On Wednesday night Mrs Summerhouse and I attended our first concert in retirement. Fittingly the concert venue – Leeds Town Hall – was full of my peer group. Despite my efforts to avoid the grey-haired ones, the old gits, here we were surrounded by them? Well what do you expect if you go to a Mary Black / Clannard concert, you ask? I confessed to Mrs SH that I was nervous about going. Why she asked, because I’m worried about the audience – a big, although not exclusive, worry of mine when we go to live events. The audience can become more important than the ‘act’ for me.
I suppose it was going to be unlikely that my ‘most annoying gig’ behaviour would happen. This is the one that some idiot, usually a good looking woman idiot, climbs on the shoulders of some other idiot thereby blocking the view of all the idiots behind her. I have been known to shout at the TV when I see this happening ‘Sit down you bloody idiot’. They don’t hear me. But having witnessed the behaviour of my peers at our church visit day, I wasn’t completely confident that the evening would be incident free. So, yes, I was nervous that some geriatric form of misbehaviour might take place and, as this would be our first pop concert in many years (Mahler’s 6th symphony in Wellington, New Zealand, (just had to name drop that) didn’t count), I was doubly nervous.
As you will gather, we don’t go to many concerts. I can just about remember every single concert I and then we have graced with our presence. The last one before this was to see, well, hear, anyway, Neil Young. Neil was about a centimetre tall at the Sheffield Arena and the bloke behind me insisted on showing how much he was digging Neil by kicking the back of my seat. When I added together all the variables – cost, parking, travel and of course the quality of the experience I decided never again. I was too old for the concert experience, at least at the price we paid. From now on we would hear our music cheap and local (I can thoroughly recommend The Grove, last Thursday of the month) so if some bastard was kicking my chair we could walk out without financial guilt at least. And this was about 15 years ago maybe, I’m not sure, what I am sure of is we haven’t been to another ‘pop music’ concert since, until last night.
It set me off thinking about those concerts we have been to. My first was pre Mrs SH days. I went to see Van Morrison, impressed? Well don’t be, he was then front man for Them. Not huge at that time. They, Them, that is, had a ‘hit’ with ‘Here Comes the Night’ but it was still very definitely pre fame days for Van. This ‘gig’ was at The Golden Egg nightclub, I think that was the name, in Ilkeston, in Derbyshire and would have been around 1964. It would be true to say that Van’s heart was not really in it, he definitely was not digging it as we used to say in those days. I remember two things about the gig – the band rattled through their 40 minute set, in about 10 minutes and then departed without a cheery word, well without any words at all other than those in the songs of course, I don’t mean it was an evening of instrumentals, we hadn’t gone to see The Shadows. From what I hear, nothing has changed with Van, he can still be a little taciturn. The other thing I remember, and which also has presumably not changed, was that Van was not at all tall, short in fact, small all over in fact. He looks even shorter today from what I can gather but not smaller, that’s to do with the fact that he now looks like a barrel. Still nothing wrong with looking like a barrel.
What is definitely impressive is Mrs SH’s first concert before she met me. She was there when Bob Dylan went electric at De Montfort Hall in Leicester, in 1965. I cannot beat this so determine never to ask her about it. She tells me anyway. Dylan’s reaction to the booing he received from the folkies in the audience was to turn to Robbie Robertson, leader of his band, The Band, and tell them to play ’fucking loud’, or so it is said. After that concerts must have seemed pretty tame for Mrs SH.
There must have been other concerts but the next one I remember was a different experience altogether for both of us. In 1979 we lived in America and went to see the group America, neat juxtaposition you’ll agree. They were big at the time and they did a concert – sorry for the grammar – in Washington where we lived then. Not quite California, but close enough for us. Pretty exotic. We still have all their vinyl albums from that classic era. Unlike Neil they were a proper size but it was still a challenge to see them, the amount of smoke from the dope being consumed in great quantities by the audience meant we ‘saw’ them through a haze going on fog. There was no question of using the ‘I did not inhale’ defence because you’d have been holding your breath for 3 hours. Mrs Summerhouse was pregnant with number one son and his later wildness was often attributed to the amount of marijuana she inhaled on this night, Ha, how we laugh now.`
All of which brings me to The Boss. He appeared in 1988 at Roundhay Park in Leeds. We went to celebrate my fortieth birthday. It was quite an occasion and I still have the T shirt – literally, can’t get in it though. What I remember is that, it being an open air concert, people stood up and danced, when he played ‘Because the night’ even I shook a leg, a rare, bordering on unique, event. It was everything I hate about concerts – no designated seating so big queueing, competition for your place, no proper toilets, being closer to the big screen, that seemed out of sync with the quite small Brucie on stage, than the stage itself. Despite all of the above, it was great, an event in my life I continue to remember (and that is good in itself) fondly. At least it didn’t have my least favourite concert activity no not the portaloos, the human pyramid I mentioned earlier in the piece.
Since then Ry Cooder at The Apollo in Manchester, the kind of venue that’s perfect to watch and hear music, Roger McGuinn, ex of The Byrds at the Leeds City Varieties, another perfect little concert, as was Ian Matthews, ex of Matthews Southern Comfort (most famous song – Woodstock written by Joni Mitchell) in Knaresborough of all places. Ian was excellent and still obviously had enough mana to have put together a group of excellent musicians. Interesting to see a musician who had been ‘big’ still making a living touring places like Knaresborough, no disrespect, but it’s not exactly California or even Roundhay Park. But enjoyable nonetheless, the theatre was small and nowhere near full, half empty in fact, but he performed like the professional he obviously still is.
Which probably brings us back to Wednesday night. Enjoyable concert with some reservations, like Mary Black’s duff microphone (which I and probably two thirds of the audience put down to their hearing and I swear somebody’s hearing aid was buzzing behind us) and the décor of the town hall itself which was baroque enough to almost overwhelm the performers. Did anybody get on the shoulders of their partner or even somebody else’s partner? Only if Leeds City Council had provided stepladders or mini Stannah stair lifts. Yes, we were that old. There was some clapping of hands above heads by the more spritely and the odd whoop followed by a fit of coughing, but no dope smoking, no smoking at all of course. Well, that’s progress for you. The one thing that had endured was that the woman behind me, kicked my chair, surprised she had the strength. There was nobody sat in front of us so I moved. Didn’t get into an argument with her, just moved seats in a dignified, geriatric (i.e. it took me 10 minutes to stand up) manner. Even in retirement plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.
By the way we’re going to see The Eagles in a few weeks. Look out for my review on this blog.