Posts tagged Concerts
Posts tagged Concerts
Look, Fran, I did get another setlist :D
Going to two shows was the best decision ever, because I never want to see a band more than right after seeing them. The first night builds up the excitement and the second one is usually the really satisfying one. This time it helped that we got to go early on Saturday. We spent a couple of hours queueing up and chatting with other fans and we got perfect front row centre spots.
Also, I can’t believe I sometimes forget how much I love this band. I’ve seen them six times now, and not counting Sufjan (who’s in a league of his own) they’re hands down my favourite live band.
It’s long overdue photos day: Sharon Van Etten at The Junction.
So I got pretty much no decent pictures of the Sufjan Stevens/Bryce Dessner/Nico Muhly show at Salle Pleyel on Friday. I wasn’t sure if the staff was going to be strict about it, I didn’t want to draw attention to myself, and plus it’s not like I don’t have ridiculous amounts of pictures from all the previous times I saw Sufjan and The National. The show was amazing, of course: I spent so long looking forward to it, I’ve grown to love these songs so much over the past few months, that there wasn’t much of a chance I was going to think otherwise. Like Fran and others have said, it was neat to see how the songs have changed in little ways ever since they were first played live. M got what is hopefully a decent bootleg, but of course nothing compares to an actual professional recording that captures how powerful the trombones sound. Fingers crossed that we get one at some point.
Unfortunately the whole thing was over much too fast – last year’s two and a half hour long shows still have me kind of spoiled, I guess. But we did get an encore (Somewhere Over the Rainbow), so hooray for that. And I keep thinking that the way I felt during the show is the reason why I do anything, really. I listen to music and I go to concerts and I travel and I watch movies and TV series and I read books whenever I can because I know that one experience out of a hundred will manage to make me feel this way: alive, elated, heartbroken in the best possible way, filled with longing and yet somehow also completely satisfied. This feeling is what I mean when I say that art plays a major role in my life. It may sound pretentious or like it’s something far removed from everyday concerns 1, but this kind of experience is such a central part of what being human is all about for me. I was lucky enough to have quite a few moments of those over the weekend (the show, seeing Starry Night Over the Rhone, the view from the dome of Sacré-Cœur), and I’ll always be grateful for that.
Random tidbit number one: there were people at the show with the Paste Magazine cut out Sufjan paper dolls. It was two parts sweet and one part “This is something I’ll remember the next time I start worrying I might be creepy.”
Random tidbit number two (or, this is where you all start wondering if I’ve finally lost it): I got to Paris very early on Friday, and at about 10am I was on the bus from the airport to Porte Mallot – which, as it turns out, is not far from Salle Pleyel at all. I was near Avenue Victor Hugo when I look out the window and I see Sufjan on a scooter coming in the opposite direction the bus was going. He was wearing a helmet, but with the visor up, and the bus had stopped for a minute, so I got a really good look at his face. M was kind of dozing beside me, and by the time my excited gesturing and cries of “Look, look! That’s Sufjan outside!” had woken him up, we had already driven away.
I do realise how crazy this sounds: Sufjan on a scooter in Paris? Really? And in a city that big, what are the odds he’d be driving by at the same time as our bus? Needless to say, M spent the whole day making fun of me. For the first half hour or so after it happened I was completely sure it was Sufjan, implausibility and all – I did get a good look at him, and it’s not like I don’t know his face really well. But as the day went by, I started wondering if I had imagined the whole thing, of it was just someone who happened to look like him. However! I described his outfit (light grey zip up hoodie, dark pants) to M, and before the concert started, when they all came on stage to set things up before getting changed, he was wearing exactly that. Can’t be a coincidence, right? So there – I did randomly spot Sufjan riding a scooter just as I was arriving in Paris.
Next up: more Paris pictures than you want to see. I’ll try my best not to go overboard.
1 And it is in a way, but in others, not so much. Also, I know that there are cultural and class factors involved in getting this feeling from some things and not from others, which could be the subject of a whole other post. I won’t go there now, but I wanted to say that I know some people feel this intensely alive watching sports or going on a hike or running or walking into a cathedral or whatever, and that’s all fine by me. I don’t buy into the notion that art is inherently superior to other systems of constructing meaning.
Like thousands of people all over the world, I have a very intense and personal connection with Neutral Milk Hotel, particularly with the album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. My own story with it is certainly not one of the most remarkable or memorable of the countless personal stories surrounding that album: Aeroplane came into my life a good six years after it was first released, and its perfect mix of urgency, loss and celebration of being alive happened to fit particularly well into what was happening in my life at that moment. To make what could be a long story short, the album became one of those things that I love fiercely and protectively; one of those things that simply become a central part of who I am.
And also like thousands of others, I never really thought I’d ever have the chance to hear those songs live. The solo Jeff Mangum shows were first announced in early June 2011 – specifically, they were announced the day after the last show of the Age of Adz European tour, when M and I were still off in Lisbon in a Suf-induced haze. We only went online late that night, and heard the news just in time to buy what must have been one of the very last pairs of non second-hand tickets available (prior to the rescheduling, at least). Buying those tickets was a bit of a leap of faith – the shows were originally scheduled for December, and back in June I knew very little about what my life would be like six months later. Then the shows were postponed, and I held on to my ticket even though by then it would take nothing short of a miracle for me to be able to make it, and even though people were offering ridiculous amounts of money for spares. Money has been more than a little tight these past few months, but it never even occurred to me to take advantage of that – call me an idealist, but I’d feel like I was betraying something special if I did. The plan was always to wait until the last minute and then to ask M to sell mine for face value at the door if necessary.
My miracle came, and seeing Jeff Mangum live and everything I hoped and more. The crowd was intense, but also pretty reverential, like they were too much in shock and awe to react much. He opened with Two-Headed Boy Pt. Two followed by Holland, 1945, which was pretty much the emotional equivalent of dropping an anvil on my head. He then went on to play all of Aeroplane but Communist Daughter, and pretty much all my other favourite NMH songs. I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that this even happened – if I think of my top five favourite albums ever, of which this is definitely one, there is no way I’d get to go to a show where they would be played almost in their entirety without a time machine being involved. I guess there’s always the possibility of something like “Radiohead plays OK Computer” happening, but if so face value tickets would probably be priced something like €250 and there would be no way I could afford to go, judging by the latest trends in ticket pricing :S
I spent much of the show in tears, in a way that hadn’t happened to me since the first time I saw Joanna Newsom back in early 2005. I didn’t glance around me much, but I strongly suspect I wasn’t the only one. Surprisingly, the most moving moment of the night for me was just before “Ghost”, when Jeff told the crowd, “Please sing along if you know the words. It sounds so beautiful to me.”
This is a guy who disappeared from the public eye after Aeroplane became successful; a guy I have always thought of as the J.D. Salinger of the indie music world. I was sitting at the front at his show and I couldn’t help crying during at least half the set. The place wasn’t even dark, and he could see my red eyes (and others) perfectly well. Up until that moment, at the back of my mind there was an always the awareness that we, the collective people who were so touched by his music, who loved it so fiercely, who had hoped for something like this for so long, were a bit of a burden to him. I don’t know what the emotional process behind disappearing for so long and playing live again now was like for him, and I don’t want to make any assumptions, but my default stance at the show was to express all those feelings as quietly and discreetly as possible. I think this is what was behind the crowd’s contained, reverential attitude – it’s almost like we were scared we would scare him away again if we were too intense.
But then he said that, and it was like he was saying that despite everything, the fact that his music touched so many people so deeply really meant something to him. We might have been a burden, but we were also a lifeline. So much of what draws me to art amounts to simple human connection. This happens in ways that are far more complicated, abstract and indirect than just artist to audience to artist, but concerts are still one of the contexts in which this very personal aspect of creating art, putting it out there, and having it become a part of other people is the most obvious. The moment when Jeff said that drove that point home like nothing else that night. I’ll always be incredibly grateful that an album like Aeroplane even exists – and grateful to him personally for having given us something like that – and I’m so, so glad that we could give him something in return.
1 I also met Patrick Ness that afternoon - did this day really happen?
Fanfarlo @ The Deaf Institute
Signs that you’re getting old: when the members of a band look incredibly young to you, particularly if it’s a band you’ve liked for 3+ years.
I have nothing lined up for December, so this was my last show of the year. It definitely ended things on a high note.
..and this made my evening: No Key, No Plan (slow version)
Okkervil River @ Sound Control
St Vincent - Your Lips Are Red (Manchester)
Someone else recorded this so it was possible to replace the audio. Enjoy! You can see Annie going into the crowd with her guitar about halfway through the song, and then mouthing “help” because she couldn’t climb back on stage.
ETA: That’s Cate Le Bon, who opened and then did backup vocals for the show.
Part two - this venue is the best for pictures.
St Vincent @ The Deaf Institute, Manchester
Sadly I have no videos, as the camera’s microphone just doesn’t cope with gigs that loud. But it was an amazing show - I’d only seen her solo before (opening for The National in 2007) and a full band makes a world of difference.
Laura Marling @ Manchester Cathedral