My wife and I are doing something tonight that we haven’t done in a really long time. It’s something we’re really looking forward to. I just hope she enjoys it as much as I do. Most of all, I hope she doesn’t get a headache. That would ruin everything. Because there’s nothing worse than sitting through a rock concert with a headache. What did you think I was talking about?
About a month ago, I mentioned that my wife and I were going to see Bob Seger. Well, tonight’s the night. For us, it’s like a trip down memory lane. The last time we saw Seger in concert was 1978. Suffice to say we were a bit younger then. Everybody was. Through the entire show, which included three opening acts, we stood on the field of the Miami Baseball Stadium forty feet from the stage, and nobody got tired. Music has an energy that never seems to fade.
The band has changed, so I’m told. Most of the originals have moved on, quietly fading into the sunset. The same is true of the audience. As I look at pictures of the stars who entertained us in the seventies and eighties, it amazes me how old they look. Funny, I don’t see that in the mirror, and I don’t see it in my wife. It’s like we’re the only two people who haven’t really aged.
But last night at the gym, my body spoke up and informed me in no uncertain terms that I’m not the spring chicken I used to be. It was a combination of heat and humidity (the air conditioning wasn’t working right) and sore muscles from a weekend of painting. And age. Regardless of what I see in the mirror, Mother Nature has the final vote and she’s about as tactful as Simon Cowell.
It’s funny, I used to go to concerts all the time. My first was Chicago in 1975, then in 1976 I saw Bob Seger and the Doobie Brothers. Over the next two years, I saw at least a dozen shows, with names like Boston, Kansas, Foghat, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Yes, Foreigner, Jethro Tull, and Blue Oyster Cult. These weren’t reunion tours – they were the original bands doing brand-new music back in the heyday when tickets cost less than most items at the concession stand.
A lot has changed since then. I’ve only been to a few concerts in the past twenty years, so I guess my perspective is a bit limited. And my street smarts aren’t what they used to be, either. I’m the guy who would be stupid enough to fight my way to the front of the stage, only to find out later that there’s this thing called a mosh pit and I’m right smack in the middle of it.
I guess I’ve never quite understood these things. I grew up in a time when Volkswagen buses were adorned with multi-colored daisies, peace signs, and slogans like “make love, not war.” Back then, the area in front of the stage was filled with people dancing, singing, and sharing things the police didn’t confiscate at the door. It was a setting of Utopian harmony. According to an online dictionary, a mosh pit is the scene of “controlled violence.” From what I’ve heard, it’s completely out of control.
But I’m pretty sure there will be no mosh pit at tonight’s show. Age has a mellowing effect, and I have a feeling gray hairs will outnumber purple tonight by about a million to one. And that takes into account the heads that don’t have much hair to begin with. As Seger has aged, so have his fans.
Several years ago, my wife and I went to see Elton John. There was no opening act, and no backup band. Just Elton and his nine-foot grand piano with a crowd of ten-thousand middle-age fans. When I say “middle-age,” I mean halfway between newborn and 100. At the concession stands, popcorn and beer had been replaced by granola and Ensure. And those diaper-changing stations in the restrooms were getting a workout. Use your imagination.
There were two young girls sitting behind us – I say that from the perspective of somebody who was old enough to be their father. I think they were there on a college assignment where you have to listen to your grandparents’ music and write a dissertation on the social implications. They studied the people around them as if we were lab rats about to be exposed to some kind of controlled stimulus. They were in for an awakening.
The first few songs were slow and mellow – he opened with the classic Your Song, followed by a few more easy-listening hits. At first we just sat there mesmerized. It was like being on another planet. Slowly, we began to snap out of our trance and move with the music. And as the tempo increased, we never skipped a beat.
About the time I was wondering how a sixty year-old pianist with no backup band could rock the house, he launched into an extended version of Honky Cat. And he set the place on fire. He did things on that piano that I didn’t think could be done. A backup band would have been a distraction at that point, something to take focus off the most amazing performance I’ve ever seen. It was truly incredible.
Halfway through the song, I looked at the girls behind us. All the old farts around them were jumping and singing and rocking out like teenagers, as they sat there in a state of utter shock. I think they were genuinely afraid somebody may have a heart attack and fall in their lap. The show lasted a little over three hours and we never slowed down. And the only pills being passed around that night were Geritol.
I often wonder if those girls enjoyed the show as much as the rest of us did. But even more, I wonder if they went home with a different perspective on older people, maybe even a sense of anticipation for their own middle age. I hope so. Most of all, I hope they realized that age isn’t the debilitating barrier some people make it out to be. It’s just a number. Our looks may change, but our ability to enjoy the moment never goes away.
People always say age is a state of mind. I guess that depends what you’re doing at the moment. Because when I take my body to the gym, age is a physical reality. That’s not to say I’m letting it get in the way – I refuse to give up that easily. But it’s safe to say my days of running a marathon are pretty much behind me. Or running the bases for that matter. I’ve tried running. It’s not pretty.
But when I take my body to a concert, or an amusement park, or a picnic, or a school play, I take my mind along with me. And my mind is as young as I want it to be. If I could take back anything in my life, those moments when I chose to act like an old man would be at the top of the list. Because age truly is a state of mind. We’re not as old as we feel – we’re as old as we allow ourselves to feel.
And tonight, I’ll take my mind back to 1978 when my wife and I saw Bob Seger together for the very first time. The faces may have changed, but the song remains the same. That’s the beauty of music. And we’ll be rocking like teenagers. If we happen to throw a few joints out of whack in the process, it certainly won’t be the first time. And even more importantly, it won’t be the last.
Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon