I am a concert-crier. Whether they be tears of joy, sorrow, outrage, or disgust… I cry at concerts. And given the recent concert activity here in St. John’s, I’ve been crying a lot.
Two weeks ago I attended the Queens of the Stone Age concert. I went with Blondie and some of her friends who had been diligently waiting outside the Mile One Stadium all day, in the rain, for the best seats in the house. Because of Blondie’s friends, I ended up being front-row-centre, gripping the bar that separated me just inches from the stage.
Unfortunately, my experience with rock concerts is limited and I wasn’t prepared for the show. Sandwiched between strangers and drunken, sweaty boys, I thought, “Gee, this is the most action I’ve gotten in awhile.” Someone groped my ass, and then I realized that I was being entirely crushed by a sea of assholes and rowdy drunks who had nothing better to do than make other people’s concert experience miserable.
Things were fine while the Novaks played. In fact, barely anyone moved. I bobbed my head absent-mindedly while “Nowhere With You” played, and then politely swayed back and forth to give the lead singer the impression that I was having a great time. I’m sure he must have looked out upon the unsmiling mass of fans and tinkled a little in his pants. When the band cleared the stage, the boys behind me joked that the stage crew could have performed better than The Novaks.
Anyway, as soon as Josh Homme walked out on stage, things got entirely out of hand. Yeah, the music is loud, vulgar, raucous and downright exciting… but is there any need to elbow me in the head until my eyes bleed? Is there any need to sway back and forth so roughly that I become horizontal without actually touching the ground?
I completely lost my shit. A security guard asked me if I needed to be lifted out, but I shook my head. My pants were already helplessly exposing my ass, and I knew lifting me over the barrier would tear them off completely. So I stubbornly started backing up.
I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe. I burst into tears. Nobody cared. I could have been trampled to death and nobody would have helped me stand up again. I gripped my jacket for dear life, but all to no avail. It was ripped from my hands and I vaguely remember it being tossed around in the air. I retrieved the jacket later, smelling of vomit, beer, and sweat. Something sticky was in the pockets.
Finally, after some shoving and hysterical screaming, I made it to the back of the crowd. I wove in and out of people while “Into the Fade” played in the background… one of my favorite songs. I was too scared and tired to care. My arms felt like they were being pricked all over with needles. I’m sure I looked perfectly sane while sobbing, shaking and trying to text my friends. Fortunately, once Blondie showed up, we enjoyed the rest of the show from the middle of the stadium with all the normal, sensible people.
Josh Homme got a shoe thrown at him and later a beer cup. Rumours have been circulating about this shoe since it happened, and there’s a large reward prize offered for the perpetrator’s head. Great impression us Newfoundlanders must have made on the band. There has also been some controversy surrounding the fact that this was a Molson sponsored event, and true fans were unfairly getting the shaft just because they were non-drinkers or simply unlucky. The truth is, Queens of the Stone Age probably wouldn’t have played here otherwise. Suck it up.
Anyway, the next weekend Bob Dylan performed at the Mile One Stadium. I saw the second show on May 24th, Dylan’s Birthday. I was a little nervous because friends told me that the previous night was terrible and it was likely that Dylan would wither away on stage. I arrived late, which made me cry, but I cheered up once I saw Dylan for myself.
The show wasn’t that bad. I had a great view of Dylan and the band, and although I couldn’t understand a word he said, I felt breathless while watching such a legendary musician perform. Eventually I accepted the fact that I barely recognized any of the songs (about three, in fact, and only halfway through “Blowin’ in the Wind” did I realize what song it was), and that it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway.
I grinned from ear to ear after seeing the show, but felt bothered by the fact that Dylan didn’t seem to care enough about his fans to put much effort into his performance. I thought maybe he had a terrible shoe experience like Homme, or maybe someone sent him a flaming bag of poop. But that didn’t happen. He never once addressed the crowd, and never once said he was happy to be there. Maybe he didn’t even know he was in Newfoundland. Someone could have very well said, “Hey Bob, how ya enjoyin’ Newfoundland?” And he’d say, “Where’s that?” I’m told this is typical Dylan behavior though. At least he played “Lay Lady Lay.”
The following night, I had tickets for Leonard Cohen. I was a little discouraged at this point… my previous concert experiences didn’t live up to my expectations and I was blue about spending so much cash on entertainment.
My evening with Cohen was extraordinary. The concert was held at the Holy Heart Theatre, an incredibly small venue in comparison with the Mile One Stadium. The setting was small, intimate, and perfect. For once in my life, it was as though all midgets had decided to sit directly in my line of sight – not one person blocked my view.
As soon as Cohen walked out on stage, I knew I was in for a special evening. He was immediately charming, welcoming the crowd and addressing us as “friends.” Several times he took off his hat and bowed politely, as the audience rose again and again to applaud his performance.
The set started out with “Dance Me to the End of Love” and continued with some wisely selected songs that kept the crowd happy and enthusiastic. Cohen stopped many times to recite some of his poetic lines before leading into a song, and the effect was something like a trance. I could only sit spellbound in pleasure. It was magical.
But it wasn’t until Cohen sang “Suzanne” that I felt the full effect of his performance. There is something haunting and profoundly sad in that song. Tears helplessly rolled down my cheeks and I brushed them away in embarrassment, only to find that the people around me were all crying too.
The feeling was repeated with “Hallelujah.” Cohen’s amazing musicians and back-up singers were perfect. I felt nearly spiritual.
Cohen played for almost four hours. I discussed the evening with my landlord later, who could only describe the concert as, “the best thing that ever happened in my life.” I feel like my other concert experiences pale in comparison. I’m a little bit more spiritual now, perhaps wiser. Yes, indeed, I will never be friends with moshers and the only way to view a concert is with a bunch of old hippies and grandparents who won’t shove you face-first into the dirt or try to molest you in a crowd.