So, where were we...last week was a cornucopia of excitement and gigs, starting from the Saturday - Patti Smith was doing an 'event' at the Metropolitan Museum, to tie in with this exhibition. To be honest we weren't entirely clear what she would do when we got the tickets, but I had a very good memory of a concert of hers in Naples a few years ago and I was keen to see her again, whatever she did.
The exhibition was of portraits of Americans taken in the 50s, and the theme of her show was a celebration of this sort of retro Americanness, the Americanness of the time I guess. This manifested itself in the form of songs - hers and others' - and reading poetry, and bits of prose. Which would be really cool - except that she was all giggly and nervous and I don't know what, and kept relying on her daughter who was there playing the piano and who had apparently helped arrange the whole thing, and it was sort of endearing, but also a bit annoying and surprising, to be honest. Maybe she just wasn't used to this setup? Because when she sang, she was awesome. It was the voice and the energy and the awesomeness you expect. It was a really interesting switch. And then at the end she read out Ginsberg (of course) and it was really very amazing, and you really realised what the Beat poets were aiming for, writing poetry that read like jazz music, totally mesemerizing. My favourite moment, I think.
Then, a couple of days later, Alan Bennett was giving a talk here at the university. Again, it wasn't clear what he'd be doing, but I was massively excited nonetheless as I loved Untold Stories and his diaries and last year I heard a wonderful rendition of the Lady in the Van recited by Alan Bennett himself and Maggie Smith which made me love him even more (especially since it was during one of my miserable flu bouts). Anyway. So off we went, and the best thing was that he started off with a comment on how he last year he had needed quite serious surgery and it was all done on the NHS and it had been great and hurrah for socialised medicine - which got him a huge applause and pleased us greatly. He talked a little bit about his youth, and then started reading from Untold Stories, occasionally giving some context or commentary to what he was reading - and it was nice to hear him read, but having read the book not too long ago, it wasn't quite as thrilling as one might have hoped. He took a couple of (mostly inane) questions at the end, and that was it. It made me a little sad actually, to see him, as he is a bit old, and a bit frail - not decrepit or anything like that, but clearly older rather than younger, and you just wanted to go and hug him...
At both events, we were struck by the behaviour of the audience. They seemed almost fulsomely overappreciative, exaggerated in their applause, their sometimes grating laughter which frankly sounds rather fake especially when what was said was not very funny to begin with, their naughty giggling when someone said the word fuck or mentions sex as if they were 6 instead of 60 - it drove us insane at times. Am I being too harsh? But really, there were times when I just wanted to turn around and slap someone. Or maybe I should become less cynical and rejoice that my fellow humans are relishing the moment. Maybe.
But wait! There is more. One morning during my usual manic cycling through the four radio stations I have memorized, trying to find one that played music rather than moronic adverts for products we will never need ('We wrap children too!' - this being a mudwrap service to make you look temporarily thinner - but I digress), one morning, as I was saying, I happened to hear that AC/DC were playing in Philly the following week. I foolishly mentioned this to Nick, thinking that it might be too hard or expensive to find tickets - but I was proved wrong on both counts, and last Wednesday I found myself headed down 95 to commune with rockers of all ages, feeling quite out of place without a band t-shirt or red light-up devil horns to my name....
So there I was, at an AC/DC concert, of which I know maybe three songs, and do not feel any particular attachment to - but I was willing to see if they put on a good show, which I fully expected them to. And it was a good show! We also happened to have very amazing seats (oh yeah - bizarrely, this was a seated thing, of course everyone was standing, but we had assigned seats which made it a lot less chaotic, and harder to dance around, and meant there was no moshing which was a bit sad - all in all a bit odd, but less danger of bruising or squashing I guess) which were maybe a few dozen yards from the stage, so we didn't really need to rely much on the big blow up screens. It was a proper show, with flames and giant props and lights and all. They are definitely out to entertain and get us to have fun, and that's great. They are also a little aged though, and seemed to need frequent breaks to breathe and drink water and get their stuff together...still, Angus is definitely a great guitar player, and did amazing solos, and I salute that ;-) If I can get to 55 or 62 and caper about like that....So, all in all, it wasn't the most stimulating gig from a quality-of-music point of view, but it was a lot of fun.
And with that, I take my leave.