Last night Jon and I attended the Norah Jones concert at a venue called Red Butte Garden, a open field on the side of a mountain overlooking the Salt Lake valley. Seating at Red Butte is general admission, meaning you sit wherever you can find a patch of grass to park your ass, and you can bring anything in, including wine, beer, blankets, lawn chairs, even brown leather braided loafers without socks to match your brown leather braided belt holding up your cut-off denim shorts.
Last night we got to sit in the VIP section, a small rectangular area directly in front of the stage with upright white folding chairs, because our friend, Pat, knows the drummer, the bassist, and the guitarist in Norah’s band. For two exquisitely pleasant hours we sat facing the middle of the stage while sucking watermelon Jolly Ranchers, a suitable alternative to white wine, and listened to Norah’s voice drip like honey onto sandpaper. It was one of those sublime Utah summer nights where it’s almost chilly enough for a sweater, but warm enough that you can smell the neck of the lover sitting beside you, and the sun fell behind the mountains to the west in electric orange and plum-colored folds. It was a perfect night, and I haven’t even gotten to the part where I went on a joyride in a golf cart with Norah Jones.
The venue was packed with earthy non-Mormon Utah types, people who live here despite, not because of the religion. Everyone had some sort of alcoholic beverage in their hand, something they’d brought from home or bummed off the person sitting next to them, mostly white or red wine, a pint of lager here and there, and the mass level of slight inebriation made for one of the most sedate concert crowds I’ve ever witnessed. No one heckled the band or screamed out songs they wanted to hear, and the only interaction between Norah and the crowd took place when the entire left side of the venue pleaded with her to get the security guards to throw a blanket over a bush so that they could see her better. She kept repeating, almost muttering to herself after that, “Blanket on the bush? Blanket on the bush? You know, whatever floats your boat…”
The VIP section of the crowd was a virtual who’s who of Utah celebrity. Although I was disappointed that there was no Osmond sighting, we sat directly behind Channel 5 news anchor Keith McCord. While Keith is certainly no Jillian Barberie, he does have one of the most beguiling mustaches on the planet, and in a state where facial hair is considered an outward signifier of “evil doing,” those of us who do evil on a regular basis appreciate his high-profile representation. Plus, he wasn’t wearing socks, so there’s that.
Perhaps even more significant than Keith, however, was the presence of “The Bachelor 2″ contestant Kyla Faye, the blonde Mormon looker who says on her website, “When I take that next ‘big step,’ I will marry in the Temple, which does require that my mate be of the same faith,” meaning somone who, like herself and not like bachelor Aaron Beurge, hasn’t engaged in pre-martial sex. You’ll be happy to know that Kyla was happily intertwined with a strapping young man wearing a woolen beanie, in the desert. It really warms my heart to know that you CAN find love after reality television eats you up and spits you to the curb, although it probably helped that she’s had an obnoxiously large breast augmentation and was wearing a white v-neck cotton shirt cut to her navel. Mormons may not be able to have pre-marital sex, but it doesn’t say ANYWHERE in the scriptures that they can’t walk around looking like over-priced, sun-baked hookers. GO KYLA!
Norah and her band played most of the songs off her multi-Grammy winning album, and her voice is a thousand times more remarkable live than any recording could ever capture. They played several covers, including one of my favorite songs, a tune called “She” by Gram Parsons. I don’t have the original recording, nor one of Norah singing this song, but I do have this version (mp3 now unavailable) by The Pretenders and Emmylou Harris, and you really should listen to it.
After the concert we followed our friend Pat to the aftershow party at a large greenhouse-type room up the hill from the venue. The room was littered with half-eaten food, including chicken, gravy, veggies, cheesecake, soda, and chips, and within seconds of stepping foot in the building the pregnant demon inside of me couldn’t keep its face out of the cheesecake. There I stood surrounded by members of Norah’s band, civilized people who use words like “amenable” and talk about Unreal Tournament, and instead of making small talk or kissing ass I stuffed my face with stale cheesecake, skipping utensils and napkins altogether. I also stole a $40 bottle of Napa Valley Silverado Chardonnay out of their cooler, something I plan to drink in a year-and-a-half when I’ve weaned the baby off breast-feeding, or perhaps sooner once I’ve mastered the whole horrific pumping mechanism. All I know is I will one day be able to drink alcoholic beverages again, and when that day comes, what better way to celebrate than with an illicit bottle of wine I poached from a rockstar with great tits?
I eventually ran out of cheesecake to eat (or more accurately, the wait staff had to tear the cheesecake platter out of my trembling hands to clean up for the evening), and jumped into conversations my husband was having with the drummer and the guitarist, two very lovely, sickeningly talented people who were way too sober to be on tour. The guitarist, an artist named Adam Levy, talked at length with my husband and me, mostly about some recordings he’d done in Memphis. I had remarked to Jon during the concert that he looked like a computer geek on stage, and that during the guitar solos it was stunning to hear such wondrous sounds coming from someone who seemed that he would be totally preoccupied with RSS validators. It was like that moment last season on “American Idol” when Clay Aiken opened his mouth for the first time and we all felt like we were part of the human race, beautiful and fragile, if not totally fucking annoying. Adam has that sort of mind-blowing talent, and he was so nice to us, so friendly and talkative that when he touched my belly WITHOUT MY PERMISSION, twice within the span of five minutes, niether Jon nor I bit his hand off or broke his arm.
After about an hour of milling about the after party and talking with the band, wherein Norah appeared and disappeared three or four times, everyone headed outside to wait for the VIP golf cart to show up and take everyone back to the tour bus. The drummer suggested that we wait with the band instead of walking all the way back to the parking lot, but Jon and Pat, not wanting to appear leech-like or ungrateful, refused the offer saying that we’d be fine walking back by ourselves. I, however, have no problem appearing leech-like or ungrateful, and instantly mentioned to the drummer that I was pregnant and probably shouldn’t walk back in the dark because that would be bad for the baby. I figured, I’m only going to be pregnant two or three or seven times, and if my baby is going to use me for nutrients for the next five months, why not use it to score a golf cart ride with Norah Jones? I can guarantee you that any child of mine would see the logic in this reasoning.
(Note: Here is where I suddenly and inexplicably switch from past to present tense. I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with my raging laziness, even though I’m pretty lazy and that would explain everything. I just think that this part of the story reads better when it sounds like it is happening right now, so please forgive me this brazen disregard for form. It certainly isn’t the first time.)
So the golf cart eventually shows up, and everyone in the band piles on, except for the drummer who gives up his seat so that I don’t have to walk. And it turns out there isn’t enough room for Jon or Pat anyway, so they get to walk back in the dark content in their un-leech-likedness, manhood still intact. And I happen to be sitting directly behind Norah who looks back at me and smiles like, I’m smiling because I’m friendly, not because I have any idea who you are. And she says, “Are you the one who’s pregnant?” And I know that she can see straight through me, that I’m a total leech and that I’m so much of a leech that I would use my unborn baby to score a ride on a golf cart with her, and I nod, afraid that if I open my mouth to say anything the blood I’ve been sucking from her band members all night might drip from my leech-like fangs.
So she turns back around and the golf cart starts motoring down the mountain, as fast as its little golf cart motor can go. And the moon is bright, and the breeze is perfect as it comes down the canyon, and I’m sitting behind Norah Jones on a motherfucking golf cart. And 30 seconds into the ride as we round a tree-covered corner, about seven members of the tour group, roadies and managers and sound technicians, they all come SCREAMING out of the bushes like crazed, ferocious werewolves. And the golf cart almost goes careening off into a ravine, and I almost poop my pants.
And after everyone on the golf cart regains composure including the banjo player who was making a strange high-pitched shrieking noise, Norah turns around, eyes on FIRE, the hair on the back of her neck standing straight on end, and she reaches back to cover my stomach and screams, “THIS WOMAN IS PREGNANT, YOU IDIOTS!” And in that moment I felt so accepted, so understood, that she had welcomed me and all my leechiness into her glorious rockstar world and had forgiven me for stealing that bottle of Chardonnay. And even though we don’t know yet whether we’re having a boy or a girl, I have officially decided that regardless of the sex, this baby will be named Norah Jones Armstrong.