Thursday, April 17, 2008

And Now, Live Off-Stage...

I'm not too old to rock, but I just may be getting too cranky for concerts.

Let's see. Sting and Natalie Merchant. Chattering yahoos behind us who refuse to shut up. Ever.

Tom Petty. Great show. Surprise appearance by Stevie Nicks. An outdoor venue that sells beer to underage young men who don't give a sample about Tom Petty and are so full of Heineken, the line at the men's room is longer - yes, girls, this is a seismic event in the history of mankind - longer than the line for the ladies' room. Some boys are soooo bursting with beer, they just cut to the chase in the bathroom sink.

And then there was our fourth and probably last Bob Dylan concert. My friend had scored four second row tickets. Having just met each other's spouses for the first time, we were chatting away, waiting for the concert to start, when the pack descended. Five tall, husky guys and one big, loud lady, all in their forties and fifties. Pathological Dylan fans who will go anywhere within a 500 mile radius to see him and spend anything to wangle first row seats. Which they don't need because they stand, the entire bloody time.

The pack blocked our view with astonishing effectiveness. I am a woman of average height and my friend's wife is petite. On the off chance that she might actually catch a glimpse of Dylan in his negative space, the obstructionist in front of her wore a broad brimmed black cowboy hat. If we wanted to see, our only option was to get up, thus passing down the inconvenience to the row behind us. We were all too polite to do so. Our mothers raised us right.

Now, I've gotten up and boogied at a concert from time to time, when the song is iconic and the beat irresistible and the whole crowd is on its feet. But these jerks even stood during the ballads. They simply stopped shaking their great hulks, swaying solemnly instead. At one point, the guy in front of Mike got tired and actually took his seat. Not surprising since he was pushing fifty, built like a refrigerator, and had just downed three or more stadium beers. So he plopped down, threw his arm over the chair and leaned his neck back until his head was practically in Mike's lap. Sensing the discontent behind her, the lady Dylan fanatic turned to me sympathetically and explained that this is what one does in the front row. Maybe, she helpfully suggested, we should sit on the side next time.

My husband was reminding me of our recent concert history as we sat in the IMAX theater, waiting for Shine a Light, Scorsese's Rolling Stones concert film, to begin. The current concert experience costs big bucks and sucks to such an extent, Mike remarked, movies like this are a better option. I was thinking he had a point when The Free Spirit sashayed up the aisle.

She was about forty, with butt-length, raven curls and a well kept figure. The kind of woman who can't outgrow the twenty year old girl's need to flash flesh regardless of the outside temperature, she wore black leather pants, a tall Russian fur hat and a white corset. Her hips swung like a pendulum as she walked, her straight-laced, whitebread boyfriend following right behind. They settled in three seats past me. Between us sat a lone Indian gentleman in a suit and tie.

The lights went down and the movie started. (Let me just say that in this film, the Stones are definitely larger than life. Cavernous closeups of Mick's mouth in IMAX make one feel like Jonah right before the whale gulped him down. The legendary Jagger tongue is the size of a three year old child. The stage lights shine through his front teeth when he sings and you can tell exactly which of his choppers have benefitted from the art of modern dentistry. Somebody please tell me why this is necessary.)

The movie introduces the Stones, pre-concert, photo-opping for Bill and Hillary Clinton and some of their relatives. Meanwhile, Scorsese is running around looking crazed because the song selection is not final and he needs to work out the camera placement (not suspenseful - you know he'll pull it together - he's Scorsese). Soon enough, the concert is on. And The Free Spirit is on too.

Shooting up from her seat like a trick snake from its fake nut tin, she begins to dance. She waves her arms in the air, whooping and yelling "Yeah, Mick!". She claps her palms raw after every song. When the Stones play an obscure cover tune, The Free Spirit bops around enthusiastically. When they tear into the opening riff of Sympathy for the Devil, she doesn't recognize it and stops gyrating to adjust her corset. She ooohs and squeals constantly, like the soundtrack from some lost sex tape of Marilyn doing both Kennedy brothers at the same time. Nobody else in the theater is acting like this.

The Indian gentleman stares in open disbelief. The Free Spirit's date remains silent and impassive, perhaps wondering whether the ensuing lay will be worth the current embarrassment. Mike puts his elbow up by his face and hangs his sweater on it as a blinder to keep The Free Spirit out of his peripheral vision. In desperation, I call out "You don't have to shout. They can't hear you. It's a MOVIE." No reaction. From the first song to the final encore, every number is marred by The Free Spirit's exhibitionistic whooping. I keep wishing she would hold up her lighter and get ushered out by the fire marshall.

So much for being spared the indignities of the live concert experience. I hold my tongue as I walk out past The Free Spirit, still carrying on as the credits roll. I'm dying to ask why she didn't throw her panties at the screen.

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