Thursday, July 24, 2008

There's nothing like a live music performance

Hump Day
Moncton Times & Transcript
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I don't normally get excited about concerts, but when I heard that Elton John was coming to Moncton, I made sure that I plunked myself down at my computer Saturday morning at 9 a.m. sharp with the Moncton Coliseum website loaded up to the online box office page. At the same time, I had a telephone constantly dialing to buy tickets, hoping to get through if the Internet didn't work out. I got two great seats online!

I'm a bit of an odd duck when it comes to big music acts coming to town. The Rolling Stones didn't tempt me enough. Had it been an indoor concert, I would have gone, but an outdoor free-for-all with a kabillion people just wasn't my style. For the same reason, I won't be attending The Eagles concert. Although the Stones were somewhat appealing -- I do like them -- The Eagles do zero for me, even though I recognize their immense talent and popularity.

Before Sir Elton, one of the only other artists I'd been super excited about seeing in concert was in 1985 when Tina Turner played the Moncton Coliseum. She was at the height of her fame. I couldn't wait to hear You Better Be Good To Me live. The concert lived up to its expectations. To this date, 23 years later, it has stood the test of time as the best concert I've ever attended.

Still in 1985, when I heard that Foreigner was going to play Moncton -- on the night after Tina, no less -- I once again did not hesitate to fork out money to see a favourite band. Hearing Urgent live is still one of the greatest concert experiences I've ever had. The crowd went crazy. There's nothing like the infectious delirium of thousands of fans. It's addictive. I felt it with Tina. I felt it with Foreigner.

Oh sure, I've seen others in concert, including a few comedians, but those 1985 concerts on two consecutive nights were just the bomb, so to speak. They were loud, too. After Foreigner, especially, my hearing was quite negatively affected for a few days. Opening act Joe Walsh's volume was turned up so high as to be physically uncomfortable (and unsafe, if you ask me!).

I've seen crowds show their love to performers and there's nothing better than to be part of it. I can just imagine that being on the receiving end is beyond anything most people have ever experienced. To have thousands screaming your name and throwing flowers on stage must be an incredible emotional rush. You can't get it appearing on television, radio or online. You can only experience it on tour. It's a way to connect with your audience at an emotional level that is just not possible otherwise.

I really need to start going to more concerts. Most live music is good, in my books. Seeing celebrities live in person is a thrill, too. Yes, I'm a celebrity hound. Seeing someone that I've only seen previously on television or in magazines is exciting, be they entertainers or politicians. Even if you just watch the crowd around them, it's interesting to see how people react.

There are those who get giddy, those who stand a respectful distance away and just want to look (that's the category I fall into), and those who aren't impressed by anyone. I'm not necessarily impressed by everyone I've seen, but it's interesting to see them in person because it gives you an entirely different perspective.

Joe Clark was even more odd-looking in person than on television, but so incredibly nice and very tall. John Turner was very personable. Jean Chr├ętien was as cold as a dead fish. Queen Elizabeth was pretty. David Bowie was tiny and friendlier to fans than I would have thought. Shari Lewis (of Lamb Chop fame) made David Bowie look like a giant. Howie Mandel and Phyllis Diller looked exactly like they do on television.

I'm not sure why I'm so enamoured with celebrities. Maybe it's because I've always watched a lot of television. As a kid, I watched way too much. As an adult, my viewing time has diminished considerably because of competition from the Internet, which has become my preferred way to entertain myself.

As for Elton John, I read that some fans were disappointed in the fact that he announced that the Moncton concert would be a solo performance. There would be no band and, I'm assuming, no backup singers or any other of the usual accompaniment at such concerts.

Considering the astronomical price of the tickets, one would think that we would get the "full meal deal", as they say.

I, too, was a bit disappointed at first. My lifelong dream of hearing Crocodile Rock live (one of my favourite songs ever!) would be watered down by a piano-only version. But in thinking more about it, what could be more intimate than just the artist and the piano? When you get rid of the "side dishes" of band members, backup singers and other distractions such as a complex light show, you can be left with something either painfully boring or incredibly beautiful.

There is no doubt in my mind that when Elton John plays Moncton as a solo act -- just the artist and his piano -- that we will be treated to something very rare. It will be intimate, raw and powerful. He can't hide behind a band, the glitz or the glamour. It's a true mark of his talent. He doesn't need all that stuff.

He will sit at his piano just like we were in his living room and he will sing for us. Just him. Just the piano. Just the words. And that voice... and that instrument. And we will be thrilled because it will be special. Disappointed that he's playing a solo gig? Not on your life! I think it's a privilege. And it will be awesome.

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