From Goulding to Legend
A lot can happen in a week and music is the soundtrack to my life, always has been. Whether I am happy or sad, celebrating or trying to take my mind off something, seeing any musician I love in a live setting is a treat. I forever link a song or an artist with something I have experienced. Music is a wonderful thing for that. There is just something about being there in person for a show, with the music right in front of me. It is a feeling indescribable, but the two shows I saw recently deserve the chance.
The first was in a casino. The night began amongst the noise and commotion of the casino floor. With all the slot machines surrounding me, it was definitely an assault on the senses: all the bells and chimes going on and on, all around me.
Ellie Goulding performed after an opener: a DJ which, in my opinion, went on too long. He performed almost longer than the main attraction I paid to see.
Ellie’s second album “Halcyon” was the main reason I wanted to see her live. That album was the theme to my life for more than a year, through some of the most important moments thus far. I could not pass up the opportunity to hear her perform it in person.
I felt her voice and her lyrics and the music flow through me in my seat. Her powerful voice reverberated through the bleachers, at times the whole grandstand moving from every person up on their feet.
One of my main thoughts as I listened, eagerly leaning forward in my seat or sitting back paralyzed in awe, was how I wish I were one of the lucky voices getting to be her back-up singers. I wished I were up there.
She performed for a short hour-and-a-half that seemed to fly by. I stood and swayed along with her haunting melodies. All the racket of the casino and the DJ were left behind and worth the feelings her songs produced in me. I felt her words and her beautiful lyrics burrow through into my core. Her songs have an aching sadness to be found in almost all of them, the perfect songs for a life that’s not always easy. Songs like “Figure Eight” and “Explosion”, some of my very favourites, made me smile from ear to ear, as I didn’t want the night to end. As she encouraged audience participation, I waved my cane up in the air.
I was hoping she would perform her cover of Elton Johns’ “Your Song” and, to my delight, she did not disappoint.
“I hope you don’t mind…I hope you don’t mind, That I put down in words, How wonderful life is, now you’re in the world.”
A performance like that I will never forget, harder on my legs than on my ears. Walking out of the casino after the show I felt like I was on a swaying rocking ship. All the movement and the power of the music coursing through my body caused an unsteadiness and a wobbly lack of stability. I was shaken, moved down deep. I will never forget the performance she put on in that casino, or the person I experienced that moment with.
A rather clear difference from one show to the next: next came John Legend.
I had a chance to see him live a few years back. He was the opening act for Sade in Toronto. At the time I wasn’t all that familiar with him or his music and arrived mid performance, not in a hurry to see him when Sade was the real reason I was there.
Jump ahead almost three years and I almost missed him altogether.
I first heard his current hit song “All Of Me”, when he performed it live in studio on the Howard Stern Show. He sang, just him and his piano, and I realized I had missed out last time. When I heard he was coming to a venue close to home I had to make up for my past mistake.
It’s funny how things work out: for good or for bad. I believe in symmetry in life because I look at life that way. I didn’t think I would once more be listening to John Legend live with my sister, but like the first time, here I was again. Life is unpredictable like that and predictable all at once. The person I thought I was meant to see this show with wasn’t the one I was meant to see it with at all in the end.
This time it was a two-hour concert with no break. John was touring with a string quartet: two violins, a viola, and a cello. All that mixed with his superb piano skill and a guitarist and musical arranger made up a beautiful evening.
My only complaint: A few moments during the show I thought I was at a Justin Bieber concert or a boy band of some sort. Directly to my left sat a group of girls who clearly thought Legend to be quite the babe and they didn’t hold back in showing it. The atmosphere of the evening was one of cool jazzy rhythm and soul, which only brought out this group of hooting fans, making them stand out. That coupled with a few of their irritating acts of audience participation was enough to make me want to push somebody off the balcony. I understand the urge to tap your toe along with the music, but their decision to snap their fingers loudly along song after song caused me to want to bend a few of their fingers back, if it would allow me to enjoy the show in peace. Thankfully my ever-trusty sister knew to pat me on the arm in an attempt to calm me down and remind me to relax and not let a few inconsiderate girls ruin my evening.
The second song he performed live on Howard Stern was a recent cover of “Dancing In The Dark” he had been requested to perform for a Bruce Springsteen tribute:
“I check my look in the mirror, Wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face.”
I am even going to go so far as to say that, from the first time I heard him sing his version, I preferred it to the original. He has taken a classic and made it his own, singing slowly and hauntingly sad. I felt so much, as I listened to him sing and play the piano as to make Bruce proud.
John Legend’s music is infused with passion and heat. His lyrics often revolve around themes of love and romance. This, in itself, was enough to have kept me away at a time when those were the last things I wanted to be reminded of.
As I sat and let his soft, warm voice soak in, I let his beautiful tone and words sooth my weary soul. While others were, no doubt, enjoying their date nights and Legend’s atmosphere of sweet romance, )the one I was supposed to have), I began to feel the weight of the previous few days be lifted off my shoulders with every note.
The violins, viola, and cello were achingly and heartbreakingly beautiful. His piano skills were better than I remembered. The guitar rounded out the performance, no need for percussion at all.
Due to recent events, very recent events, I hesitated and almost missed the performance of a lifetime. An evening that I thought would only serve to pour salt in newly torn wounds turned out to be cathartic and the perfect way to move forward. The hit love song I went to see him perform live took on a whole new meaning. I couldn’t escape it and I am sure glad I didn’t try.