I’m usually in my pajamas by seven, and in bed by nine-thirty. A party animal I am not.
But that night, when the concert hadn’t started by the promised seven–and then eight–o’clock I still felt awake. Probably adrenaline keeping me going. I hadn’t been so excited in a long time.
This was the event of a lifetime for me. I could never justify the expense during the perpetual poverty of my twenties, so I had never been to a concert before. Truth be told, I still couldn’t justify the expense, but Mike knew how much this meant to me and sprung for tickets. It was time. They were coming to town, and who knows when I would ever get the chance again.
There are four bands I would cut off my left hand to see perform live: Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam. As the first three bands have key members who are now dead, I wasn’t about to throw away the chance to see Pearl Jam play live.
So there I was, sitting in the top tier of the L.A. Sports Arena, center section with a decent (if far off) view, waiting for the show to start. I fidgeted, looking around at the crowd. Were they as excited as I was? Did this mean as much to them?
When the murmuring crowd came to life as the band took the stage, I arose and didn’t sit again for the remainder of the evening. I felt like my nervous energy would crawl out of my sleeves and leave me in scattered bits on the arena floor.
As the music started, I became a different person. Off came the shackles of self-consciousness and the weariness that accompanies impending middle age. Gone was the extra weight around my hips and the alcoholism that makes me feel uncomfortable in my own skin.
The twelve-year-old girl first discovering music of her own came back to life. Music had been a fast love for me, and consumed me during my early teen years. I spent all my hard-earned money on tape cassettes, nearly wearing them out as I replayed my favorites. When I temporarily abandoned the piano for a guitar, I practiced the easier melodies over and over, hoping it would transform me into a part of the songs I so loved.
Hearing the words to their opening song, “Oceans,” instantly erased all the carefully cultivated cynicism of the past few decades. The psychological crap I’ve accumulated over a rocky adulthood simply disappeared as the music engrossed me. When I recognized the familiar beginning riff to “Corduroy,” I couldn’t help but start moving to the music. Singing along to “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” with the rest of the crowd, dancing to “Lightning Bolt“–I had fun, more pure fun than I remember ever having.
Now, don’t mistake me when I said I felt twelve years old again. Though nearly twenty years melted away, the insecurity of being a teenager wasn’t there. You know, the awful crap that makes most of us just want to fast forward to years without acne, braces and awkward conversations with boys. No, I just felt…lighter.
Yes, lighter. During that concert, I remembered what the best of youth felt like. To be open to love and excited for the possibilities.
It also didn’t hurt that Pearl Jam is extraordinarily talented, plays together with undeniable chemistry, and possesses the highest qualities of musicianship.
So yeah, it was a good show.