In the rock concert of life we are often squeezed in amongst too many people, too far from the stage and too considerate or inhibited to get up and dance. And the band don’t play our favourite tunes. A thought I mused as I waited for Keane to come on stage at the in Leicester last Wednesday.
I once stayed up very late in a hotel bar with a load of blokes from work comparing our worst and best rock concert experiences. Typical men – rather than diagnosing our own performance, we analysed and critiqued other people’s into the early hours. It is all too tempting to live our lives by association with those we laud or disassociation with those we loathe. A much easier game than taking the trouble to be balanced about those around us and constructively critical of ourselves.
So we gush and fawn over greatness delivered to us – Messi, Minogue or (dare-I-say-it) Her Majesty. As if by doing so, some of their apparent perfection is attributable to us. Then we lambaste and mock failure or weakness, because disassociating ourselves from such despicable behaviour bolsters our own self-esteem. This myopia can so easily deteriorates into discrimination and bullying.
Anyway, as I am sure you want to know – the best rock concert I enjoyed was Roger Waters at Earl’s Court and the worst was Bob Dylan at Nottingham Ice Rink. The latter just left me, well, cold. It was his first British appearance in years, but he made the cardinal error of performing off his own reputation. Which is skating on very thin ice. Roger Waters, on the other hand – just as big a musician – performed as if his life depended on it; as if his next performance might be the celebrated Great Gig in the Sky.
We too can sail blithely and complacently through life, letting the wind take us where it will, careless of others, believing our own publicity. We too can turn up, growl through a few well-worn songs and disgracefully bow out. Dylan was actually booed at the end of his so-called performance. Which is a shame for such a talented and unique artist. If we live our lives like this, life will pass us by and we wont win many friends. It is well-researched that people at the end of their lives regret far more the things they didn’t do, than the things they did do.
On the other hand we can jump in the speedboat of life and roar through our days at breakneck speed, fueled by adrenaline or testosterone (and whatever the equivalent female hormone is!). This gives no time to stop and stare, to reflect and enjoy life’s fineries and flowers, subtleties and sunsets. It wears us out and leaves no room for appreciation of the journey. That’s if we don’t crash or run out of fuel.
Keane in concert last night were a little too fast and furious for my liking and a little light on fineness and fragility. They certainly poured every gram of energy into entertaining us, despite a small stage and very limited lighting. Like a wasp flying around manically and repeatedly hitting its head at the glass rather than easing itself through the open widow. Keane didn’t play one of my favourite tunes ‘Mind How you go’ from their latest album. They should have done, as the opening line would have been self-instructive; ‘The more you rush around the less you do . . .’
They played virtually every other track off Strangeland, plus all of their fast famous songs. Churning out hit after hit with like a 10,000m runner pounding out lap after lap. Hugely energetic and enjoyable but – yes – a little bit the-sameish and quite wearing. The drum beat varies but it is nearly all very loud and very fast. Tom Chaplin sings with great clarity and strength but with little subtly. Tim Rice-Oxley’s keyboards are mainly hit hard and on the sharp tinkerly setting. Variety is the spice of a concert – as well as of life.
Tom Chaplin described their new album as more “compassionate and optimistic”. As a band they are in their middle-age; this was their fourth major album. Hopefully as we get towards the middle of this unique experience we call life, we too become more compassionate and optimistic. ‘Forget the ghosts that make you old before your time’ they sang. Ghosts and baggage can make us cynical and bitter. And nobody likes a bitter cynic. It is self-fulfilling to behave as if nobody likes you.
We were quite boxed in in the upper circle. De Montfort Hall was designed for more sedate spectating – an orchestra or a ballet perhaps. We clapped and stamped our feet and waved our hands through all the high tempo numbers as best we could, studiously avoid and contact with the people either side. Which was quite a workout – especially up in the airless gods. Strangely, the guy next to me watched the whole thing through binoculars without moving a muscle. he even retained his binoculars and inertia when we all stood up for the encore. As if he was checking they played all the right notes.
Dancing of course is only an option if the people around you sort of dance also. Otherwise you obstruct their view and, more importantly, feel very self-conscious and conspicuous. It needed the Mexican wave of the encore to give us all the permission we needed. Even then it is hard to dance in a square foot of floor and a tipped seat prodding your behind your knees, trying to make you sit down again.
Dancing, clapping, waving to the music are self-expressions of enjoyment, liberty and energy. In life too, we can express of of these things in so many ways. All it takes is the courage to be ourselves and express our god-given gifts and personalities. Whilst being considerate to those around us, I should not let them inhibit me as much as I do. In fact, they don’t. We only ever inhibit ourselves.
And so, I conclude that the best concerts, the best days, the very best lives, are a kaleidoscope of dance and music, of different energies, subtleties, moods and velocities. Experienced for ourselves, rather by association with others. Expressed and enjoyed with liberty. Compassionate and optimistic.