This is the time of year I usually review the concerts I attended over the past twelve months. I don’t see why this year should be any different.
Except for the fact that every concert on the face of the earth was canceled in 2020. Along with the movies and holidays and amusement parks. We literally had Disneyland booked for about five days after it shit down. You didn’t get that post, so I might as well tell you about a couple of great concerts that almost happened.
Billy Joel. This one wasn’t as imminent as Disneyland, but tickets were bought, timeshare was booked, and flights were very seriously vetted.
My daughter’s favorite musician is Billy Joel. Her favorite days of the year, in no particular order, are 1) her birthday, 2) Christmas, and 3) the day Billy Joel Radio returns to SiriusXM. It makes her so much fun to hang out with amongst all her other first-grade companions.
The temporary SiriusXM station was the first one we could play in the car to break the monotony of those Fisher Price CDs that formed the soundtrack to her third year on the planet. Which was far more exciting for Mom and Dad than it was for Daughter. Compared to “Wheels on the Bus” for the hundredth time, even “When in Rome” shines.
I don’t have anything against “When in Rome.” It’s Billy Joel who hates it. He claims he throws a couple shitty songs on each album because he’s tapped out after ten or eleven new songs, but the record labels require thirteen. If you wanna have a hit, you gotta make it fit.
Then again, Billy Joel also thinks “Piano Man” is just a silly limerick, so what does he know? (Even if he’s right)
Daughter’s favorite song is “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song),” but not for any nascent desire to warp forward twelve years so she can leave her own Mama Leoni peace-out note for her parents. Nope, she likes the motorcycle sound in the final chorus. Right after one of the final “I’m movin’ outs,” there’s a few revs and then a squeal for emphasis. So maybe she hasn’t made it far from “Wheels on the Bus,” after all.
I think it was the variety that her young ears and mind enjoyed the most. Billy Joel’s got a great catalog if you aren’t in the mood to listen to one style. If we tell Alexa to play Mumford and Sons or Jimmy Buffett or even the Beatles, artists she knows plenty of songs from, it starts to get redundant a lot sooner than if we tell her to play some Billy.
Yes, she knows a few modern songs, too, but with no school this year, she’s still stuck in 2019. Aren’t we all? Still, the songs that really get the “Ooo, I know this one” going are “Piano Man” and “You May Be Right” and “Only the Good Die Young.” Good thing I’m not raising her Catholic.
So we figured what better first concert for her than Billy Joel? If we wait too long, we might be waiting too long, if you know what I mean. The same could be said for Jimmy Buffett, but a) it doesn’t look like Jimmy Buffett’s going to stop touring anytime soon, and b) we might get arrested when half of her blood is second-hand ganja. Maybe when she’s a teenager I’ll make her my designated driver to a Mumford concert. Is sixteen too young to have the super important “British and Aussies don’t consider cunt offensive” talk? Because last time I saw Mumford, that word came out a lot. So it’s either when she listens to Mumford or watches “The Boys.”
The added benefit of taking her to see Billy Joel was the locale. He doesn’t really tour anymore, maxing out at one big stadiums every month or so. This year, the plan was Notre Dame, Detroit, and Fenway Park, none of which are within a couple time zones of us West Coasters. I know he had a really lousy experience when he lived in LA, but c’mon Billy, that was fifty years ago.
Other than that, he has a “residency” at Madison Square Gardens. I put that word in quotes because most of the residencies I know of are in Vegas, where you play every fucking night and twice on Saturday. His residency at MSG is one show a month. Sounds more like a “recurring guest star” than anything involving the word “reside.”
When we came back from New York a couple years ago, Daughter was enamored with New York, commenting every time it popped up on anything. That’s waned a bit, but she’s still fascinated by the Statue of Liberty, something we intentionally avoided when it was just the two of us. We opted for the 9/11 museum instead, since I wouldn’t call it the most kid friendly spot in New York.
So let’s see, daughter’s “favorite” musician (one I haven’t seen live since 1993, and who Wife has never seen) playing in New York. Add in some timeshare points that were going to expire and our Summer Vacation was set. We had tickets right behind the stage which, if nothing’s changed since 1993, is a great place to see Billy Joel, as he puts synthesizers on the back and plays a few songs to the nosebleeds.
Of course, assuming everything works the same as it did in 1993 isn’t always a sure bet. Just ask my back.
I still don’t know what’s happening with those expiring timeshare points. Back in April or May, they sent us a notice about extending all deadlines by three months to account for that “short” shutdown. Haven’t heard anything since said shutdown is at LEAST into “medium” length, right?
So yeah, in some alternate universe, that July 25 concert was great! Daughter loved “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Theme)” and sang along heartily to “Piano Man” when he magically returned to the stage AFTER the concert was over ONLY because our raucous applause convinced his stone-cold, New York heart that he just couldn’t finish yet.
When she’s a teenager, I’ll explain the whole pre-planned encore thing.
Earlier this year I made a list of my ten definitive albums. Not necessarily the best albums, not the dreaded desert island discs, but the albums that best defined my musical development. In the “also deserving recognition” addendum, I mentioned my newest find, Vampire Weekend. They were kinda disqualified from the album list based on the fact that I didn’t actually own any of their albums. Hard to call it one of my definitive records, or even one of my favorite bands, if I’ve never given them a penny of my money. Unless they get ad money from YouTube.
Note: Wife bought me some of their CDs for Christmas, so I suppose I can call myself a fan now.
Regardless, bands don’t make shit off of albums anymore, which makes 2020 a particularly brutal year for recording artists. The father of my daughter’s best friend is in a band and they are reeling this year. Their European tour was canceled. He went to Nashville for two months where the band could quarantine and record a new album. I commented that at least they would have some income. He only laughed, and it wasn’t a funny kind of laugh.
What did elicit a funny laugh, at least from me, was when Daughter was on Zoom with her bestie. They play Roblox and Animal Crossing and other various games while talking on a computer screen to each other. It’s the 2020 equivalent of that quaint, outdated “going over to a friend’s house.” During one of their conversations, Daughter referenced holding a guitar, then said, in that six-year-old way, “You might not know how to hold a guitar, but my Daddy has one.”
That’s right. Explaining to the daughter of the bass player in a band with multiple top-20 hits and a Grammy that HER Daddy owns an acoustic guitar he hasn’t played regularly since college. Maybe I can talk to her daddy about the complexities of the A-chord.
Anyway, Vampire Weekend is one of my new faves. It turns out they’ve been around for more than a decade, with four albums, but I’m in my mid-forties and can’t be bothered with this newfangled shit. Like Douglas Adams said about technology, any music that comes out after you’re thirty years old is devil-spawned racket that wouldn’t know talent if it bit them in the ass. But when it’s a pandemic year and I can listen to music for the eight hours a day I’m usually in front of and amongst students, I might discover some music this side of the Foo Fighters.
I actually heard Vampire Weekend before everything shut down. After hearing “This Life” on the radio a few times, I had to track down who they were and the name of the song so I could play it for Wife. Better to frontload the spouse with the fact that the song currently stuck in my head has the refrain “You’ve been cheating on, cheating on me; I’ve been cheating on, cheating on you.” That’s not a phrase you want to absentmindedly be muttering to yourself without forewarning.
And of course, once I’ve played that song on YouTube, I get suggested toward their back catalog. Uplifting, catchy guitar riffs, bouncy tempo. Pretty sure I remember hearing some of those early songs a decade ago, most prominently “A-Punk,” but they didn’t distinguish themselves from a bevvy of bands like the Lumineers or Of Mice and Men.
Their lyrics are great, too. Intellectual, extended metaphors, not the normal rhyming riff-raff. One would thing I’d be predisposed to disapprove of them, starting off one of their hits with the line, “Who gives a fuck about the oxford comma?” How dare they! You know who gives a fuck about the oxford comma? Me! You know who else? Adolf Hitler, my grandfather and the man who invented internet pornography.
“This Life” wasn’t actually the first single off of their newest album. First came “Harmony Hall,” which, despite being released in 2019, contains quite possibly the definitive lyric for 2020 – “I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die.” I hear ya, Ezra.
So once I find a new band, and knowing that I gotta see them live to support them, I checked out their tour schedule. And what’s this? They’re going to be in one of my favorite cities, New Orleans? During my school district’s Fall Break? People with a fancy vocabulary like Vampire Weekend might call that serendipity.
Doubt I would’ve taken Wife to this one, seeing as October is the start of her busy season at work and New Orleans isn’t as high on her list as it is on mine. Definitely not taking Daughter to NOLA until I’ve practiced that whole “cunt” speech more. In April, when we were told “three weeks to flatten the curve,” I broached the subject with a couple fellow teachers, since they’d also be off that week. Their responses ranged from “Who the fuck are Vampire Weekend?” to… “Who the fuck are Vampire Weekend?”
So I countered with hand grenades, the wondrous grain alcohol & melon concoction from the Tropical Isle on Bourbon Street. They grew intrigued. So maybe I would’ve had two people accompany me on the trip but still gone to the concert alone.
The band canceled their May and June dates. Then July and August. I stopped checking. For all I know, Vampire Weekend ended up playing a wonderful show to a sold-out crowd, tens of thousands of fans crooning about oxford commas and cheating on, cheating on you.
Although Vampire Weekend are younger than me. Do kids still sing along at concerts? I’ve been told I can use my cellphone instead of a lighter on ballads these days.
While I’m at it, can we do something about that 8:00 p.m. start time? That’s usually my bed time.
But it wasn’t all cancellations and catshit. I actually managed to see some concerts in 2020! If you can’t get both “live and in person,” you might as well settle for one. Again, one featured artists I saw when I was a much younger man, and another from a band I’m new to. Check out my virtual concert reviews.