Tuesday, December 23, 2008


So here's the thing. Try to put yourself in these shoes:

You're from Toronto. You start a band; you and two other local guys. It's clear early that two of you are major talents and you replace the drummer with someone up to your standards - perhaps even more so.

You're an immediate local phenomenon with a solid home fan base. Over many years you remain dedicated to your art. For no prize will you will sell out. You remain unique and you remain united into your third decade.

Commercially you occupy a rare space. The combination of your uniqueness, dedication, integrity and wildly abundant talent make you over-the-top champions of a marketing philosophy that would not come into vogue until the third millennium. It is the aim - not to hit every possible listener with a number-one hit and win the sale of an album or two from each of them - but to wow the shit out of a loyal fan base that will buy everything you make - permanently.

And regardless of your intention you are so damn successful at that, that even though you are popularly indecipherable you become commercially relevant; an industry icon even - for the sheer volume of your impact, however formulated.

You tour world-wide for two decades before ever considering South America. There are rumours of Brazilian interest but album sales there do not seem to indicate a particularly lucrative opportunity.

But loyalty flows both ways and whatever fans are there deserves their opportunity to see you.

It is 2003 and what you don't yet know is that the precocious prevalence of unofficial music downloading in Brazil can sometimes mask a band's actual popularity.

Your gigs sell out instantly. Your people book bigger gigs.

Bewildered, you are busy modifying various track components in order to salute the South American culture as you prepare to play before sold-out soccer stadiums.

Approaching Rio de Janeiro, a myriad of problems arise; weather problems; technological problems. Obviously the show will go on but the film crew that were aiming to record the show? They have problems of their own and have arrived late. Will they go ahead and record without the benefit of sound or video checks? Yes. It surely won't be the best concert video ever recorded but they will go ahead.

You don't suspect that from this collection of odd details, lie the makings of something very special.

You don't know that for years afterward kids young enough to be your grandkids; who don't even know your music, will say. "Rush in Rio? Shit, I hear that's like - the best concert video ever made!"

Which is what the kid at the Orangeville Blockbuster said to me as he hunted down their last copy for me to buy. I would own it for more than a year before finally watching it for the first time. Sound strange? I knew it would be special. I had to wait for the opportunity to see it on a kick-ass Hi-Fi system; the ex's system which I knew very well, it once being mine.

"Sure, I'll look after your house while you're on vacation. Just warn your neighbors to close their windows the first night. Your place will be rockin."

So here's the thing.

There you are in front of 60,000 fans; a great undulating sea of beautiful bronzed Brazilians, swaying, waving and singing along with three old pasty white Torontonians; singing along to your instrumental songs even!

A huge flag sways above the 20th row or so. It is the flag of Brazil except the central globe has been replaced by a slightly modified version of the red maple leaf and side bars of the Canadian flag.

They don't adore you for your sexy image or for your hip style. They adore your work. Because it moves them like nothing else does.

So here's the thing.

At what point are you no longer simply playing a gig?

At what point are you in some kind of spiritual commune?

At what point can this intense connection between artist, art and the inspired only be defined with the word love somewhere within?

How do you maintain your composure? How do you keep your voice steady? How do you keep your feet and fingers and brain orchestrating the wildly complicated technical maneuvers that your task requires?

How do you keep the tears from your eyes?

This is what I want to know. This is the question for which the opportunity to ask them, I would give anything.

1 comment:

Crushed said...

I felt how you describe at a Depeche Mode concert. For me it was definitely a religious experience.