Sunday, July 13, 2008

Memories of Youth

This article is a reprint that I mass-emailed to my friends about a year ago. Got some good response so figured I could publish for "the world" to read.

So my good friend Brian sent out an email about how he just saw a Pink Floyd cover band, and now I'm inspired to share a recent musical experience.

As you may know, The Police announced that they'd be reuniting this summer (2007 )after a 22 year hiatus that was based on bad blood or whatever bands typically break up for. Since I was 15 at that time, I never got a chance to see one of my favorite bands live. Oh yeah, as a youngster I saw Depeche Mode, New Order, the Thompson Twins and numerous other bands that in retrospect seem very gay- (not that there's anything wrong with that)

But The Police was one band that I just flat out missed in my youth and assumed I'd never see. Sure, I saw the Stones when they reunited in 1988 and the Eagles in around 1994- after all, those bands only reunited for one tour... so I HAD to see them before they disappeared forever... Add the Air Supply show at the OC fair and Flock of Seagulls at some small club in Long Beach (dang, more gayish bands!) and that's been the extent of my retro band concerts that I've seen- after they were in their prime.

My wife Nadine and I went to see Smashing Pumpkins about 8 years ago and even back then we felt like the oldest people there. Lot's of aggressive piercings, black clothes and makeup, glitter, trenchcoats, etc. Even though that's a band I've always liked, we just felt old- and that was 8 years ago!- and the last concert band I've seen besides my brother's. Then this opportunity arose to see The Police and I had to go and drag Nadine along, even though she was more of a Garth Brooks/Bon Jovi fan growing up.

So I scrambled to get presale tickets and secured some prime seats right next to the stage in Phoenix where the Suns play. Was it cheap? uh no. In fact Nadine considers this my birthday present for the next few years. So this past Monday, we made a real date out of it, got a sitter for the kids and went out for sushi before the show. Downed some Asahi Super Dry and changed the seat setting in the car so that Nadine could pilot the rest of the evening.

Then we got to the show, and talk about culture shock- if that's the best description to use. In a nutshell, it felt just like we walked into a high school reunion- and it was probably a harbinger of the 20 year reunion coming up for me in 2008. Most people there were between 35 and 45 and those that were younger were between 10 and 15- there with their parents. We got there early and the opening band sucked, so we decided to people watch a bit while we downed $7 Michelobs- perhaps they should have sold Bartles and Jaymes wine coolers for the occasion. While most of the people there appeared to be "normal" parents just like us- out for the rare evening, there were a few people who looked like they intentionally went retro in a subtle sort of way. Lots of girls with that 80's style hair and ripped jeans that they have kept in the closet since seeing Poison in 1989. Dudes with too-tight jeans. The smell of clove cigarettes lingering in the bathrooms (do they still make those) and the whiff of pot halfway through the band's first song. It was surreal- it was like the whole 18000 people were teleported back to 1982 but they brought their maturity level of today (no fights or drunks or flashers). Oh yeah, and lots of dudes with receding and thinning hairlines (of which I include myself)

So eventually the band comes on and everyone in the arena was standing for the entire 2 hours. They played all their hits. In all objectivity, the music was just OK. Nothing crazy, not great, not tight, not spectacular. Sting didn't even attempt the high notes and that made some songs just very plain. When they'd end a song and Sting would jump, he'd clear perhaps 12 inches. There were a few "medleys" which felt very "fairish" and some of their popular songs just sounded boring. Stewart Copeland was awesome and acted very reminiscent of how he did in their heyday. No Sting songs, no new songs, just greatest hits- and lots of their really early stuff before they became mainstream- so that was pretty cool. One comparison to the olden days- instead of lighters, everyone had their cameraphone busted out- taking pictures of the stage- it looked like a Cingular commercial.

During the set, part of me was disappointed, but that was short lived. I was able to put it in perspective when I realized that they have been apart for 22 years and they're all like 50 years old now. I wasn't seeing a cover band, or listening to a CD. I was seeing them live- and now I can go to my grave saying that I've seen them live. Oh yeah, and during the second encore, we looked at each other and said "let's go" so we could beat the crowd. Very "unGeorge".

Why am I sharing all of this with you? Well, for the most part, I've known most of you for like 15 to 20+ years now, so I figured some of you might enjoy a bit of nostalgia- whether you were a fan of Van Halen, the Doors, Quiet Riot or Simply Red, we all remember what it was like when those bands were great- and we were young(er). We're by no means old now, but we're not exactly as cool as we might think. Our daughter loves it when I listen to the classic rock station in the car. She's a big fan of "Another One Bites the Dust". I'm now going to try and find a copy of "Short People" for her so she can get a little more culture from pops. She's still at the age where mom and dad are cool- gotta enjoy that while we can. Anyone who knows me, knows I'm a nostalgic person- maybe more so than others- I still can't get over the extinction of the Montreal Expos and I know that an ex-girlfriend has my vintage first issue Swatch- two things I still can't get over.

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