I have been avoiding writing about the very theme that I implored others to share with Swanktrendz - The best concert ever attended. When I first posed the question, I had two concerts immediately spring to mind, but as in my usual way, I didn’t want to commit. A month later, I still have the same two concerts springing to mind - neck in neck, and a third concert came out of nowhere and reminded me how I felt during the performance.
I judge a concert by a number of criteria. 1) Does the performance make the hair on my arms stand on end? (Bizarre, I know, but very true when I have been overwhelmed by someone’s voice). 2) Do I find myself dancing like a madwoman, not caring how silly I look? 3) Am I mesmerised by the performance enough that if nature calls, I ignore it to the detriment of my bladder? 4) Do I look for hidden or obvious equipment that implies lip synching or auto tuning because the sound is so crisp? 5) Do I speak nonstop of the concert for days after the event? and finally, 6) Do I feel on the verge of tears because the music and concert’s ambience has somehow touched me?
With these criteria in mind, here are the best concerts I have ever attended in my life (and believe me, I have attended a lot of concerts).
Number 1 (actually it is tied with Number 2)
Sinéad O’Connor (Vancouver) - This was shortly after the release of her album, ‘The Lion & the Cobra’ and after the birth of her son. Sinéad was touring the requisite crap clubs as every new singer must do in order to ‘pay their dues’. Her hit, Nothing Compares 2 U, was years away and this tiny, stark, bald figure came onto the stage and began strumming and singing. I was not overly familiar with her album, having purchased it only the day before the concert. However, after the concert, I played that album to its demise. Nothing prepared me for her voice. The friend who had purchased me the ticket stood beside me, and for once, we were speechless. I barely remember the crowd around me, and I do not recall anything about the venue. I was focused on Sinéad, her expressions, her ability to become lost in the song, then coming around to introduce another song before she ‘left’ us again. The concert ended with an acoustic version of Troy and I actually cried. What’s more, I wasn’t even embarrassed. Here was this little waif who gave me goose bumps, rendered me speechless, and made me cry. She also did another song from her ‘upcoming album’ (I believe it was I am stretched on your grave, and then that was it. and then that was it, a quiet thank-you and off she went.
Number 2 (tied with 1)
Placebo (Commodore, Vancouver) - Again, I had jumped on the Placebo bandwagon a year late, but I loved their music, forcing every and any one to listen to their music, full blast in my car. (There’s nothing better than a captive audience.) I would discuss what I felt the songs were referring to and found the songs appealed to that inner teenaged angst that never really leaves us (but, hey - don’t tell the teens, they might be forced to believe we actually understand them.) When I heard Placebo was coming to Vancouver, I was quick to purchase the tickets. After anxiously waiting for the day to arrive, I arrived at the Commodore in time to listen to the opening act, Eagles of Death Metal. I remember liking them at the time, but thinking their music was incongruent with Placebo’s. When Brian Molko et el took the stage, a dancing heathen invaded my body. I sang loudly (and badly) to every song (faves being) Nancy Boy, Pure Morning, Special K, Every You Every Me, Commercial For Levi Lyrics - luckily I was not heard above the massive noise. I laughed, I danced, I laughed and I dripped with dancing sweat. Every part of my being was tingling with excitement - the excitement that only a roller coaster and a good live band can give you. My only regret was that I wasn’t 19, as every song they sang related to my life at that time (you know, that whole identity crisis that accompanies youth). Where the heck was Placebo when I was young? Oh right, these darlings weren’t born. After repeated, captive, car-CD Placebo torture, my first-born teenaged son decided Placebo were 'good'. Yes, he (the rap lover and singer) lied out of self preservation, but I was happy.
Concrete Blonde (Commodore, Vancouver)- Unless Johnette (lead singer) gets going soon, I have a feeling I was privy to her last Concrete Blonde Concert. I even flew to Toronto (after the gig I saw) to see the CB show, only to find out that the band cancelled due to the SARS outbreak. I have seen Concrete Blonde many times over the years - some concerts were good, some were ... well perhaps the band over indulged prior to playing. This concert, as usual, was packed and I was ready for anything. Johnette came out and from the first couple of vocal notes, I realized that this would be history in the making. She was in top form and the concert curiously did not plug a specific album. If anything, it was a ‘greatest hits’ type of performance. Also, I was amazed that she played every song that I could ever hope to hear. It was as if she took my own personal playlist from my imagination and followed it verbatim. She spoke between songs, she joked, she cajoled, and she was hilarious. Tomorrow, Wendy had me crying (as did When I was Young and Roxy) Seriously, look up some of the lyrics for these songs - amazing stuff. Then came the feelings of anger with God is a bullet and Jenny. Concrete Blonde effectively led me through a range of emotions that I was not even expecting to encounter. Sad note, my present husband and I share an affinity for Walking in Londonwhich was not played. Another odd thing, my ex husband, whom I managed to spot across the room (despite the packed to the rafters audience) spotted me at the same time. After 14 years of being apart and never speaking, we merely hugged, and said nothing more, silent in our appreciation of good music. Concrete Blonde meant something to the both of us and it highlighted a time in my life that I had shared with this now stranger. As certain songs were sung, we merely looked at each other and I felt that sorrow that one feels when they see someone who had so much charismatic potential, yet not enough chutzpah to pull it off. If you ever get a chance, listen to the song Little Conversations as it sums up my first marriage (ha - along with Eurythmics’ Thorn in my Side). Concrete Blonde has not returned to Vancouver since, and I have not felt that onslaught speed-dial of emotions since. Thank you Johnette.
So there you have it - I finally committed.