Ramblings about live performance

During my teens/twenties, I went to a lot of live events. Mostly concerts—I had (and may still have somewhere) a collection of ticket stubs that would impress even the most avid concertgoer—but other random performances, too. Stand-up comedy, magicians, even an old-fashioned circus freak show.

Some of you may have even seen it, too.

Some of you may have even seen it, too.

And it wasn’t just big arena shows or “professional” level performances. One of the coolest things I remember from a trip to San Francisco was all the street performers, especially a teenage drummer/percussionist who played on a makeshift drumset consisting of nothing but empty buckets—and it was absolutely incredible.

After joining the full-time “adult” workforce, nights out became less and less frequent. Since I moved to the Midwest eight years ago, I’ve only been to a couple of concerts, and the last one was not long after we moved out here. Luckily, that’s changing in 2015.

One of the most impressive non-concert performances I’ve ever seen was Cirque du Soleil’s “O” at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. It was the kind of mind-melting experience you’d expect from Cirque, with the added element of an enormous pool, with many of the tricks incorporating water in some way. It was absolutely astounding—I still remember it like it was yesterday, some ten years later. When it was announced that a touring production of one of Cirque du Soleil’s newer shows, Varekai, was coming to town, the opportunity arose to give my wife a killer Christmas present, and—who are we kidding?—one I would enjoy as well.

I’m not going to give you a complete play by play of the whole show because a) I’m lazy, and b) that’s boring, but you generally know what you’re in for with those folks: lots of incredibly lean and/or muscular (and often times rather small) people hurling themselves through the air or flipping and tumbling around the stage in costumes that look like Dr. Seuss on mushrooms. One character wore a helmet with a lightbulb screwed into it—a look that reminded me of an odd mix between DEVO and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

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No wonder the bottled water at the arena was so expensive—it was dosed with LSD.

There was dancing, gymnastics, acrobatics, a surprisingly good live band that played music that sounded like something out of a psychedelic renaissance faire, laugh out loud comedic relief, and it was all wrapped into a two hour long package that ran like a well-oiled machine. I can’t presume to speak for my wife, but between the show, the very good seats, and the fact that we lucked into extraordinarily good parking (and free!), I had a blast. It was a great night.

And that’s the point I’m taking my sweet time meandering to—part of what made it so great, so special, was the fact that it was a live performance. I used to go to so many concerts, so many other kinds of shows, that I took it all for granted. Seeing people performing, regardless what kind of performance it was, became no big deal. Well, that’s wrong. It is a big deal.

Watching people perform makes me happy. Someone is (generally) doing what they love, and it’s hard—for me, anyway—not to get caught up in it. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a sold out arena or a dive bar or a sidewalk or a swanky Vegas lounge, it’s all good.

That being said, I will be experiencing performance of the sold out arena variety this September, thanks to five minutes of boredom on Thanksgiving weekend and a stroke of luck. Behold:

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Won from my local radio station via Facebook, can you believe it?

For the first time in probably two decades, I’m going to a (probably, by then) sold out arena to see a major rock band. The ironic part? It will be probably three times the size of Cirque du Soleil in terms of the crowd, with a fraction of the production value. It’ll be (aside from the lights and maybe some lasers or something) some guys standing on stage rocking their asses off. I can hardly wait.

So I guess what this all boils down to is a smidge of advice—if I’m presumptuous enough to think any of you want, need, or will heed it: go check out somebody doing something live. It doesn’t have to be packed into a sea of thousands of people, or require tickets that cost as much as a utility bill. Go see a local band at a bar. Check out a comedian. If you’re lucky enough to be able to, go check out a sketch comedy or improv troupe. If you see somebody standing by the bus stop playing a guitar, listen to a song or two. Just appreciate the act of someone performing.

*Looks down* Hey, how did I end up on this soapbox?

Tell me what some of your favorite performances are—are they concerts, plays, comedians, or something else altogether?