Free show sounds like a great idea

It is a really nice thing about living in a big city that free concerts come your way fairly often – last couple of years especially in TO. When I was a wee lass in Sarnia, I coveted the mythical “concert in the park” experience. You know, because of Simon and Garfunkel.

So it was not super-reluctantly that I went with some friends last night to see lady kd lang behind Roy Thompson Hall. We had burritos in our hands and it was nice out and I’d never seen a show in the middle of the bidniss district, among the tall buildings.

But it was a weird night – and not a great show. For starters, I’m used to us being the oldies at a show, with all our 40-ness. Nothing against old people – I’m just noticing: the crowd was oolldd. And the crowd was square – exactly the same sort of crowd that I witnessed while seeing Lord McCartney at the ACC (also a bad choice). The crowd at both does not go for live music: they go for spectacle  sans-spontaneity that resemble the Phantom of the Opera more than an actual, sweaty musical performance. They talk about their jobs loudly while standing in the crowd, clap whenever the people on stage ask for it, and visit the Loreal tent (not kidding) for free skin-care samples. The show is as important. To be clear: I don’t hate these people. I just don’t like attending shows with them.

It’s totally my own fault: this was my invasion of their space, not the other way around. kd lang has been easy-listening old epeople’s mall music for 20 years. Vague rumours of a return-to-roots – back to country music, maybe – encouraged me to check it out. That and the price tag. But artists do not return from that rabbit hole after going into it. Plastic rock star poses and perfect, just louder, renditions of the record represent a fork in the road taken. I can’t easily think of that road ever really looping around. I don’t even think this is an evil choice: artists often want to be rock stars and do the rock star job. I don’t like it. Knowing that, I shouldn’t have gone.

I was unable to dig in and enjoy (as my friends did) her wonderful voice – the other shit ruined it for me. I was put off by the apparent need for the show to push all of the obvious buttons all of the time; for every song to end with one Big Note that everyone in the audience could nod at and go “yep, she sure can sing”. I was uncomfortable with the Vegas vibe, the enormous makeup ads everywhere, including around and over the stage (lights with ads for Loreal). The button-pushingest song of the last 15 years – Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah as encountered via Jeff Buckley or Shrek or U2 or the Watchmen or, apparently, kd lang – doesn’t require telegraphing or close-ups to bring the power, but lang did milk every possible moment for every possible sentiment.

Nevermind that she is pretty damn strange looking in her indeterminate but not young age: she looks, from a certain angle, exactly like Martin Sheen in an SNL fat suit. I am aware that this makes me sound like a royal asshole. Sorry. But I am one.

I did manage to look around a lot and just enjoy being out in the city, among the lit up buildings, doing something I wished I could do at 17. I got a cool picture (below). And I did avoid telling anyone what I thought until well-after the show, so they could enjoy it. That mitigates my assholeness, I figure, a little.

Overall, I found the whole thing uncomfortable. No more: Life seems to be as much about trimming as adding, lately, and I intend to trim this sort of experience from my life. Luckily, nobody will miss me.

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