I’m going to see Weird Al Yankovic at Hard Rock Live tonight. I bought my ticket in the rush of enthusiasm surrounding the release of his latest album, Mandatory Fun, when he was releasing all those videos and everyone was riding that wave of Eighties nostalgia. And while I’m not saying I regret my purchase — all indications are he puts on a terrific live show — I do wonder if I’m going to enjoy myself.
I’ve never really been much of a concert goer. It’s not that I dislike live music; it’s more the idea of paying a ton of money to hear songs you’ve already heard obscured by the noise of a few thousand other people, just so you can say you saw them performed in person. There have been concerts I’ve enjoyed — U2 on the Joshua Tree tour, the Rolling Stones, Green Day doing all of American Idiot before I’d heard the album, and the Police reunion chief among them — but even those memories are less about the music than the ancillary experiences. U2 was my first ever concert. The Stones was a birthday present. Green Day was a last minute unused ticket thrown my way. The Police was finally seeing my adolescent musical idols. There were moments of musical brilliance, like U2 opening with the ethereal intro to “Where the Streets Have No Name,” but I’d be hard pressed to give any kind of accounting of the performances or the songs. It was all one big blur of sensations.
As you can probably guess with what my first concert was, I didn’t go to a lot of shows as a kid. I really liked music, but the idea of going to a concert never got into me. The one time it did — a chance to see the Police on the Synchronicity tour — my parents shot it down, and I sort of shrugged it off. I watched almost all of Live Aid, but that was in my comfortable living room on TV. College exposed me to some live acts on campus, and more chances to go see shows, but even then it always felt more like a social gathering with a live soundtrack. I could appreciate the throb of the bass in your gut and the roar of the guitars in your ears, but I’d see people with walls plastered with concert ticket stubs and just couldn’t imagine seeing that many shows.
Thing is, I think I like the idea of going to concerts more than the actual act. Which could just be a factor of my enjoyment of being in a crowd. Whether it’s a convention or a theme park or a festival, I really dig the kind of energy you find in a large group all together for the same reason. Yes, I might get annoyed at being pressed close together or having to practically crawl along through the masses, but there’s this undeniable sense of community that I find exhilarating. We’re all one big happy family, even if it is just for a few hours or a weekend.
It could also be that my musical tastes were both too broad and too narrow. I liked too many one-hit wonders, bands I would never think about sitting through more than one or two songs from. I wasn’t about to pay $20 or $30 to hear Scandal do “The Warrior” as their encore after putting us through their entire new album. The bands I did like that had beefier catalogs, well, by the time I was into going to concerts, they’d priced themselves out of my reach. Going to a concert became an event, something you had to save up for. And my money was going towards more permanent entertainments like books and movies and, yes, CDs of those very same bands.
But I have to admit, I walked out of a movie a couple of months ago at CityWalk and there was a live band playing down by the water. They were running through the standard cover band repertoire, competent and energetic but nothing special. And I grabbed a beer, hung around, and watched and listened. And I had a good time. Not an all time concert, no, but it was a nice night. Maybe, like anything, I just need to do it more often to develop an appreciation for it. Better late than never.