This past week, we attended the James Taylor/Jackson Browne concert (For the under-age, they are two of the finest musicians/songwriters in the music industry, both over 70 years young. Jackson Browne is a little old-rock while James Taylor is more light rock/blues/country/balladeer, conjuring up sweet memories of times past.)
After two rescheduled dates due to COVID, the grey hairs (and the dyed grey hairs) flocked to the concert venue – just like 40 to 50 years ago, maybe moving a bit more slowly, some with limps and probably a lot with ‘hearing assists’, but all with the excitement and anticipation of old. Yes, the majority of them had figured out how to load their tickets into their Apple Wallets. Many splurged on $14.00 beer and $9.00 popcorn - reliving concerts gone by.
Jackson Browne opened at 7:30 with Somebody’s Baby and segued into some new songs before ending strongly with The Pretender and Running on Empty. Along the way, he provided some political commentary about the state of affairs in the USA, mentioning immigration and how “(messed) up” it was. He said he had learned, from a fellow in Toronto, what we call immigrants in Canada, at which point several people shouted, “Canadians!”. Yes, he said, “New Canadians”, and that helped to set the tone for the evening.
After a complete stage change, James Taylor entered, starting with Country Road and knocking off his greatest hits, including Sweet Baby James and Fire and Rain. Carolina In My Mind, three quarters through the show, brought out my tears. The song is so beautiful and thoughtful and melancholic. James Taylor’s voice is so pure and sweet. Replacing the Bic lighters of old, the iPhones were waving and recording. Who wouldn’t love this verse, especially if you are from a rural area:
“Dark and silent, late last night
I think I might have heard the highway call my name
Geese in flight and dogs that bite . . .”
(Has anyone never marvelled at “geese in flight”?)
By the end of the show, the grey hairs and the dyed grey hairs were standing and rocking and singing to ‘Take It Easy’, an encore number by Jackson Browne and James Taylor. Age gives new meaning to songs:
“Lighten up while you still can
Don’t even try to understand
Just find a place to make your stand
And take it easy . . .”
Yes, that crowd demographic knows to stand back a bit, live in the moment, don’t get so stressed, because we understand at this age that “we will never be here again”.
I need to say a bit about what we used to call “the light show”. Concert technology has come a long way! The backdrops were a true art form in themselves, perfectly choreographed with trees, roads, skies – pure James Taylor.
I surveyed the crowd and thought what a lot of living had gone on in that venue - happiness and sadness and trauma. Everyone looked so contented – like they had ‘made it’ in life, either comfortable in their circumstances or accepting that this is what life is, and they had made it through many twists and turns. We know that the time looking forward is less than the time looking back.
We got out at 11:00 pm. The night was bitterly cold for May. It didn’t matter. I doubt too many had to go to work the next day.
So, what is it about music?
Dr. William Gifford-Jones, in an article, ‘Music’s miracle is its healing qualities’, describes music as “maybe the world’s greatest medicine”. For the healthy person, it elicits emotion. It can “improve the gait of people relearning to walk after a brain injury”. It can reduce the perception of pain. Music can light up pathways in the brain for “motor actions, emotions, and creativity”. It improves brain functioning. It helps to prevent dementia. Music also is helpful to “reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, ease pain, improve sleep, boost mood, and elevate alertness”.
My husband has known this for quite some time. He cannot understand how I could happily listen when the dial was not right on the station (you know what I mean), thus listening to some degree of static. Meanwhile, he spends hours of his time in his music room looking at his albums, listening to his albums, cleaning his albums, cataloguing his albums . . . some of them by James Taylor. (photo is my own of an early album)
But Monday night, at the James Taylor/Jackson Browne concert, he and I and some several thousand other grey hairs were on the same page – lost in memories, marvelling at the art and the talent and the goodness, letting the music sweep over us emotionally and physically.
For three and a half hours, all was right with the world. The grey hairs still know how to party.
(the two concert photos were acquired from Rogers Place Facebook site)