at pretty much every gig i've ever been to, there is a strong sense of togetherness, of belonging, of having something in common with all these people you've never met and will (probably) never meet again.
however, when i went to see whitesnake and def leppard this week, i had never felt so out of place in a group of people. the first, most obvious thing was the age difference. at 20, i was by far one of the youngest people there, at least from the people i saw milling around the arena before we took our seats, and also the people seated around us. the second thing was their sense of style (or lack thereof). it was clear that these people all belonged to the same tribe, with their long, unkempt hair (men and women), heavy jewellery, and even heavier eye liner (again, seen on both men and women). the majority also sported band t-shirts from other artists, including motley crue, kiss and mötorhead, something whitesnake lead singer david coverdale clearly wasn't a fan of, as he called someone out in the audience for wearing a kiss t-shirt. i have a strong suspicion that had any of them found out i am a fan of one direction, they would have been outraged. it's this kind of music snobbery that i am so desperate to avoid, and it only fuels my determination in trying to prove that you can like any and all kinds of music at the same time. such a radical concept, i know.
but all of that fell away once the gig began. whitesnake were the second act to perform, and after having waited years to see them, they most certainly did not disappoint. how david coverdale (still) manages to hit those high notes at 64 is a mystery to me. their musical ability is astounding and they make it look so effortless, standing there like it's no big deal, though when you've been performing for as long as they have it's probably just second nature to them. i went with my mother, who has seen whitesnake and def leppard twice already, so i had an idea of what to expect, though i did have a few moments of panic when i thought they weren't going to perform my favourite songs. my favourites include give me all your love, fool for your loving, bad boys, is this love, still of the night, and of course, probably their most well-known hit, here i go again. all were incredible, but one song in particular really stood out to me, a cover of bobby bland's ain't no love in the heart of the city. it was a song i'd never heard before, and the simple arrangement provided a contrast to the heavy drum beats, the kind that you can feel thump in your chest. they also said it was the first time they'd performed the song in full, and i got the sense that it really meant a lot to them.
next up was def leppard, who i suspect the majority of the crowd had come to see, as i'd never seen the standing area of the arena so full before. having only been familiar with two or three songs prior to the gig, i came away with a whole new appreciation of the band, particularly the drummer and his solo, which lasted a good ten minutes or more. like whitesnake, the energy was electric and the beat continued to thump in my chest. they opened with new track let's go, which has all the finesse of their earlier tracks with a new edge. one of my favourite tracks, animal, was next, and seeing this live was one of those moments i felt i'd waited years for, and it was certainly worth the wait. one of the things i love about def leppard is their ability to switch from the loud, intense guitar-based tracks to something slightly less heavy. this track has an almost power-pop feel to it, and if there's anything i love, it's an anti-love song, of which this definitely is. i've got to feel it in my blood, i need your touch, don't need your love, goes the pre-chorus. sometimes that one moment is all you need, and seeing this song live was testament to this. another unfamiliar song that has now become a favourite was hysteria, one that i mistakenly thought was a new release but in fact features on their self titled album released in 1987. for me this just illustrates the timelessness of their music, with old and new almost blending into one. there's something slightly sad about it; the intensity singer joe elliot feels for the song's subject clearly not being reciprocated. i gotta know tonight, if you're alone tonight, he sings. can't stop this feeling, can't stop this fire. i know it all too well, a flame that continues to burn so brightly, so strong it terrifies me to the core, even though i know the other person doesn't feel the same way. you could try to get closer to me, elliot sings in the first verse, though it's clear that his pleas are going unheard. dream me off my feet, believe in me, goes the chorus, and that's how it feels; a dream-like state where nothing feels real, though this can cause problems as we become wrapped up in what we want this relationship to be rather than what it actually is.
other stand outs included rocket, dangerous, when love and hate collide and of course, a crowd favourite, pour some sugar on me. all in all, it was a great atmosphere, but the only thing that disappointed me was that the crowd weren't more upbeat. maybe because of the age thing; i couldn't exactly envision some of the older audience members throwing pints of beer around and starting a moshpit. nevertheless, they were word perfect, and just looking at the people around me, it was clear how much this band meant to them. that for me is what i love most about music, how just hearing that one song all those years ago can have such a profound impact on people to the point where they will still go to these gigs when they get older. sure, they might not have been the best-dressed people i've ever seen, but there was something endearing about the fact that they'd stuck to their guns for so many years and not given in to the pressures of getting older, of cutting their hair or throwing away that band t-shirt they've had since 1985. music is an escape, and when the reality of adulthood hits, the joy of long working hours, paying bills, bringing up children, running a house, that escape must seem more important than ever, something i'm sure i'll discover one day. and for that one night, this concert was their escape, their chance to feel like a teenager again, even if they weren't jostling for the best view at the front of the crowd like they did back then.
already i see myself in them, in their fervent devotion to these bands that made them the people they are today. music is a gift that can be passed down through generations; my mother was the one who got me into so many of my favourite artists through her extensive vinyl collection (she was listening to records before they became cool again)and even now, the fact that she accompanies me to so many gigs shows that she is still open to discovering new artists (case in point: i played her a few of the 1975's songs the other day and she is now obsessed, so i bought her their album for her birthday and never have i seen someone so satisfied with a £3.99 CD). i know that when i'm her age i'll still be going to concerts, and if i have any, i'll no doubt be dragging my own children with me. i might not be jumping up and down in a sweaty crowd, but the love i feel for all these bands will still be there as i look down from the upper tiers at the mosh pits and plastic cups of beer sailing through the crowd, and i'm sure i'll feel some sense of relief not to be in the middle of it all. for now though, i continue to embrace it wholeheartedly, desperately seeking out that escape, that one moment that truly makes me feel alive, and grateful of the fact as well.
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