Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
I’ve seen them all in concert. Live. And in most cases, quite close up.
(My friend Lynne and I were once in spitting distance of the late, GREAT David Bowie at the Point Theatre in Dublin. I can still see the way he seemed to lean into the crowd on an angle, luminescent and framed by a mist of stage shimmer, steadily making his way through the set with an occasional quip to the band. ‘Hey, guys, which album was this one from again?’ I can still hear the bass-thwanging thrill of ‘Under Pressure’; feel the floor-stomping thrill of ‘Rebel Rebel’ and ‘Fame’. I know most Bowie-ites eschew his new romantic period. Not I. I was spellbound by ‘China Girl’.)
And it doesn’t stop there, my gigging back-catalogue. During my stint as resident of the Republic of Ireland the names listed above were just the Big Acts I saw in concert over a four year period.
Then, and previously, I also had the great fortune to witness: Violent Femmes, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Iggy Pop, Kanye West, Hole, Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine, Prodigy, The Offspring, Silverchair, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Chemical Brothers, Ben Harper, Bryan Adams, Moby, Eagle-Eye Cherry, Macy Gray, Kelis, Nelly Furtado, Manic Street Preachers, Coldplay (again), Morcheeba, PJ Harvey, Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chilli Peppers (again), U2 (again, and again), Groove Armada (at a free gig in Hyde Park, no less), Glen Hansard’s The Frames, Kings of Leon, Sugababes, Supergrass, Badly Drawn Boy, The Flaming Lips, David Gray and Damien Rice.
And I saw them all in my twenties….
Fast forward… erm, a couple of years… and now, with the ball of home and the chain of children around my (c)ankles, I can tell you there have been just THREE gigs in my life in the last four years.
And they were, successively: the Rolling Stones (2014), Ed Sheeran (2015) and Bruce Springsteen (2017).
When the Rolling Stones announced their Auckland show on the ’14 On Fire’ tour, I looked at my husband and said “we can’t not go.” And I’m glad we did. Even though they really did look their collective hundreds of years on stage – all craggy faces, shaky limbs and a general whiff of over-it-ness – to see the enigmatic Mick Jagger strut his stuff on stage counts as something extraordinarily memorable in my life.
The unlikely rock star Ed Sheeran is a much more recent phenomenon in my personal collection of music-that-I-love, and tickets to his ground-breaking one-man-band show were a gift from me to my best friend, also a fan.
The beautiful gingerboy was endlessly entertaining and held the entire crowd in thrall; I can vouch for that absolutely, having attended with a standing ticket at five months pregnant (second time round) and dead on my feet. The buzz of that gig gave me all the energy I needed to see it through without looking for an old-lady-sit-down, and we were spinning for joy by the time we reluctantly dragged ourselves out of there.
There is absolutely no pretension about Ed. He is what he is, carrying the air of someone who chuckles quietly as a procession of stylists desperately try to blend out his freckles or change up his look. He made a couple of outfit changes during the exhausting-looking show, but when I say ‘outfit changes’ they were, more accurately, changes of sweat-dripping t-shirts; no doubt for comfort’s sake.
Not so Mick Jagger, whose fabulous collection of shiny shirts and lurex jackets was a veritable parade worth watching in itself. We the audience were periodically entertained by some or other band member riffing a solo while he went off stage to fan himself slash change outfits.
But if Mick made one hundred and one outfit changes during the gig, Bruce was the epitome of professional rock star. He didn’t leave the stage once, and the only outfit change he affected was the undoing of two or three buttons on his stylish-but-on-brand red and black check shirt, to cool himself off towards the end of the gig as the effort at last began to show (to the delighted whoops of more than a few mums in the crowd).
Bruce Springsteen is a living legend, and I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to see him perform in the flesh. Without hesitation I name his show with the E Street Band the greatest live concert I’ve ever seen.
He has surely played these same tunes thousands upon thousands of times in his career. But the passion for his music, his energy and soulfulness were awe-inspiring, as his charismatic professionalism so elegantly played out over four of the best hours of my gig-going life.
At the age of sixty-seven he is more than a performer for me; he is an absolute inspiration.
I know that he’s sixty-seven, because this is the age in which you can stand in the crowd at a gig and Google the answer to a random but relevant question like this on your phone.
Many of the sensations of concert-going are universal and have been true for me every time. The nagging question you ask your gig-mates: ‘Should we go up a bit further?’ The tickle in your nostrils as someone’s sweet maryjane wafts over (not so appreciated at the pregnant Ed gig). The vague push on your bladder from pre-concert beverage consumption; but I daren’t risk going now, what might I miss? Or the prickles of heat plunking at the soles of your tired feet.
But Googling for an immediate answer to the wonderings of a starry-eyed concert-goer? Now that’s definitely new.