A live concert to me is exciting because of all the electricity that is generated in the crowd and on stage. It's my favorite part of the business, live concerts.
~ Elvis Presley
In the denouement to my obsession with this year's American Idol nonsence, I, along with a young friend (age 10) of mine, went to the AI concert in Tampa. While the show was everything you'd expect from an AI production: Good Cheesy Fun, I was frankly more fascinated (read: nosy) by watching the mass of humanity that had descended on downtown Tampa in the middle of a hot, impossibly humid Sunday afternoon to attend a concert by people from a television show.
As my young friend and I hung out in the cool of the box office area waiting to meet up with my buddies from my Elliott fan board (SHUT UP!), the world seemingly passed by. I saw grandparents with grandchildren; couples -- straight, gay, old, young; family groups; teenagers; young adults; older women; older men. You name it -- they were there.
Everyone was excited (with the exception of the poor little girls who came to see Kellie. My heart broke a little for them, as the anticipation in their eyes was replaced by sadness upon discovering that their Idol wouldn’t be singing that night.) Everyone was enthusiatic. Everyone was ready.
Cameras were everywhere and shots were taken almost from the moment people stepped onto the St. Pete Times Forum property. Group shots, individual shots; shots with strangers who were drawn together by their affection for the same Idol.
Things were only enhanced when we went inside and found our seats, after a quick trip to the concession stand. Interestingly enough, the longest lines were not at the beer concessions, but at the basic food ones, where harried fathers tucked their change sloppily into their pockets and schlepped cartons filled with hot dogs, popcorn and sodas back to their hungry charges. Cotton candy and ice cream were hawked throughout the arena. It was really all about family, rather than the more adult accoutrements usually found at a concert experience.
Our seatmates were symbolic of the nature of the entire evening. There were two very well manicured older ladies next to me who paid $200 each for their seats. Taylor fans. Had never been to anything at the St. Pete Time Forum -- their concert-going was most likely reserved for fancy performing arts centers and the like. They had their hair done and nails done and goodness knows what else done. They looked great and were anxious for an evening of good entertainment. They were going to see their Idol.
The young ladies seated next to them were Chris fans, complete with an assortment of homemade signs declaring their undying love for him. Barney Fife, the earnest security guard on patrol in our section, kept waving his flashlight at them in an attempt to get them to put down the signs while performers were singing. One girl practically hyperventilated when Mr. Daughtry and his Wallet Chain came out on stage the first time. Her friend started to cry. For them, it was all about their Idol.
My young friend, a darling 10-year-old, was appalled that "those girls" would “get so worked up” over someone like Chris. Meanwhile, she herself squealed until dogs came a-runnin’ when Ace appeared. Her Idol.
It’s all about personal taste, I suppose.
Everywhere I looked, people were caught up in Idol self-expression, inhibitions and self-consciousness be damned.
A family in homemade Soul Patrol shirts -- in glowing neon yellow, no less.
Middle-aged women in Absent Element shirts -- showing their support for Chris and his hometown band.
Twenty-somethings in hand-Bedazzled tanks, with Elliott spelled out across the chest in what must have been a pound of rhinestones.
Wide-eyed little girls with Ace buttons on their Limited-Too t-shirts holding hands with their mothers as they were experiencing a rite of passage together -- one’s first concert.
There were two young men -- maybe aged 12 or 13 -- who sat in front of me, along with their parents. Armed with cameras and photo-taking phones, they documented every moment they could. They weren’t embarrassed to be seen with their ‘rents, and literally enjoyed every thing about the concert -- even running down a vendor to purchase his last show program. Polite, happy, enthusiastic. (I kept trying to get my young friend to notice them, but her eyes were only for Ace.)
And in the midst of it all, I got to experience the reason for my obsession with this year’s show; the reason I participate on a crazy message board with like-minded people; the reason I have a bit of renewed passion for music.
Yes, I screamed like a madwoman when he came out for his duet with Chris. And I waved my arms and danced during his first number.
But when it came time for MMFL, I sat down and closed my eyes. And just listened. A huge cavernous forum was not the ideal venue to be in to try and appreciate the nuances of such a song sung by such a voice.
But I tried.
And while my immediate feelings weren’t as swift or powerful as they were when I first saw Elliott, nervous in his sweater-vest, sing this song initially during that semi-final round, I still was moved.
For so many reasons -- some achingly personal and intimate. Got more than a little teary, in fact.
And I remembered why I was drawn to this man and his talent in the first place, and why I will support his future career. Because even in that loud, acoustically-challenging venue, his voice was amazing. Pure even in its exhaustion. The voice of my Idol.
And as the evening drew to a close, with Taylor (so handsome!) shaking his groove thing and cheesy group numbers, complete with crazy choreography, the smile on my young friend’s face said it all. As did the amount of merchandise we purchased on our way to our car -- she had been saving her allowance for this moment. She went home with two t-shirts (one for her, one for her younger sister); a poster of all the Idols; an Idol teddy bear; and an 8x10 photo of Ace, again for her sister.
That sums it up beautifully, in my opinion -- and what more could one ask for in an entertainment experience.
Not much more, if you ask me...