Tuesday, July 04, 2006

I was drinking when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray*

Today's the fourth of July
another June has gone by
and when they light up our town I just think
what a waste of gunpowder and sky

Not exactly George M. Cohan, and if you've ever heard the song that contains these lyrics, you know that it isn't the type of tune that will have the kids marching across the couches in the family room. But the words are poignant, the melody is beautiful, and I had the great fortune to see the artist who wrote this song in concert while away attending blogger sensitivity training last week.

Regular readers of BFS may recall that in my Grandstand fantasy line-up post I expressed my life's wish to see Aimee Mann perform with the Boston Pops. After thoroughly convincing me that my wish was a pipe dream, my wife, with a big assist from her parents, came through with the tickets, accommodations, and baby sitting that combined to make it one of the best birthday presents I have ever received.

The reason I began this post with the rather sullen opening lyrics to Aimee's non-hit song, "Fourth of July", was to illustrate what type of songwriter she is, and thus, allow myself an opportunity to rant about a fellow concert-goer.

Aimee doesn't write stadium anthems or hot dance club singles. Her songs are expertly crafted musical vignettes that tend to explore the darker side of the human condition. She also isn't the type of performer who claps her hands demonstratively over her head or hurriedly speaks her lyrics ahead of the melody (see: Mac Davis) so that those unfamiliar with a song can still sing along. So appreciating her in concert requires a higher level of decorum than is called for at an Aerosmith or Mariah Carey concert. Basically, it asks that you sit there and soak in the music without distracting others who are trying to do the same. Unfortunately, this proved difficult for the woman sitting to my right (my lovely wife was to my left and was the model of propriety the entire evening.)

Despite the presence of a fine rock drummer and world-class percussionists on stage, the woman next to me thought that the performance would do well with an additional cadence courtesy of her clogged foot tapping against Symphony Hall's hardwood floor. Had she a modicum of rhythm, the tapping may have been absorbed in the acoustical vibrations created by the musicians, but this wasn't the case. She would just barely miss the beat with the first tap, then miss widely with the next. Picture Navin Johnson attempting to snap his fingers to his mother's gospel-inspired assuagements and you'll have a good sense of the scene. The tapping was also accompanied by intermittent hand claps that were Tourette's-like in that they came on suddenly, without provocation, and were totally inappropriate to the ambiance being created by the musicians.

Yes, there is a primal aspect to music that speaks to the soul and manifests itself involuntarily in any number of ways. But certain music requires a cerebral attentiveness to fully appreciate. In these instances, it is the audiences' duty to quell their urge to engage in any type of activity (singing-along, wild gyrations, air guitaring) that might distract from the performance given by those who have earned the spotlight and for whom the audience paid to hear.

Lest I seem a snob on such matters, let me say that I have no problem with audience participation if such actions are encouraged by the performer or the performance. If Vince Neil wants turn the vocal duties on "Home Sweet Home" over to the crowd while he sneaks backstage for another fix, well, that's rock 'n' roll baby. In fact, it's highly likely that acts such as Big and Rich are able to perpetrate their fraudulent music only because their fans are so caught up in their own hooting and hollering that they don't notice the defectiveness of the music emanating from the stage.

Despite the annoyance, the concert was sublime. I agree with the Boston Herald reviewer who thought that more could have been done to reinterpret Aimee's songs to take advantage of the orchestral setting, but given that the concert series only allowed for one rehearsal, this isn't so much a fault as a missed opportunity. Of course, since this was the first time I've seen Aimee in concert, she could have burped the melody to her songs and I still would have proclaimed it the greatest moment in the history of music since Mozart first laid down his stuff for the Austrians.

And as for the lady next to me, I'm glad that I didn't vocalize my inner contempt. She was, after all, having a good time. And she is an Aimee Mann fan, which in my estimation puts her in the upper echelon of society. As much as I despise Adam Sandler, if he came out in an interview as an Aimee Mann fan I would immediately go and purchase his entire film oeuvre on DVD. Although I still probably wouldn't be able to bring myself to watch them.

*I wasn't actually drinking when I wrote this, but a week off from blogging has left me a bit incoherent. Any grammatical errors are deeply regretted.

1 comment:

Monkey Boy said...

"Unfortunately, this proved difficult for the woman sitting to my right (my lovely wife was to my left and was the model of propriety the entire evening."

Sounds to me like there was no beer served there.