I was a very fortunate man in 2017. It was a year redolent of those heady days of the mid-to-late 1970s when my favourite prog bands toured quite frequently. It was not uncommon to find Genesis, Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett playing in Edinburgh within months of one another and if they all happened to be back in the studio working on new material, then Camel, Mike Oldfield, Tangerine Dream, The Enid, Weather Report or Yes would step into the spotlight.
So for me to see and meet Steve Hackett not once, but twice in as many days in Melbourne in August and see and meet Big Big Train over three concerts a month or so later in London made 2017 a year to remember*. More than this was the fact that my wife and daughter accompanied me to three of these five gigs – and they enjoyed them. My daughter stood and applauded Big Big Train, joined in the communal singalongs as best she could, wanted to meet the band – especially Rachel as she, too, plays the violin – and wanted to buy a Grimspound tee shirt; she recognised some of the Genesis/Hackett songs and delighted in my own exuberant excitement.
As it should be, it has been a reciprocal arrangement over the years despite my wife not being as avid an attendee of live concerts as me. A few years ago we went to see The Models, one of her bands of choice from the 80s. She sang, she danced, she was transported and I was in heaven watching her. My daughter’s first live concert experience was Tubular Bells for Two in an intimate setting and the next, Icehouse – not a bad start.
Last night, I gratefully took the opportunity to accompany my daughter to HER first real concert to see and hear a REALLY famous performer, Ed Sheeran. I wanted to be very much in the moment and remember what it was like attending my first rock concert. So I documented the experience with images taken at home before we left – my daughter looking very rock and roll – and more taken on the tram to the venue and in front of the first thing we saw with Ed Sheeran’s name emblazoned on it. On entering the venue and approaching the stadium seating I was able to see over the top of perimeter fencing and catch glimpses of just a section of the crowd. OMG. I looked at my daughter with wide eyes, mouthing “Wow!” and she looked at me quizzically, unable to see what I was seeing. I don’t attend sporting events and rarely go to stadium concerts so I had forgotten the vibe and energy a big crowd event generates. When my daughter turned into the aisle she turned to me with wide eyes and mouthed, “Wow!” My last shows on this scale were Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel.
I let the euphoria of the 60,000 people in Etihad Stadium wash over me hoping it would find in me some of the same range of emotions (except those ones) of his devotees. In time, I found I wanted to engage in a bit of daddy dancing/clapping/ (in the thankfully low-level lighting). Ed wanted us all during one song to raise one arm and let it fall on the down beat because he said it looked great from the stage. Everyone granted his request and it did look great and why would I want to deny him this piece of magic, this memory, this right to connect with his audience by not raising and lowering my arm in time? Turn on your mobile phone torches, it looks fantastic. Okay…
Ed (see, we’re on first name terms already) mentioned that 1% of the audience were boyfriends who didn’t want to be there; another 1% were Super-Dads who were there to chaperone their daughters and sons. He had his audience in the palm of his hand the moment he took to the stage and shouted, “Melbourne!” The boy next door made good. He could do no wrong and in my eyes, he did no wrong. One man and an acoustic guitar on stage in front of 60,000 cleverly using a loop recorder to overlay his own backing vocals, hand-generated beats and effects to produce a layered sound that at times reached a level of intensity I would not have thought possible.
In our prog circles we often talk openly about grown men being moved to tears by certain songs or musical passages. So what happens when I reveal here that I experienced something similar at an Ed Sheeran concert? Listening to his song Thinking Out Loud and watching a video playing out on the screen behind him, I saw my wife and I as sketched animated figures. I saw us meeting, I saw me getting down on one knee, I saw us embrace and I saw my wife bearing our child. I then turned and watched my daughter singing every word and beaming like she was going to burst. Did I have something in my eye? You better believe I did…
At the end of his nearly two-hour concert, I was euphoric because my daughter was euphoric. As he left his seat with his son, I fist-bumped a fellow Super-Dad and he nodded as males of a certain age do and conveyed much through that simple action. She was walking on air as we made our way back into the city to catch a tram and I so vividly recalled those same feelings of some forty-odd years ago. Drums in my ears, lights in my eyes, songs in my head and heart. On the return journey I revealed my favourite three songs of the night. Bloodstream, Thinking Out Loud and Perfect. They aligned perfectly with hers.
So, a sporting venue requires a sporting analogy:
Can I play guitar? No. Ed – 1 v Harry – 0
Can I sing? Mmm, a little – my equalising goal is disallowed, it remains 1-0 to Ed
Did I ever attract 60,000+ to one of my lectures? No, 80-100 at best.
Ed – 2 v Harry – 0
Was I engaged and entertained? Yes.
Ed – 3 v Harry – 0
Did Ed deliver in spades my daughter’s expectations. Unequivocally, YES!
Ed – 4 v Harry – 0
Will I buy Ed Sheeran’s CD Divide ÷? No.
Late free kick into the top right hand corner… Ed – 4 v Harry – 1
That’s a convincing away victory to the wee man from Halifax, Yorkshire… well done, sir.
- There was also The Adrian Belew Power Trio and The Pink Floyd Experience