Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Is This The Real Life?


You can't tell, but everyone in this photo is singing at the top of their lungs. And it sounds beautiful. 

So I'm sitting at the Harry Styles concert, after the opening act.

The house lights are up, the crowd has been milling about but as the intermission stretches past thirty minutes, most are back at their seats and ready for the main event.

There's a certain restlessness that comes at this sweet spot in a live performance and I love it like Christmas Eve.

As there is little else to capture our attention, the recorded music becomes the driving force behind our waiting. There's scattered singing as a handful of familiar pop tunes - Britney Spears' Toxic, for example - float through the supercharged air. 

The final notes of one more generic song fade away.

And the poignantly familiar words of a new song punch the air.

Is this the real life?

Is this just fantasy?

Caught in a landslide

No escape from reality

Suddenly we are all up on our feet, screams echoing through the arena, and we all begin to sing for all we're worth. 

The Millennial and Gen Zers who make up the vast majority of this crowd apparently know every word to this song, but I barely notice. 

Because I have been swept far, far away.

* * * * *

The year is 1975.

The day is hot, and I'm sitting in my friend's Chevelle in the parking lot at the Livonia Mall.

The windows are all rolled up, because we were just about to leave the car, but at the last second, this song comes on the radio and we cannot resist it.



Crooning at the top of our lungs 

We belt out every syllable with all the soul and style we can muster, and the effect within the acoustics of the car is impressive.

When our six-minute performance is finally exhausted, we grin at each other, climb from the car, and continue on our way. And while the rest of our errand is entirely unmemorable, this day is forever changed. Little do I know that this moment will shine in my memory for decades to come, forever filling my heart with teenage emotion and my eyes with sweet tears of nostalgia for what once was.

* * * * *

Now I'm back in the arena, singing my brains out, my eyes sweeping around the room still thunderous with song.

I see a little silhouetto of a man

Scaramouch, Scaramouch will you do the fandango?

I realize with a jolt that to most of these people here in this room with me, this is a song from the past. Maybe they first heard it on a movie soundtrack, their parents' CD player, or captured on a mix tape from a musically progressive friend. But never was it alive, freshly released into their living, breathing present moment. 

Like it was for me.

Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?

Bismillah, no! We will not let you go.

Listen to this crowd sing! They really do know every word. But with a shock it comes to me: virtually all of these humans enjoying this moment with me have been born well after this song's initial run. They literally did not exist on that day at Livonia Mall, when we beat on the hot dashboard in time to the music and bounced in our seats to the driving guitar riffs. The thought gives me chills.

Oh baby, can't do this to me baby

Just gotta get out, just gotta get right out of here

Our musical frenzy turns to the final, fleeting phrases, and together, our voices float up to the top of the dome. I imagine them escaping through the concrete ceiling and floating off into the night, these voices joining the echoes of our voices from so many years ago. New memories bond with the old, and life goes on.

Any way the wind blows. 

* * * * *

Once concert, two stories. Check them both out.

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