Sunday, February 19, 2006

Gathering moss ...

This is what a million-person + crowd on the beach in Rio looks like.

Last night, the Rolling Stones performed a free concert on Copacabana Beach... quite an event, drawing somewhere between 1.2 million and 2 million people, depending on whose count you believe. (this picture is not mine ... I blatantly ripped it off from a brazilian news site; see the link below for a slideshow that gives an idea of how incredible a crowd this size looks:)

The Stones' crowd in Rio

A free "Stones" concert, on the beach, in Rio de Janeiro ... shoulder to shoulder with millions of people ...

Depending on where you fall in the following demographic, your reaction to this idea will probably be one of the following:

Under 20: "Awesome! that sounds totally kickin' ! But ... it's the Rollin' what???"
20 - 30: "Cool! The Stones! Let's party!!!"
30 - 39: "The Stones! Oh man, I can't miss that! I wonder how I can get an invitation to the VIP seating area..."
over 40: "Two million people on a strip of sand? Yeah right! I'll watch the live telecast."
over 65: "The Rolling who ???"

In case you don't know how old I am, I'll just say this: I watched it on television (part of it, anyway, off and on between a Woody Allen DVD that Cristina and I had rented). Unless I could have got a helicopter to fly me straight into the VIP seating area, and then fly me back out, there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell of finding me anywhere near Copacabana last night! Something about being confined on a slender strip of shoreline, hemmed in by the sea on one side and a sea of humanity on the other, compressed into a seething mass of sandy, sweaty human flesh while trying to catch a glimpse of ants on a stage half a mile away is too high of a price for me just to hear Mick Jagger belting out "Sympathy for the Devil" in person.

Still, I have to admit ... I have mixed feelings about my own reaction to this. The "Rolling Stones" is classic rock; although I have never been a particularly big fan of Jagger & company, the idea of a Stones' concert does exert a certain allure for me. There may have been a time in my life that I would have been willing to face the crowds and inconvenience just to be "part of" the event. But at some point ... and I'm not sure exactly when this shift happened ... things changed: the fraction of me which is attracted by such an event was overtaken by the fraction which is specifically repelled. I face this reality and recognize it ... but not without a certain melancholic sense that I have lost something.

So I watched the live performance on TV, and from what I saw, I don't regret not going. Not that it wasn't a "good" show: it did have its moments. But most of the crowd was so far away from the stage that I don't think they really got into it until close to the end, when the band started playing some of the older classics. You have to admire the group's energy: to watch them, they show no signs that they are aware of how old they are! (Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are 62 years old ... Charlie Watts, who's been through a bout with cancer, is even older I think). And they do look old ... although Mick seems to be in really good shape. And few can deny that Mick Jagger is the archetype rockstar.

That these guys have the stamina and determination to endure a couple of hours on-stage night after night, in the characteristic Stones' style of wiggling and rocking, whereas I don't have the willpower to confront a couple of hours of traffic and crowds just to see them -- certainly is to their credit.

This concert was neither the first nor most significant test of my steadily shrinking disposition: living in a major city like Rio, big international acts are relatively commonplace. A couple of years ago, I wimped out and didn't go to the Rush in Rio concert. Anyone who really knows me should be amazed at this, since I had never willingly missed a Rush concert in my life, (at least, not since my first in college, the Grace under Pressure tour). The Rush in Rio concert was held at Maracana, the world's largest soccer stadium; the thought of facing the traffic and crowds back then turned me off, although many of my friends did go. Now I have to settle for the DVD (highly recommendable, btw!).

Another big concert that I missed was Roger Waters' Pink Floyd concert in Rio. The same story: the Sambodromo is a large stadium usually used for Carnaval and the samba parades. My memory of this open air stadium is that the acoustics are mediocre, the concrete benches are uncomfortable, and the distance from the stage is large. And you have to face traffic to get there. But I also rationalized that, in reality, Roger Waters isn't really Pink Floyd anymore. I'd already seen David Gilmore's "real" Pink Floyd (Momentary Lapse of Reason) concert at Arrowhead stadium in 1988/89 (?) and I didn't think that Roger Waters could match it. From what I heard about the show afterwards, I was wrong.

There were others I missed and later regretted: Yes, U2, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Santana ... all because, basically, I seem to have become too lazy to face any discomfort. Therein lies my concern: I would rather wait and see the DVD, and that mere fact is bothering me. What's happening to me? If this tendency continues, ten years from now I won't have the energy to go to the movie theater (that is, if they still exist, having been replaced by cheap giant HDTV Plasma and LCD screens).

In my defense, I will say that part of the problem may be that I have high standards. In most of the major concerts I have gone to, I generally manage to get excellent seats. I've seen Rush in Kansas City from within the first ten rows a couple of times. I've seen Jethro Tull three times here in Rio, and every single time I've been close enough to see the sweat dripping off of Ian Anderson's nose. (The first time, I was on the front row, against the stage, and I think some of his nose-sweat may have actually dripped on me). Jethro Tull always plays in smaller, more intimate venues: that's one show I've never passed up (in spite of his dripping sweat). The (few) larger venue shows I've gone to here in Brazil were generally disappointing.

Of course, the other big factor is related to the particular phase of my life that I am in: three kids, one of them a three-year old, is in itself a pretty good justification for having most of your life-force sapped out of you. It's not at all inconceivable that, in a few years, my energy will return and Cristina and I will start taking back those parts of our lives (and our life together) which have been relegated to temporary storage.

I just found out today that Carlos Santana will be playing in Rio on March 18; a chance to change direction? Should I make an effort to overcome the malaise that afflicts me? Or should I just accept it? Maybe staying away from these crowds and traffic jams is not "laziness" at all... maybe it's just a manifestation of the onset of "common sense": the wisdom that comes with age.

I just don't know ...


At February 21, 2006 2:53 PM, Kim said...

Hi Jim!

How goes it there is Brazil? We have had some lovely days here in Kansas with temps dropping down to 12 degress (that's NOT celsius) DURING THE DAY! They call that "frigid" air - like the refridgerator only it's more like air from the freezer!

Anyway, we got the pleasure of watching the Stones during the halftime show of the Superbowl, and I have to agree - they have no idea how old they are! But I do admire their desire to try and stay young by doing what they love to do.

Hope all is well with you and yours! Say hi to everyone for me!

At February 21, 2006 3:31 PM, Jim said...

Hi Kim!

Well, yeah... and they also are very well paid to do what they love to do!

We mustn't forget that little detail. It's a pretty good incentive to keep yourself in shape!

At February 21, 2006 5:27 PM, Kim said...

Oh, yes! That money thing...

Must be nice :)

At February 22, 2006 2:31 AM, Mark said...


Glad to see you back in the blogosphere. I also am glad to hear you are not a huge Rolling Stones fan. Never cared for them at all myself, except for a few songs. Your nods to Rush and Yes, and Jethro Tull -- right on! Now we're talking classic rock.

Last concert I saw (living here in the Dallas metro area since May 2005) was a Beatles look-alike band. A dang good one, but still. I act older than I am.

At February 22, 2006 3:14 AM, Simon said...

A live rock concert? I have to go back a ways to the last one o' them I went to. Not a big stones fan myself, either.

At February 22, 2006 5:27 PM, Anonymous said...

I can remember a certain Rush concert you and I went to...back in...uhhh...1987 I do believe. Man, that dates us.

The kids watched the Stones during the halftime show and I can't remember Amanda's exact words but it was something like "Ok, I'm gonna puke, that is so gross".

Ahh...the new generation.

Glad to see your back...

At February 24, 2006 8:50 AM, Jim said...

Hi Greg:

Yeah, Rush dates us ... but it's not like were reminiscing about Woodstock!

And I know where Amanda is coming from ... close-ups of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have always had that kind of "stomach-turning" effect on me too!

(If you *really* want to gross her out, rent a "KISS" DVD: iirc, you were quite the Gene Simmons fan! heh! sorry to publicize that fact!)


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