On My First Live Concert in 18 Months Divorce Songs Have Never Been Happier | Rick burin
WWe all come back from the restrictions of the pandemic at different speeds. Seeing friends, seeing art, going to the office, having obligations. We can put these priorities in different orders, but it’s a constant weighing: is this adventure in crowds worth the risk? East this? In my life, live music occupies an important place. Now it’s worth it again.
On a recent Monday night, barely 557 days since I last went to a concert, I went back to concerts. Finally, I was back where I’m most satisfied: in this case, Union Chapel in London, waiting for the voice of Canadian singer-songwriter Martha Wainwright to shatter the boredom of a night out. the Covid era.
This Islington place is a gem: architecturally, artistically. The concert photos here feature a happy continuity, with every visiting cultural titan eclipsed by this gargantuan stained glass window. As the senior press officer at the Royal Albert Hall, I would be ruining my career if I called this my favorite place, but let’s just say it’s my favorite place that I am not contractually obligated to promote.
It certainly offers a unique concert experience. Pay your extra Â£ 25 a year to become a member, and advance entry means you can grab a pillow, buy hot chocolate from the kiosk, and sit in the front row of the wooden benches.
When I arrive with a friend, we see that this salutary ritual has of course been exploded by the Covid. Entrance is terribly tight, the kiosk is closed, and only an idiot would think you can still borrow a common cushion during a pandemic. Anyway, they asked me to hand it over, and I apologized.
As the upstairs bar was closed, we just sat there, talking through masks, until the act of support began. They were called Bernice and seemed to be interested in all genres at once: to the uninitiated, it seemed like each member of the band was playing a different song. But halfway through the set – on a new track, Are You Breathing? – everything happened, and when it closed, we were completely won over.
After waiting 18 months to relive live music, it seemed fitting that fate and Martha Wainwright dictate that Those Who Break the Silence be a Canadian indie-jazz-R & B-pop group we had never heard of before. It’s an erratic virtue of the concert experience: Part 1 roulette.
There was a moment in the lull between sets when an audience member exploded with a cough, and the little voice in my head mumbled, “Oh shit.” But then my ear was caught by the technicians tuning a double bass to the sound of funk. And I just felt privileged to be there. This feeling lasted. The background music has stopped. The lights dimmed. The hubbub suddenly cut the silence. And there was this unique and shared moment of realization, before the uproar started. As Wainwright moved towards the center of the stage, the wave reached its peak. “You’re going to make me cry, and we haven’t even started,” she said.
Wainwright exemplifies the central appeal of live music: its narcotic escape and its capacity for emotional release. Coming from two legendary folk families, renowned for her frankly confessional songs, she really comes to life on stage, her vocal gymnastics and tortured physique are a frequent vector of fury and pain. But while she will turn Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel # 2 into a work of violent retaliation, the main order of the night is simple. It is joy. Although the new album that she’s on tour, Love Will Be Reborn, is about her divorce, we are all very happy, including Martha.
In an interview the next day, I ask him about the vibe. âYou could feel how long people were waiting,â she said. âWhat I missed the most was the emotional arc of a show. I was nervous and rushed the first two songs, but after a few I started to feel comfortable – and then happiness kicked in. It was an exceptionally happy night. This city has been through a lot, and there was that festive feeling – that we haven’t come out of the woods yet, but better times are starting.
For me, it’s mostly music – but not all of it. There is something unexpectedly affecting here too: the artificiality of the stage smoke; that white light and that haze. We’ve been living in the real world too much lately, or maybe not at all. And, while I have always gone to concerts to connect with the artist, now the crowd matters so much. When Wainwright sings Falaise de Malaise on the piano, in French, and the final notes disappear, someone to our right coos: beautiful. “
Many of us will have had confused feelings about reverting to things that about 18 months ago were unchallenged part of life. My first comeback concert was not the same as before. Not enough. We sat there, out of practice in a crowd, exhausted from the pandemic life, our cheers slightly muffled by masks. But then the sound, the staging, the artist’s articulation of our half-realized thoughts came back to carry us away again. We were lost in the music and we could forget everything else.