Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been, lives in a dream. Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Who is it for? All the lonely people. Where do they all come from? Where do they all belong?
I used to avoid concerts. I don't like crowds, spending money or public celebration very much. I subscribed to the philosophy that I could listen to the music I liked in my own home clearer and with less chance of sitting beside a sweaty stranger. But I one Sunday morning, as I was lauding the value of public, corporate worship I realized the grander potential that existed when experiencing a piece of beloved music together with others. So I began to say yes to seeing artists that I'd always admired, cost be damned. And I haven't regretted this decision.
But concerts are not about concerts. It's an introspective experience masquerading as a demonstrative one... and if you pay close attention to the audience (where the real show is found) there is a tangible sadness laced into it... with a side of hope.
Last night, I watched John Fogerty perform... and he was phenomenal. CCR, even though they were only together for 5 years before suffering an emotionally crippling breakup, remains one of my favorite bands. His personal struggle with artistry includes disillusionment, betrayal, and eventual redemption. It's not been an easy road encapsulated by his raucous refrain of "It ain't me. I ain't no fortunate one."
The reason I love CCR is that I latched onto them during a season of confusion, teenage transition and a bit of lonely heartache. I'd listen to "Have you ever seen the rain" (a song written expressing the pain of a band breakup) in my buddy's backyard, floating in his pool while we wondered why didn't get invited to the parties our friends did and why others all seemed to get girls when we just got... each other listening to CCR.
I studied and eavesdropped on as many of the thousands who had made a pilgrimage to hear the music they love as I could. All around me people spoke frankly of their real-world struggles between songs. Behind me during a 30 second lull, a woman shared with a girlfriend about her mother's cancer. I heard stories of heartbreaking tragedies within earshot. I witnessed the overcoming of handicaps as evidenced by a one-legged fan this in the front row determined to stand as close to John Fogerty as possible, hoping that he'd hear her singing Bad Moon Rising. You could watch struggling relationships in full-on overcompensation mode hoping to reignite passion.
I asked myself why other people come with those they know the most, looking for the healing tonic of collective experience... when the music is something they can hear clear in their home. People come in to the arena with their memories and longings. They remember a time where they did some THING in the real world that was accompanied by the soundtrack they've come to ingest. It's like Jack Sheppard trying to get back to LOST island, doing whatever he did the first time to get there, playing his internal movie playing out in his mind. People are remembering love-making gone by, hoping that by following the siren song, they will somehow rub the genies lamp just right... the enchantment will fall... and they'll get back to where they were for attachment again.
Ironically I think the artist is in the very same situation as those who come to the feeding trough are. The artist simply does his best to navigate his way through life authentically, make sense of what he sees, and share it with others. He as well hopes desperately for validation and connection.
The bitter separation that can lead to sadness can come with the fact that we adore the artist because they have LIVED the songs that we've heard (and sometimes imagined living out for ourselves) ... but somehow our lives don't live up to that picture. We escape into their world because it seems idyllic. Sadly, it can leave us singing in the dark, forgetting about the loneliness and dark times that the artist ALSO experienced as heard in songs like Lodi.
If I only had a dollar for every song I´ve sung. And every time I had to play while people sat there drunk. You know I´d catch the next train back to where I live. Oh Lord, I´m stuck in a Lodi again
Beside me sat and older native man at the show by himself. I could almost see the movies playing in the recesses of his mind as the parade of classic songs played out on the stage. His wistful expression didn't fluctuate much throughout the show. Some songs were smilers & clappers... but you could tell there was memory and genuine emotion buried not far underneath at any given moment. When Fogerty played my favorite song, "As Long as I can see the light" I caught his eye. We both nodded knowingly, thoughts far from where we were sitting.
I used to play this 3 minute song on repeat for hours, to sir up enough hope to make it through the night. When I got home, I could still feel it. I watched a generic YouTube clip of the old song and scrolled through the comments. There were stories of kids of addict mothers, struggles with overcoming poverty, and others who just listened to stir their soul.
Even the 80 year old couple who danced like no one was watching for 2 hours at the front of the stage have story. While entertaining and adorable, these two clearly cared deeply about this music for a reason. It wasn't about Proud Mary. It was about something else.
Make no mistake. What we're doing is never about what we're doing. There is always something deeper in play.