the likes of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Syd Barrett, Mad Season, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix and others.
On May 29, 2012 Aaron “Gene Ween” Freeman blindsided fans and his Ween collaborator of over 25 years Mickey “Dean Ween” Melchiondo by telling Rolling Stone he was retiring the Gene Ween moniker and therefore Ween was finished as a band. In the days, weeks and years that followed Melchiondo said all the right things as he did his best to support his longtime musical partner and best friend. Last year Freeman started using the Gene Ween name again for tributes to Billy Joel and a performance with Umphrey’s McGee. This past February the classic Ween lineup of Deaner, Gener, bassist Dave Dreiwitz, keyboardist Glenn McClelland and drummer Claude Coleman, Jr. played their first show since the breakup and the five-piece went on to perform sporadically throughout the year with additional performances scheduled for 2017. All year long Ween has focused on its back catalog at live shows, so it will be interesting to see if and when they add new material to the mix.