We all know that the marching order of life and subsequently the world is change; constant, unending, mostly uncontrollable change. It impacts who we are, how we define ourselves, the way the world constructs and reveals itself to our senses as well as the channels and technology that carry said change. As my life advances, I look back at a plethora of experiences; I find myself appreciating live music and concert performances more than ever.
It is a casual observation that life is becoming increasingly "digital," with people who can visit or call one another often resorting to text and IM's to communicate. Hard media is going away as we gravitate towards an "on demand" world of what we want, whenever and wherever we want it, via a device of our choosing to consume it. There is nothing wrong with this as anomalies will usually flare up to demonstrate that the past does not easily die; the popularity of vinyl records today I feel is an apt representation of this.
Live music though is different and does not easily fit into the digital realm. Artists may be presenting Stage It events that allow you to witness a digitized live event as it happens but nothing replaces the feeling of being physically present as they render forth their creation; a co-creation, really, as the energy of the audience is factored into the whole. It is a commitment from both parties to travel and hopefully give their best. The artist surrenders the polish and emotion of the song and the audience grants precious attention to said artist's performance.
I have been to a variety of venues in many different locales, choosing to support the artists that I admire by purchasing their work. I pay with my time, my attention and legal tender. Sometimes I am fortunate to have that expenditure mature into a tremendously worthwhile investment, one which pays immediate dividends of delight while witnessing it live, followed by countless hours of good feelings while thinking back to it and listening to the music heard at the show. This is what I call a "Top Ten" experience and I have been blessed with many more than just ten in my life.
Some of them have been huge events; going with a friend of mine to Madison Square Garden to sit from 6 pm until midnight at the MUSE concert (Musicians United for Safe Energy) which then ended with a three hour Springsteen concert, leaving us limp, exhausted and exhilarated at 3:30 am that morning. Traveling up to Toronto with a van full of friends to see Gordon Lightfoot at Massey Hall (and getting to meet him on the street near his office) was another. James Taylor has provided several "Top Ten" shows as has his son, Ben Taylor and his daughter, Sally Taylor. Vienna Teng (World Cafe Live in Philly) still gives me thrills when I listen to her music and Jim Boggia at the same venue with a full band and brass section remains an awesome memory to this day. (Thanks for eventually putting out the CD of it, Jim!) Another incredible experience was seeing Paul McCartney in Philly in 2002 (Twelve years ago? Really? Wow...)
I can go on (Keali'i Reichel, our favorite Hawaiian artist was so incredible in San Diego), and on (Steely Dan, who I never thought I would see play live, playing one of the best shows ever at the PNC Arts Center in NJ) and on (Billy Joel, before he became BILLY JOEL, in the multi-purpose hall on the Rutgers campus, solo on piano)... well, you get the idea.
One man who was a consistent "Top Ten" was Harry Chapin. His rapport with the audience was unique and whether his voice was ragged as hell from overuse or spot on, you knew that you were getting his best, no mater what. The two-night retrospective he did at Avery Fischer hall in NY with his brothers (and including his dad, jazz drummer Jim Chapin) was as good as it gets.
And now I am thrilled to add a show to this cherished list: Jen Chapin, who I have seen play live before, performed at The Cutting Room in Manhattan with her full band and featured her latest album, "Reckoning." This was how The New Yorker magazine highlighted it as a weekly pick:
"With songs delivered in a style that ranges from tender fragility to unexpected steeliness, Chapin brings a jazzy edge to the folk form. Sometimes she explores a fleeting emotion, sometimes she weaves a solid narrative—not at all surprising from the daughter of Harry Chapin, a master musical storyteller. She’ll be performing songs from her new album, “Reckoning,” with a fine band including her husband, Stephan Crump, on bass, Jamie Fox on guitar, Dan Rieser on drums, Chris Brown on piano, and Erin Hill on harp and supporting vocals. (Cutting Room, 44 E. 32nd St. 212-691-1900. Jan. 17.)" -- The New Yorker
The room was equally comfortable and lush while both food and service were excellent. The sound was superb and the performance by Jen and the band wonderful. I am getting shivers (the good kind, not because it's 12 degrees outside) just recalling it as I share this with you. A harp! Erin Hill played a harp while singing accompaniment. An enormously talented and tight band framing some of the best songs that Jen Chapin has ever written in a transcendent performance; that's what I was lucky enough to be part of.
You had to be there. And that's why I am taking the time to write this.
If you love music, it ain't "live" unless you are there. Make a decision to support the artists that you love by purchasing their work and going to see them play live at a favorite venue. It is magic when it all comes together, truly a "Top Ten" moment of time well spent.
To me, life is a series of moments strung together on a necklace called time. Doesn't it deserve a damn great soundtrack? Thanks, Jen, for adding to mine last Friday in New York.