Last night I attended a mainstream music concert for the first time since my Milli Vanilli experience in 1989. Someone forgot to tell me to bring my 12-year-old daughter with me, to dress her in an exact replica of what I was wearing, to color and style her hair as if she were a miniature version of myself. I saw hundreds of mother/dauther pairs, one dressed head-to-toe in denim, another in head-to-toe lycra. While waiting in line in the lobby of the venue I felt a distinct sorrow for anyone who is single and looking for love in Utah. THE HAIR ALONE is enough to scare anyone into celibacy. Judgmental? Yes. A fair assessment? OH THE MEAN THINGS I COULD SAY BUT I WON’T BECAUSE GOD IS WATCHING.
Jon’s sister had an extra ticket to the Gwen Stefani/Black Eyed Peas show, and I didn’t have high hopes. It’s been my experience that live shows featuring vocalists rarely measure up to what I hear on the CD. Vocalists perfect their product in the studio, so when they get on stage I hear every flat note and missed word. Live bands, on the other hand, can take a really generic set of studio songs and kill it on stage because of the raw and spontaneous energy they bring to their instruments. You wouldn’t necessarily find Mariah Carey singing off-key endearing, but Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead producing awful feedback on purpose through his amplifier? SO HOT.
I’m not a fan of the Black Eyed Peas, not because they aren’t very good at what they do. They are, and they deserve their success. Artists getting paid to do what they love is always a good thing. But there are four vocalists in that band, and that means that during a live show they have four times the opportunity to really fuck things up. And they didn’t just sing off key, they totally roamed around the stage aimlessly like Chuck does when we throw a treat into the middle of the lawn and tell him to GO FIND YOUR BREAKFAST. The only reason Chuck knows he has an ass is because it’s attached to his body, not because he could find it with his nose.
Toward the end of their set I started to get a little antsy. Here I had agreed to go see this show with Jon’s sister and her family and already my butt was numb. It was past my bedtime and I was steadily dozing off, steadily losing points with the in-laws. Earlier in the evening Jon’s 15-year-old niece asked if I was going to dance when Gwen took the stage because she knows I like the new Gwen CD. I bought it thinking it would make great work-out music, but I didn’t know it would be song after song of F U N. I’ve had a great time dancing to this record in my living room with the kid so I gave Jon’s niece a sneak preview of my moves: a little bump bump here, and an ummph ummph there, and something here I learned from Darrin’s Dance Grooves. She stopped me short and said, “Dude, that looks like a sickness.”
Jon had told me to be prepared for an amazing show, but I had no idea. He used to play keyboard in a band called Swim Herschel Swim in the early 90’s, a ska band that opened for No Doubt in Salt Lake City and in Anaheim on more than one occasion, so he was witness to what Gwen puts into a live show: everything she’s fucking got. Her set was nothing short of brilliant, full of lights and costume changes and displays of superhuman energy. She had a few shaky vocal moments, but she was singing and running at the same time. Plus, I wasn’t there to hear her sing. I was there to see her clothes.
Jon and his band actually spent an afternoon with Gwen in the Spring of 1993, and she grilled him on what it was like to be Mormon and married at such a young age (this was when he was young and married to his previous wife, two things he obviously no longer is). After her first song she told the audience that she loved Utah, that some of the best No Doubt shows took place in Utah, and a part of me knew she was thinking about Jon, about that Kramer-looking Mormon keyboardist she once met, and I know she regrets not having tapped that ass. At least three-fourths of that audience last night scratched their heads and asked themselves just what this No Doubt thing was.