Weak and powerless, I pull up to valet the Challenger in front of the venue. One too many champagne cocktails the night before, a meltdown when I woke up, a fantastic lunch with a dear friend, a coffee catch up with another…I’m on a non-stop rollercoaster, and I feel strung out. Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality is blasting in the car, but I feel like a servant of the surreal.
Inside the venue, I’m in the exact same spot as the night before. Tonight’s pre-show music is showtunes, and I feel like Alex DeLarge. It kept getting louder and more obnoxious and I just wanted it TO STOP.
The band couldn’t come on quickly enough. As they took their spots, I studied each member’s characteristic mannerisms. Maynard’s rocking crouch, Iha’s calm and calculated playing, Freese’s gazing towards the ceiling trance drumming, Howerdel’s sporadically spastic guitar moves, and McJunkins’ twisting and swaying on bass.
Thirteenth Step is also a great album, but it does not carry the personal significance that Mer does. However, listening to it being performed on this night, I realized that the lyrics connect more with my life right now than anything I’ve listened to in a while.
The album is very lyrics forward; so I found myself listening to the words more than the music, as if Maynard were my spiritual reverend for the evening. This, coupled with the fact that I wasn’t feeling well, took me on a weird ride of personal awareness.
‘Comfort is a mystery, crawling out of my own skin‘…’Desperate and ravenous, so weak and powerless‘…’Your halo slippin’ down, your halo’s slippin’ down to choke you now‘…’I just didn’t want to know, best to keep things in the shallow end, cause I never quite learned how to swim’…’Vanishing like a sigh and slowly disappear’…’And I listen for the whisper of your sweet insanity while I formulate denials of your effect on me’….’Disconnect and self destruct, one bullet at a time’….’Say hello to everything you’ve left behind, it’s even more a part of your life now that you can’t touch it’…’I’ll be the one to protect you from your enemies and all your demons’….’Lost again, broken and weary, unable to find my way’.
I would hear something and it would set me off thinking about something going on in my life; my past, my present, my future. Then I’d hear something else and it was like the album was narrating my brain. It’s not like I’d never heard these songs before, it’s just that sometimes the songs are just noise – beautiful noise – and it’s not until I hear them live that I really listen. This is why I don’t do record reviews. It’s sets like this that make me absolutely certain that there’s something about live music and me that are meant to be together.
My mind is racing, and I’m making life decisions while standing there watching the set. It’s a weird place I am in right now- I have a complete blank slate, and there are so many options that I have trouble making choices. I change my mind about what I want to do every day. Rather than thinking logically about anything- because you only live once- I’ve become one of those people who looks for signs everywhere. And during this trip – and this set in particular – I saw a lot of signs.
At the end of the album set, Howerdel’s guitar started having issues when Troy Van Leeuwen came out for the encore. So Maynard brought Iha back out to tell more really bad jokes. This time around the crowd had totally bought into it. The first encore song sounded unfamiliar until I heard the lyrics…later I was enlightened that this was a Massive Attack remix of ‘3 Libras’. The set ended with ‘Imagine’ again…which I found to be an interesting choice for both nights.
This was my 100th show of 2010.
Later on, I found myself driving through Laurel Canyon as the sun rose, and then down an empty Sunset Strip back to my hotel.
I am surrendering to the gravity and the unknown
Catch me, heal me
Lift me back up to the sun
I choose to live…
I choose to live…