Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Still Waters

Since my first concert on December 2nd, 1978, I have attended literally hundreds of them. That first show, just days before I turned 16 years-old, was among the best. In fact, until my second concert just a short while later, my first show was simultaneously the best and the worst I’d ever seen. But there are other reasons as well, reasons that could not be qualified at my young age and with my limited experience.

That first show, however and in retrospect, remains among my “top 10.” It stood the test of time. For my first concert I was fortunate enough to see Black Sabbath on their “Never Say Die” tour, the last tour before the band and lead singer Ozzy Osbourne parted ways. That, in and of itself, gave the concert an historic legacy, but it was even more than that. There was a little upstart garage band out of Los Angeles that was the opening act, a band that was beginning to make a name for itself. Named for the last name of the two brothers who founded it, that band is now rock legend - Van Halen.

My second concert featured Cheap Trick opening for the Doobie Brothers and from then on I went to concerts whenever I could. I have seen bands that have come and gone, bands that have endured, bands that have reformed, bands that feature all and none of the original members and, sadly, too many rock stars who have since died. Some of those concerts were thoroughly forgettable and some left an indelible mark on my very being. 
A few have made it into my “top 10” list of best concerts ever. Before I get to the latest inductee into that top 10 list, there are some things one must understand about the list itself. First of all, there is no actual “list.” My top 10 list is simply an accolade paid to a particular performance that not only meets my rather lofty expectations, it exceeds them in ways that are unforeseen. I cannot know going into a show, no matter how high the bar, if it will be all that. Furthermore, do I not have any clear idea which concerts are on it; and there are very likely more than just 10. Be that as it may, when I am leaving a show saying to myself or to whomever I am with, “That was one of the top 10 best shows I’ve ever seen,” it is saying something.

Last night I attended one of the top 10 best concerts I’ve ever seen. The Roger Waters “Us and Them” tour made a stop at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Arena and it was, as I commented to one of my old friends who will be seeing the same show in Las Vegas, almost beyond description. And, like any live performance, it could never be captured in mere words anyway, but this show was beyond even that. There are some personal factors that make it more profound than any particular performance at face value. First, it is important to consider that in my extensive concert going repertoire, I never saw Pink Floyd. Also, considering the version of Pink Floyd I most identify with is the David Gilmore/Roger Waters iteration and, since Waters played extensively from Pink Floyd’s catalog from Dark Side of the Moon though The Wall, I was, for all intents and purposes, at a Pink Floyd concert. Finally.

Everything, the spectacle, the lavishness, the technology, the theatrics and all else that are hallmarks of a Pink Floyd concert were present last night. The musicianship was perfection embodied and the sound system was so crisp and so clear that I might have been wearing a pair of ├╝ber-expensive, audiophile-geek headphones. Furthermore, as art is best when it speaks, Waters went beyond the already socio-political themes of the tracks with visuals oriented to the events of today. Right here, right now. Indeed, the music, most of it written decades ago, was eerily prophetic, especially as interpreted in the live performance. Although the audience was, arguably, not entirely of the same political stance as Waters, oddly enough the music appeared to trump (sorry/not sorry) the message it carried. In other words, the music of Pink Floyd brought even those on the right back to a perhaps more idealistic time in their lives. It seemed to be enough, at least for those on the right whom I have a personal relationship with, to overlook the overt political (and, to be perfectly frank, anti-Trump) message.

For me, the message through the art of the music along with the theatrics were all a seamless whole. I have had the distinct displeasure of going to a concert where the artist took a break from what I paid for (specifically, to hear music) to go off on a political rant. Even if it is an ideology I agree with, I do not buy these tickets to be held hostage and preached to. Waters did not do that, and I would say that his message, delivered through the music of Pink Floyd, was the best shot at gaining any adherence from the “other side.” While hopeful, I don’t know that even the skillful mosaic Waters wove is enough to nullify the polarization we are in the midst of. But one can hope. In the meantime, I was witness to what I missed in years gone by - a Pink Floyd concert that will go down as one of the top 10 concerts I’ve ever seen.

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