Some lighthearted relief
Some things you do are historic. Have you ever sat in a black theater with the jam-packed crowd settling down, anticipating, anticipating you know not quite what? Then the blackness lifts into a deep red and a simple stage, and the floor starts thumping from the largest speaker system you’ve ever seen as “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” pounds from them, created by a group of guys in their 70s strumming their guitars and pounding their drums?
Well, we have. A 50th-year On Fire tour, the last concert tour of the Rolling Stones. Do you know we met a young person in Hong Kong who’d never heard of them?
Rock concerts are on our “bucket list,” a list of things we must do before we go. And we’ve been to some great ones: Creedence Clearwater Revival, Deep Purple, The Doors, Chuck Berry, and Eric Clapton all on his own. Even the Beatles—we’ve been there, done that. The thrill, the adrenalin rush, is (almost) like something I can’t mention in a general-circulation newspaper.
But what a show it was, a 71-year-old Mick Jagger skipping down a catwalk that stretched into the audience, wooing, capturing the people in the audience. They were putty in his hands. And on their feet from the first twang of a guitar to the last thump of a drum’s pigskin two-and-a-half hours later. It never stopped. Ten thousand people provided an intimate (for the Stones, who normally play to 50,000 plus) sound that just, well, rocked. And how it rocked.
What captivates me in a live concert is that the 2-minute canned versions, good as they are, stretch to 5, even 10, of never-ending instrumentality. One piece that totally enthralled me was Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ronnie joining Mick Taylor, their guest, in a guitar-jamming with the occasional accompaniment on harmonica by Mick Jagger, that just went on and on, challenging each other for supremacy in a way that hit your soul.
I don’t care much for standing, but sit? You’d have to be joking, no way! Mick’s greatness truly came through when he left the stage for two songs and Keith took over. And Keith was good, real good, but the magic wasn’t there. Mick would say “Clap!” and the audience wouldn’t stop. “Shout!” and they brought the roof down. It was an audience in thrall. That’s real leadership. It was an audience of all kinds, with many surprisingly young, those of that hideous rap era. Us, who grew up with the Stones, made up a smaller group.
But where’s “I can’t get no satisfaction”? asked my wife. It wasn’t there, and the show ended. The stage plunged into darkness—forever and ever, and the clapping and stomping and insistence for “More!” wouldn’t stop. Back the Stones came to thunderous applause and rock, real rock. “You can’t always get what you want” blasted from the monster speakers. Then, then, “I can’t get no satisfaction,” and the crowd was in ecstasy—well, the girls certainly were. The audience and the musicians were one.
I couldn’t sleep that night. Memorable, a large tick off the bucket list.
How sad that Mick’s longtime partner should die just a few days later so horribly.
I remember someone once saying, “On your deathbed you don’t regret what you’ve done, you regret what you didn’t.” So to concerts, go and be excited. And not just rock, but what sends you.
On a totally different scale, “Aida” did it for us, too, in a 143-year-old opera in four acts. We were transported back 143 years in time, to a different world, to voices that soared as only an opera singer’s can. Where do they get that purity of voice from? A sky that seemed to know that heavenly music was soaring up to it, passing us briefly, magically, on the way. The costumes, the sets (it was set in an ancient Egyptian kingdom), the ancient Roman amphitheater itself, wove a magic that gave life to one of the greatest pieces of music ever composed.
We love music (some disagreement on country and western which my wife inexplicably doesn’t seem to understand, and I don’t go much for her “schmaltz”—but that’s by the by), and the best of stereo systems do a great job of bringing it to you. But “live” is just a whole ball game further on. You become part of the performers, they are you, what you want to be.
Alba’s in Alabang has a trio, guitar and a double bass, that brings Spanish music to life, transports you to a small Spanish town by the ocean as your mind is transported. The food is a minor accompaniment. Speakers can’t do that.
It’s why I want to add: “It’s more fun in the Philippines—with music.” Put bands, put singers everywhere. The Filipino talent is amazing, it enchants you. It’s memories to take home. Let’s put live bands everywhere. They will sell.
Now what has memories of my private life got to do with our real task of improving this society, except from being a piece of tabloid journalism (that seems to sell better than news does, I’ve never understood why). Well, it’s the bucket list. Not only do we all, regardless of age, need a bucket list, a list of things we want to do, and must do, in our lifetime, so also must governments.
In the Philippines that lifetime is six years, now down to two and a bit. They’re approaching senior citizenship, and where’s the bucket list? Well, it’s the Philippine Development Plan that was released in 2011. And if the government goes over that list, as it certainly should, it will see that the tick-offs are not enough. The President might want to remember: You don’t regret what you’ve done, you regret what you didn’t. (Next week: my ideas on what the government’s bucket list should be)
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