Sometimes myself and Christina wonder what exactly we have in common. Often we come up extremely short. She doesn’t have much interest in sport, most good television, or rare steak, and I don’t like Energy Barre, other people’s weddings, or coffee. We both share a natural affinity for consuming colossal amounts of potato chips while sprawled across the couch watching Shark Tank at a ferocious pace – but even then we both like different flavors.
This becomes embarrassingly apparent when we go to concerts. Recently we went to see Damien Rice, a performer who I had wanted to see for the last 12+ years. It was in a seated theater so I had no problem asking Christina to come along. Even if she didn’t like him, at least she’d be sitting down.
Damien kept us waiting for 45 minutes following a thoroughly underwhelming support act. This did not bode well for an already impatient Christina who took this delay as a personal insult. “What could he be doing? Pooping?” she asked. I didn’t have have enough information to deny this but my laughter kept her happy.
He wandered on stage in a cloud of smoke, shrouded in darkness and belted out the title track from his new album sans microphone. His voice easily carried across the entire room, even up in to the cheap seats where we were struggling with less leg room than a Ryanair flight out of Knock. His every note betrayed the pain and sadness behind the enchanting lyrics and the captive audience hung on his every gut wrenching word. Had someone dropped a pin, they would have been immediately and rather forcefully “shushed”. “Eh, that was just okay” Christina confided in me after the rapturous applause had died down.
The next couple of songs, while slow and down beat, were belted out with a gusto familiar to Rice fans who enjoy wandering from loud to soft and back to thunderous again multiple times during a given song. A “woo” girl, who had clearly wandered off the street into the wrong concert, screamed each time the pace or noise level increased even a smidgen and her enthusiasm in no way diminished when none of the songs ever ignited in the way she wanted.
As the concert wore on, Christina fidgeted and tried to keep herself busy, enjoying some songs but never fully engaging. At this point I should mention that Damien Rice likes to lengthen some of his songs when he plays them live. To do this he bangs on his guitar as hard as he can and shouts and screams louder than the music the guitar is making. A band behind him and lady to duet with made it all the more magical back in the day.
Rice, who was on his own tonight, has continued to do this even in his solo shows mainly through the use of sound editing that I am not an authority on. We were about an hour and a half into the concert. I had assured Christina it would go on no longer at that as we had waited for Rice to poop before the concert. He launched into another song off his first album and as he reached the end, he continued to play. It got louder and louder and he screamed louder still to top the music. Glasses would have shattered in people’s hand had they been allowed them. I mean, he was absolutely fucking belting it out at the top of his lungs. I was harking back to the days of watching Youtube videos of some of his concerts when he was paired with Lisa Hannigan and his band. Songs would build into a massive crescendo with both Rice and Hannigan yelling in harmony as Tomo and the boys took their instruments to the limits of what was possible, sculpting a kind of beautiful-but-deafening cacophony of sound.
This wasn’t quite on the same level as that but I felt privileged to be in the same room as this person who was making the seats vibrate around us. I chanced a quick glance over to Christina to see if she was similarly entranced, to see if she had finally been won over by this musical genius, this boyhood idol of mine whose music was so powerful that I had worshiped him in spite of his pretentious douche-baggery.
She was laughing. Hysterically and uncontrollably.
Her little shoulders were shaking in such a way that it was impossible to know if she was having an epileptic episode brought on by the intensely flashing lights at the back of the stage. A fit of belly laughter had consumed her and she couldn’t stop until the man on stage stopped his screaming. It was she who was making my seat shake, not the sound vibrations. When both had trailed off and Christina was composed enough to explain herself, she likened the noises that Rice was emitting to those she herself makes when looking for attention at home. She wished she could hold my attention half so well by doing that.
The encore lasted for five whole songs and received a standing ovation half way through which many people mistook as an invitation to leave. Christina dreamed of bed at this point and I got to thinking. If we have so little in common, what is it that draws people together?
The answer is that we learn so much from each others habits, from our likes and dislikes. Sometimes you end up realizing that you actually love American Football despite your previous convictions to the contrary and other times you stumble across a Damien Rice or a Game of Thrones that you just have to chalk down as “Joe’s thing” and move on.
Aside from thoroughly enjoying the concert, I also took great pleasure in hearing Christina’s critique of what surely was not the same concert.