No show is unmissable. Yes, I say this as one of the lucky ones that saw Prince during his only New Zealand shows. And yes, I say this having attended thousands of shows – including many I really didn’t want to, and so many that I have been beyond chuffed to see. I’ve written about shows for years and before that part of what qualified me for the gig of, well, covering gigs was that I would attend nearly every and almost any musical performance.
There was a hunger there – to see Guns N Roses in a stadium one night and the British jazz guitarist Martin Taylor in a library space the next. To check out Tim Finn in a pub, see The Blue Man Group in Las Vegas, travel to Sydney to see PJ Harvey or stroll down the road to hear blues, a hip-hop DJ, a musical comedian, a glorified busker – any/all of the above…
One week a couple of years back I saw Paul Simon and then Robert Plant and then Bonnie Raitt, three nights in a row – three all-class shows.
There have been other times – during festivals – when the shows just pile up. You can’t believe your luck. You pinch yourself. You even get a little weary from all the great shows. Jaded. Bored, almost.
But, mostly, the hunger is still there. Sometimes you end up disappointed – crushed temporarily, deeply underwhelmed when you were expecting the very best. Other times the artist you didn’t think you cared at all about delivers a blinder.
I’ve seen so many great shows – and many of my musical heroes. But there are plenty of acts I’ll never get to see, many that came to town when I was somewhere else, or broke, or – as has been the case recently – banned by the promoter. But I’ve seen so many good and bad shows. So many shows.
So, sure, it might be easy for me to say – but I still believe no show is unmissable.
You have kids, you get a new job, or the old job becomes a lot busier, life gets in the way…it is little magic moments – sometimes such as when a musical concert blows your mind – that help you get through the churn. But all of that other stuff needs to happen, has to happen, just keeps happening. As the years pile up and the experiences gather you realise that even the show you’re told was totally unmissable is (because it was) miss-able.
But here’s a list of five shows in my lifetime that I should have gone to – and for various reasons didn’t. I get asked about these gigs all the time – was I there? Why wasn’t I there? “I can’t believe you didn’t go” – that sort of thing…
1. The Beastie Boys and Helmet – double bill in Wellington. I was going to travel down to this. But did not. I wish I had. I saw both bands after. Helmet when past their prime but still rather vital, The Beastie Boys still in the bright glow of fame. But I know I missed a classic – a double-bill that delivered.
2. Santana and George Thorogood – double bill in Auckland. I was up there but no one would go with me, it was back in the day when I wasn’t used to going to shows on my own. Especially stadium gigs, in towns where I didn’t live. I saw Thorogood another time – and he wasn’t the focus with this gig. I wanted to see Santana – have always wanted to – and this was before Carlos Santana took the big dive down into commercial success and hideous MTV mugging. This was the last chance to see the band sounding vital. Well, that’s my belief. Maybe it wasn’t much of a show but I’m still sad I missed it.
3. Paul Kelly in Wellington at the church. I’ve seen him a few times – always good. But he had a particularly strong album out at the time, and I had interviewed him and the idea of seeing him playing the album right through, up close, and then a selection of other favourites (and in that lovely wee venue)…well it seemed too good to be true. Turns out it was. Promoter Said No!
4. Ornette Coleman in Wellington. He made some of the greatest and most challenging music. And he was an early jazz hero for me. Largely because of his Free Jazz album. I found out about that at an impressionable time. It was mind-blowing. But he was here at the same time as Loudon Wainwright. And I’d been assigned to cover that. Seems a First World Problem. Wainwright was terrific and all – but Ornette would have been one of the guys to see. And now there’s no chance. And to go back to that Prince show and what happened after – you figure you have to grab those chances when they’re there.
5. Pink Floyd in Auckland. The Momentary Lapse of Reason tour. We were there and a friend’s father worked for a radio station. He said he’d get us all tickets. I was young – but a massive Floyd fan. Both families were going to go. If he could only get four tickets the dads were going to take the sons. He found out on the day that they could only get two tickets. My brother refused to go. If he had gone my folks were going to fork for a stub for me. But no. He wouldn’t go. So I didn’t get to go. I was about 11. And very upset. I was given the Momentary Lapse of Reason album as a type of compensation. It wasn’t the same. The Delicate Sound of Thunder album had, for a long time, bittersweet memories attached as a result. I never did see Floyd. Nor any of the members. I did get hate-mail from one of the members of a Pink Floyd tribute band though…so…close…
So there are five shows I wish I’d seen. I tell you – still – no show is unmissable. You have to believe that. It helps you cope with the ones you miss. But I really wish I’d seen those five. Particularly at the time. But even now. Thinking back…
So what “unmissable” shows have you missed?