There comes a time in every man’s life when he has to make the inevitable concessions to age. A few years ago, for example, I finally realized that my digestive system could no longer handle spicy chicken wings, no matter how much bleu cheese they were dipped in, and that to order a full plate of them at a restaurant was the gustatory equivalent of waterboarding.
I have now made the same, sad concession about rock and roll concerts.
As I reach the end of my sixth decade, I find myself dreading, more and more, the irritations of any public event – the massive traffic jams, the sharp elbows of the attendees who are crushed into a small space with you, the criminally overpriced concession stands.
Last night, however, as I walked out midway through a concert by one of my favorite bands, the Drive-By Truckers, I realized that concerts provide a special issue for the aging rock and roll fan: volume. With the amps turned up to a level that would have made Spinal Tap yell, “Turn it down!” the distortion of the band’s three-guitar attack drowned out the vocals so much that several times, I didn’t even know what song they were performing, and I’m familiar with most of their catalog. Songs that I dearly love on CD became a source of pain.
There are other aspects of concerts that leave me dismayed. The fake hedonism, for one. When the band’s Shanna Tucker mentioned that the previous night’s audience had been sober, a number of the attendees booed. Maybe it’s a sign of my creeping old-fartism, but I’m no longer amused by odes to public drunkenness.
Concerts are a communal gathering, where fans of the band can sing and sway in harmony, as if they’re in touch with some secret of the universe to which the heathens are blind. Unfortunately, at my age, I no longer have a communal bone in my body. In my younger days, I’d yell out, “I love you, man!” Now I’m more likely to growl, “Get the hell away from my lawn!”
The concert wasn’t all pain. The Truckers toned it down for an early stretch where they performed songs from their excellent new album, Go Go Boots. But it found it dispiriting that I could easily recognize the new songs that I’ve heard twice, but not the older tunes that I’ve heard twenty times.
The way I look at it is: I’ve had a good run. I’ve seen many great acts live over the decades: the Who, Bruce, Michael Jackson, the Clash, Bonnie Raitt, to name a few. But that list is finally etched in stone. (Well, sort of: I still have tickets for a U2 stadium concert this summer, rescheduled from last year after Bono’s back surgery. But I’m not buying any more.)
This does not mean I love music any less. It just means I’ll be restricting it to the four walls of my living room. In fact, I think I’ll give Go Go Boots another listen right now.