The Last Word

See More Concerts

You can miss so much if you don’t ‘go to more concerts’

“We regret to inform you that, due to her doctor’s recommendation, Aretha Franklin has withdrawn from her scheduled performance.” Thus began the announcement from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra that one of my all-time favorite Motown artists wouldn’t be singing at a concert for which I and a friend held tickets.

Not being able to hear the Queen of Soul got me thinking about the music icons of my youth, many of whom are no longer on stage. Or alive. Elvis and Michael, the King and the King of Pop, are dead. John Lennon was killed and The Beatles long disbanded. Some of the original Temptations, Four Tops and Marvelettes are deceased. Diana Ross no longer sings with The Supremes.

The Rolling Stones still tour—in their 70s; yeah, really, but it’s hard to imagine how much energy they can put into “Jumpin’JackFlash.” At 88, B.B. King, who often bent blues riffs on his guitar, Lucille, at the Kalamazoo State Theatre, mostly sings these days rather than play because diabetes has affected his fingers. And so it goes. And so they go.

And so I set an intention: To see more concerts. While the few remaining stars of my youth are still performing. And to include younger entertainers I like. Fortunately, these are still quite numerous.

Kinetic Affect, slam poets here in Kalamazoo, come to mind. So do the Kalamazoo Ringers bell choir. The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra is an ever-evolving entity. The musicians at the Kalamazoo Blues Fest and The 411 Club’s Thursday night jam put out terrific tunes.

Thoughts expand to other arenas and the concept of “see more concerts” takes on metaphorical proportions. The Israeli Holy Land and the Egyptian pyramids were prime tourist destinations until political unrest made those countries unsafe. The lush Yangtze River Valley in China is now covered by backwaters of the Three Gorges Dam.

Earthquakes and tsunamis have wiped out alpine and beach resorts without warning.

Current events remind us to visit our wish list places—before they become bloodied by strife, deluged by development or marred by natural disasters. Travelogue speakers tell us to go an African photo safari while animals still roam free. Friends encourage us to walk the Great Wall or The Way of St. James or the road to Mecca. To ride the Trans-Siberian Railroad or the Marrakesh Express or the Agawa Canyon Train.

Maybe your “concert” is a Hall of Fame. Or baseball’s spring training. Or that mission in Ethiopia or India or Guatemala to which you’ve been making donations for the last 20 years.

Perhaps you don’t need to go that far. Only to watch your granddaughter play tennis at West Hills, your grandson play soccer at River Oaks Park, or the Kalamazoo Growlers at Homer Stryker Field,

Is there a certain libretto you’ve been intending to borrow from your local library? A particular musical that’s coming to Miller Auditorium or being presented by the Civic Theatre? A comedian at Farmers Alley? Do you have an ailing friend you’ve been intending to visit? Or a particular fence in a relationship to mend—or tear down the fence and mend the relationship? Do the “concerts” in your life involve an aria or a soliloquy that only you can perform—like painting a secluded vista or meditatively forming clay on a potter’s wheel at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts? Or is it time to put a new reed on that saxophone you haven’t touched in 30 years and form your own garage band? Maybe it’s time for you and your favorite gal/guy to join a dance class. Or take a weekend trip to South Haven and stroll on a moonlit beach.

One of life’s beauties is that each of us can write our own play list. Maybe you mourn the passing of Yehudi Menuhin while your neighbor grieves the loss of James Brown and another is giddy that Jerry Lee Lewis, at 78, still has a “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” Maybe you know someone who just returned from St. Louis where Chuck Berry, at 87, still hangs out with “Johnny B. Goode” and “Maybellene” at Blueberry Hill nightclub.

Maybe you’re writing a love concerto with the partner you adore. Or maybe you’ve just begun to formulate the tune, humming a few bars of passionate, harmonious melody.

The point is this: Go. Listen. Sing. Play. Dance. Romance. While you can. While the places you yearn to see are still accessible. While the players and performers and partners you love are still available.

And this message isn’t just for us in the so-called Golden Years with our silver slippers at the YMCA. Life is impermanent for the young too. Jackson was 50 when he died. Presley was 42. Lennon was 40. Promising athletes experience career-ending injuries in college.

Kids are diagnosed with life-changing illnesses every day. It happens.

The rock star concerts won’t last forever— except as binary code. Endangered species could disappear tomorrow—except in encyclopedia. A loved one will depart someday—guaranteed—remaining present only in memories triggered by album snapshots. And recordings, write-ups and snapshots are not the same. Not the same as being with our living, breathing beloved.

So where do you desire to go? What do you absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt long to experience? To whom do you want to say, “I love you,” and, “Won’t you please travel with me?”

The pop term for your answer is called a “bucket list”—what we wanna do before we kick the bucket. I don’t like that term. What about calling it our “concert list?” Our individual Top Ten gotta do while we’re still alive and kickin’ up our heels list?

Well, let’s see. I was in Australia over Christmas, then New Orleans for Mardi Gras and my birthday. I’ve got plans to be with friends and family. This summer, I’m going to write a book in Alaska. And, well, that’s enough ... except the Jersey Boys are calling too.

What about you?

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About the author

Robert M. Weir is a writer, book editor, author’s coach and speaker who has been contributing articles to Encore since 1996. You can read Robert Weir’s travel blogs on his website:  www.robertmweir.com.