“Live music is better”
This week I went to two concerts. By way of context, I've probably gone to five concerts in the last ten years, so two in one week is definitely unprecedented. For whatever reason, as much as I enjoy music if it happens to be playing, I never seek it out – which means I don't buy it and I don't go to shows. It's as if I'm missing a musical appreciation gene and while I've been known to blame it on my upbringing (something to do with growing up in the woods in a strict Judeo-Christian household) that explanation falls apart when I recall that my siblings, who grew up with me, seem to love it.
In fact it was at my brother's suggestion that I got a ticket to see Ane Brun in the first place. He had messaged me to say that she was playing in Van in a few weeks, that it would be an amazing show, and that he wished (oh how he wished!) he could go. So I thought: hey, if it'll make my brother jealous it might just be worth it, no? Tickets as it turned out were only $15 and my favourite music geek (who has probably never gone to fewer than 2 concerts in any given week) was going and happy to have me join her. After enjoying a beer or two at Brassneck we headed down Main Street to a charming little club known as the Electric Owl.
Standing up front and centre, the room fell silent as opener Linnea Olsson played her cello and sang. The concentration and catharsis on her face, the speed of her hands on the cello and the deep and haunting sounds that filled the room in “Ocean” were mesmerizing. She went on to play a few more songs, then Ane Brun took the stage for a few and finally they played together for the remainder of the show. Ane's voice danced and teased it's way through the crowd, gently but persistently prying open my heart with “Do you Remember” and sending me soaring up into the nights sky, weightless and carefree, to look down on the sparkling lights of the city below. Seriously, that's exactly what happened. Ok, maybe not literally but it was a pretty great night.
Come Thursday I was mostly recovered and ready for more. (How do people stay up till midnight on a weeknight and function at work the next day anyway?) Emrys had purchased the tickets a few months before and tentatively asked if I might be interested in going. Despite my remarkable lack of musical knowledge I was pretty sure I was very interested indeed.
After some dinner and drinks at Provence, Emrys, Eric, Georgia and I headed over to Rogers Arena. Shuffling into our seats up high in the arena I was immediately struck by a bout of dizzying vertigo and feelings of claustrophobia as more and more people filed into the arena, impeding my escape. I kept picturing fire breaking out and falling to my death in the ensuing panic. Taking a deep breath, I was relieved when the lights dimmed and the music started, mercifully distracting me from my catastrophic imaginings.
Sting came out strong with “Brand New Day” and I was a little surprised when I knew almost all of the songs that followed; which was both gratifying and slightly problematic. While both Paul Simon and Sting were undeniably talented you couldn't help but get the feeling they were simply rehashing all their old material and there just wasn't much life left in it – and no real collaboration between the two. Instead, as Emrys pointed out, it was as if they were both too old and tired to play a whole concert themselves and so had decided instead to split one, taking turns for a few songs at a time.
Despite it's limitations, the evening definitely had it's transcendent moments. Paul Simon's “Graceland” was fantastic and had the group of 20 something jocks beside us up and gyrating alongside the baby boomers; while “The Boxer” got me teary eyed and wistful. Their bands were amazing too, with some great sax, fiddle and base solos throughout. The one thing that mystified me was the number of people recording the concert on their phones. What is that about? Staring at your phone throughout an amazing concert in order to make a shitty recording hardly seems worthwhile.
Listening to music is easy but writing about it is hard; although I guess that's at least partly the point of this whole experiment. I don't think I'll ever be a frequent concert goer but I know I'm lucky to have people in my life who are and to have experienced some amazing music this week.