The Amazing, Ongoing Journey

Need proof that I’m insane? Check this out. I got the original Broadway cast recording of The Who’s Tommy for Christmas 1995. I’d seen the show on stage in Toronto earlier that year, which would later prove to be a life-altering experience (more on that in a minute). But I’m rambling: the point is, I listened to Tommy on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day…and every single other day until July 27, 1996. That’s every day for seven consecutive months. Think about that for a second.

The streak came to an end on July 27, 1996–not because I didn’t want to listen to Tommy but because my parents and I were flying from Thunder Bay to Calgary and I didn’t yet own a portable CD player. That same night I saw Tommy on stage at Calgary’s Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. I’ve seen a lot of shows. Like, a lot of shows–upwards of 200, as far as I know. Yet none has come close to surpassing that second viewing of Tommy: it was the greatest theatrical performance I’ve ever experienced (“seen” isn’t a strong enough word), a life-altering event of the first degree and (this might sound excessive, but it’s true) at least 25% responsible for making me the person I am today. Anyway: I’m listening to the Tommy album as we speak–it’s still a constant presence in my CD changer–and just heard a guitar line I’d never before now (near the start of “Captain Walker,” in case you were wondering). I will never cease to be amazed at how I can listen to a piece of music a million times, yet still hear something I’ve never heard before on the millionth-and-first. And that, I think, is the reason some of us get as passionate about music as we do: because no matter how often we listen to a song, no matter how ingrained it becomes, no matter how routine it should be, music will never–and indeed never can, if it’s good enough–lose its capacity to surprise us.

In unrelated news–well, it’s related in the sense that it’s about music, but it’s otherwise unrelated–I saw the Beastie Boys in concert last night. When you’ve seen as many shows as I have your “gotta see ’em live in order to die happy” list can be precipitiously short. (Or maybe you’re not morbid enough to have such a list.) In the past two weeks I’ve managed to strike two prominent members from my own “gotta see ’em live” list…and now I don’t know what to do. Who’s left? As the list dwindles I’m starting to clutch at straws. I mean, if I don’t see Social Distortion live will it really upset me that much? And as much as I’ve love to give AC/DC the balled-fist salute for two hours I wouldn’t feel as bad about never seeing them as I would’ve felt if I’d never seen the Beasties. But there’s one artist who’s been at the top of my “must see” list ever since I first knew who he was: Chris Cornell. And I’ve never seen him: not when he was in Soundgarden (too young, if barely), not during his solo tour (although I’m not sure why not), not with his new band Audiosalve (because Audioslave sucks). With the Beasties and Green Day both under my belt I can turn my attention to seeing Chris Cornell in concert. If seeing him live has half the effect that seeing Tommy had on me that warm summer’s night in Calgary, it might very well induce death by pleasure overload…but at least I’ll have struck one last name off my list.

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