Friday the 13th was a day of highs and lows. Let me start with the highs (and a quip or two).
Last night, sprite and I went to see Robert Plant (the rock giant) and Alison Krauss (the chanteuse) perform a brilliant show at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Their album, Raising Sand, was my favorite of last year, and they didn’t disappoint. Backed by T. Bone Burnett’s skilled band, Plant’s howl and growl were better than they’ve been in years, and Krauss’ crystaline voice showed its full, powerful, effortless range throughout the show. They played every song from Raising Sand, as well as a handful of Krauss’ solo songs, a couple of Burnett’s songs from his new album, a Plant solo song, and two songs from the Led Zeppelin catalog (“When The Levee Breaks” and “The Battle of Evermore”).
Both Plant and Krauss were clear in their admiration of the other, each one allowing the other to shine with a vocal flourish here and there, their voices intertwining in ways that sent chills up my spine.
The problem with the show, however, was that a majority of the crowd showed up expecting a rocking, Led Zeppelin style show. Once they discovered that the show was a bluegrass-flavored, folksy blues romp, they would talk.
And talk and drink some more, their collective volume rising as the inebriation level grew. Some even called for Krauss to “get off the fucking stage.” Drunken louts, jerks, assholes – these folks fit the bill, and how.
The best part about that, though, was that Krauss’ voice silenced the critics during her second solo set, where the crowd quickly fell into a silent awe. She showed ’em! But they were still a crowd that just didn’t get it – not one bit.
As I left the pavilion, I came to a bit of a startling, chilling realization: I’m falling into the target audience for the very PBS music shows I tend to ridicule. I want the live music, the experience that only musicians on a stage, embracing their craft, can do – only without the drunken, stoned louts in the audience, who tend to make themselves the center of attention. To rephrase something I Twittered last night:
“If you’re going to spend $320 on a musical experience [the cost of 8 GA tickets], then you might as well stay home, buy some good booze, spin up a Zep album, and talk as loud as you want….”
Seriously – it would be no loss for the louts, and would improve my experience greatly.
But the majority of the crowd were the children of the Zeppelin age: folks in their 50s and 60s, who probably made out in the back seat of the car to “Stairway To Heaven” or “Thank You,” and were trying to re-grasp their long-lost youth (and were grousing at the fact that Plant still has all of his trademark mane of golden curls). I don’t mind that they are at the concert at all; I simply want them to shut up and listen!
Such is the price I pay for being a fan of all kinds of music: I get both the wheat and the chaff.
. . . . .
On another note, I also mourn the loss of Tim Russert. He was the best political reporter of the past 20 years, almost always fair, always challenging his interviewees to answer good, substantial questions. The tributes to him are uniformly positive from all political sides – not an easy feat to achieve. I shed tears for him and his family, and the millions of Americans who have lost one of the best sources for straight answers in the often spin-laden minefield of politics.