Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Magic That Surrounds

The concert hall shimmered in hues of blue

as the audience shuffled in two by two.

Laughter and chatter filled the air

as the time quickly approached

when – as a mass – we would share

a wonder of ROCK twirling musical notes.

I thought that it would be appropriate to begin this blog story in the same manner that Gord Downie began his concert – just about a month ago – here in London, Ontario at the London Music Hall.

The lights came on – dimly lit – and the band took the stage. Gord gave the crowd a wave, took his microphone and then began talking in rhythmic lyric – as only Gord could! As he continued to speak he knelt down beside a slide projector – of sorts – and dabbled liquid colours onto the glass, which reflected onto a large screen at the back of the stage.

Having finished – or so we thought – his spontaneous art creation he picked up his guitar and joined in with The Country of Miracles – his band – who had been filling the air with edgy musical vibrations and beats throughout this time.

Earlier – while enroute to this venue – I told Joanne that this should be a very interesting concert for the both of us. Gord had released his third solo album with his third solo band – taking a side step away from his endeavours with one of Canada’s greatest Rock bands The Tragically Hip. I had only heard two songs off of this album and Jo’ hadn’t heard a single one. I remarked that it would be an interesting concert since neither of us were deeply acquainted with these new songs.

As we were walking down the street, heading towards the concert hall I said, “It’ll be like watching a glorious sunrise, set to music. The sun will rise, the magic that surrounds, in the shapes of clouds and colours of the sky will unfold and be experienced. We’ll be a part of the experience but unable to truly capture or save it, unable to relive it at a later date. To live is to experience the moment as it is happening and revel in the wonder of it all.”

After the first few songs - which truly Rocked! – Gord went back to his projection screen – microphone in hand – and using a thin metal object, began destroying his art creation until new textures were created. Many fans – myself included – were taking pictures (some were recording the performance using their cel phones) and as Gord worked on his new creation he commented – in rhythmic lyric – how we’ll be unable to truly capture this moment and how it would be best if we lived in the experience and the magic that surrounds. I nudged Jo’ and said, “Hey! That was what I was talkin’ about on our way here!”

During these times The Country of Miracles kept the spirit of musical celebration alive by diving into melodical ‘jam’ sessions. I felt like I was witnessing a shift in space and time. Was I at a Grateful Dead (who are known for their long jam sessions) concert, guest starring Jim Morrison (being remembered for his off-beat tangents and poetic verses)?

No – this was better!! This was a melding of historical Rock influences combined with inspiration found only in this new century.

During the first set a few thoughts swept through my brain. I wondered where all of Gord’s material was coming from. True – he had a new album, but that contained maybe ten or twelve new songs. We had already heard this many and a second set of performance was still to come. He wasn’t singing any Tragically Hip songs, so I wondered if he was using material from his first two solo albums. But some of the songs seemed to make reference to ideas that – as The Hip – were explored during their last two albums.

Hmmm??? Could it be (and I thought this was truly possible, slightly alighting to Gord’s renowned creative ingeniousness) that many of these songs were totally brand new, having never been recorded in a studio, created solely for the purpose of this Canadian Rock tour???

These thoughts formed into a stronger theory during the intermission, when I bumped into someone I knew…

In 2008-09 I was teaching my Art For Earth programs in a few elementary schools, here in London. The person I met at the Gord Downie concert was a teacher from one of these classes. Throughout the three days of my classes, the teacher and I had several conversations. He was very impressed with the reasoning that surrounded my classes and I’m sure that I may have inspired him to continue teaching these ways of thinking and expressing, long after my job was finished.

At the concert, he told me that he had bought Gord’s new album and that he had only heard one song off of the album, so far that evening. Hmmmm?!! My theory grew stronger!

My favourite part of the concert was the first song of the second set. Gord took the stage by himself and began another small rant as he layered his projection screen with shades of blue and a black silhouette cut-out of a tree. He picked up his guitar and went straight in to ‘East Wind’ – the first radio release from his new album – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETUZ9Dhe_UI&feature=fvw. I had heard this song maybe just four times previous to this moment and I thought that it was good – nothing to get too excited about though…until this night!!

Very quickly, I found myself slipping into the magic that surrounds, as the notes found a happy place within my skull. I felt myself swirling through the colours of vibration as they leapt from Gord’s guitar… and my feat started to move. A tingling arched it’s way up my spine and I felt a bursting of light exploding throughout my body. The music from this one instrument came from all directions and his voice echoed from the base of my skull into the inner core of my ears. From this one guitar I heard a symphony, that didn’t go around me, it blew right through!

If you can’t guess, I’ll say it straight up – I HAD A BLAST!!!! What an amazing musical experience! I’m so glad that Joanne and I were there!!!

The other day, I went onto youtube to see if I could find some cool links to some fan-recorded concert clips…to share with you. There were many to be found – like this one (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMYb6l6hiBY&feature=related). It was during this time that I truly came to appreciate the memories of my experience cuz not one clip came even remotely close to capturing the essence of the concert that I had celebrated in.

There were concert clips from outdoor shows in the summer where a projection screen would not have been possible. There were other indoor venues where Gord simply placed one image to be projected with none of the rhythmical or lyrical expressions that we heard that evening. And in all of the recordings of East Wind, I could not find a single example where it was just Gord and his guitar. In some of these recordings Gord played along with his band and in other recordings he simply sang while his band played.

As I was walking home from the library – where I had conducted my youtube searches (I don’t have the Internet in my home) I began to think how lucky I (and the rest of the crowd at the London Music Hall) was/were. By watching these youtube clips I could witness the evolution of Gord’s concert series, as he strove continuously to make his performance more interesting and more artful. I felt very lucky to have been a part of his journey nearing the end of his tour where all of his ideas had come together in perfection and grace.


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