By Blaney Pridgen
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
My wife and I recently attended two concerts a week apart from each other, Emmylou Harris, and Reba McIntyre. They produced for me a swirl of comparison and contrast, as I experienced aging popular culture somewhat up close and personal. First off, I must note that I am a little bit ashamed to be writing about such events. So many awful and disgusting things are happening at home and abroad, that writing about ridiculously expensive entertainments seems almost sinful. Nevertheless, we often (not sometimes) need a bit of a break from the miseries all around us, breaks like karaoke at Mario’s or March Madness at the Pool Hall. Therefore, regardless of the open savageries of Russia and the covert savageries of Israel, while we endure the pathetic foolishness and cowardice of our two impotent political parties I turn to “Your blue Kentucky girl” and “Is there life out there” for moments of respite.
All of the folk who showed up for Emmylou were silverbacks, walking and shuffling toward to concert hall in quiet procession like monks and nuns heading toward compline. They didn’t used to be that way. I could tell because of the mild bohemian dress here and there, suggesting whiffs of a yesteryear, but not that other kind of whiffs, if you know what I mean. Well I did see one younger lady, perhaps forty or so. I thought “hey a younger fan!” Then, she turned among the inching crowd and said, “Come on Momma, this way.” Reba was a lot younger crowd. They showed up with more enthusiasm and silly carrying on taking selfies and wobbling about in boots and hats that no self-respecting cowboy ever wore or sill wears. Reba is 67, Emmylou is 76 like me. (Mick Jagger is our slightly older brother). How time flies! Perhaps Reba has many younger fans, because she was on television and sometimes sings about more contemporary miseries and longings than Emmylou. I noticed a lot of crying, happy and sad, in the Reba congregation, but some nose blowing and coughing in the Emmylou home for old hippies. One thing that really struck me was Reba’s audience singing aloud very audibly like a fairly decent church choir with almost every song (hymn?). Reba pointed her mike to the crooning audience while she listened on with her broad signature smile. One or two fans would jump up for a minute or two and applaud Emmylou every now and then, while I imagined a general sighing from the audience. Someone near me clutched their hands in prayerful devotion. This is sort of like comparing the emotional singing in neo-Pentecostal, neo-churches to the thoughtful musical murmurings of the old time Presbyterians and Episcopalians. Same gods, different sounds.
Speaking of sound, both performances were way too loud, verging on painful. I used to be an audiophile in the age of McIntosh, turn tables, and heavy bookshelf speakers. There is such a thing as crisp definition in sound among carefully blended separations floated in a discreet power which commands all of one’s attention, without numbing blasts of sheer noise. This is especially important in the delicate instrument of the human voice where the lyrics matter. In both concerts you needed to know the lyrics by heart because you weren’t going to hear them in any coherent way. This was less so at Reba, an obviously expensive production, and sadly more so at Emmylou, whose technicians were either deaf or drunk or both.
The venues were quite a contrast. Emmylou performed in a genuine concert hall, which fit her style and her audience. I can’t figure out why they had to drag in a cheap roadhouse sound system, which did not fit. Reba performed in a large coliseum suitable for basketball, circuses, ice shows, and evangelical events. The music was fun and adequate; the light show was Phantom of the Opera goes to Nashville which perfectly fit the audience.
I was most pleased to be in the presence of two of our favorite singers and their styles of music. Perhaps equally, I enjoyed people watching, which was exotic in different ways and home to me for very different reasons. However, I strongly suggest ear plugs and an unabashed love of all sorts and conditions of humankind; otherwise, you might want to stay home or go to the woods or find some other quiet lonesome place.