Monday, January 9, 2012


There is just something about good Jazz.  I don't necessarily mean classic jazz in the big band or small ensemble sense; I'm talking about any improvised music that is born out of a real need for expression.  I think this is a theme for most things creative from art to music to policy.  When something burn within and you feel like you have to express it or die trying, That is Art.

I saw a concert last night.  In Scotland there is an arts program designed to support Scottish artists.  Last night they brought a band called Delgado to the Eden Court Theatre in Inverness.  A flat rate of £10 got a ticket to the show which was opened by a local band and headlined by Delgado.

The opening band was young and inexperienced.  The lead singer/rhythmic guitar tuned his guitar in between every song for several minutes.  He didn't talk to us or anything. He just left us in silence while he struggled with his instrument.

This would be forgivable if they were good, but they really weren't.  They played their songs with the emotional connection of a relationship gone stale.  Their songs were trivial and severely lacking in substance.  Their first song, for example, is the story of a band that booked a gig before they had any songs.  In 8 days the band had to write a full set.  The hurriedly constructed, shoddy result of which being songs born out of a need for filler.  Mindless fluff about "Dancing Queen"being the #1 song on the day of the bassist's birth and the extent to which the lead guitar player gets drunk.  Not the stuff of fire within.

Delgado began their performance.  Obviously seasoned professionals, this was a band, a cohesive unit, acting as one.  Their sound was big and full.  Musically, they were excellent.  A bit simple as there were few truly original arrangements and chord progressions, however they were great performers who know how to rock a crowd.

Still though, something was missing.  It seemed that the music was committed and soulful, but, having been together for ten years, having done countless tours, whatever burning need created the songs, seemed to have been traded for the mask of a good rock show.

Every performer does this.  In fact, I might argue that Most public performance of music is this type.  Certainly enjoyable.  Even great and memorable, but to reach a level beyond that takes something else.

The Enniskillen bombing did it for Bono in "Sunday Bloody Sunday" in the Rattle and Hum tour.  You can see the fire in his eyes and as a result, the song has never been more powerful.  It happened again with the death of Bono's father.  The Slane Castle performance stood out from all of the other Elevation Tour shows because of the smoldering pain in side the artist.  Kite remained as stunning throughout the tour, but that night Bono dedicated all I want is you to his wife (and only family member left).  It brings tears to your eyes.  Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendricks, fire.

I suppose the same is true for acting.  The actor who can truly feel what the character feels and with the same intensity will blow an audience away.  As my acting career goes, Fiddler was as close as I came.  After that, insecurity masked by ego kept my real emotions safely hidden.  My performances may have been adequate, even good, but not stellar.  Not Art.

Thursday night, Craig and I saw Look Back in Anger at the royal Lycium Theatre in Edinburgh.  A well directed, tightly timed and blocked production eerily mirroring the disfunction that has existed in two of my past relationships.  The lead man spends much of the play trying to provoke the leading lady, his wife.  He equates emotional outburst with real love, deep and fiery.  The lady, however, ignores his insults and avoids a fight.  He keeps at it, going further an further until he is just plain abusive.  He is childish and seems selfish.  At times, she will briefly loose her cool and lash out, but she quickly regains control and resumes her silence.  The man takes this as a lack of emotional commitment, or as he calls it "a sterile, reserved love which has never experienced and is therefore afraid of pain.  He goes into a rage and storms out.

As the acting was concerned, if there is a middle ground, an almost, or partway connected, they all didi brilliantly.  It was an excellent show, but, if only just a bit, the actors fell into their own traps.  The Lady, reserved and demure as she was written seemed honestly not to care.  It seems to me that we, the audience, should feel her intense struggle to stay calm.  The Man knew he was supposed to pick and prod and fly off in a tirade, and so he did, but at times it seemed he did because he was supposed to and not because he needed to.  Clearly, this is a very nit-picky comment on one hell of a good show, but it matters, if only a little.

As it relates to relationships though, I have played the part of that leading lady.  I have tried to diffuse conflict through calm, collected, sterile discussion, which at the time, sent my girlfriend off the wall.  Their interpretation of love is passion and dedication.  Passion means fire and fire means deep love.  Unsuccessful in arousing fire, they begin, at least subconsciously, to doubt love.

A healthy relationship councilor will tell you that discussion by way of screaming is not healthy relationship behavior.  But if I examine love in the same was as Art...  The play aroused some interesting questions.  Do you have to experience the depths  in order to experience the heights of love?  Yin and Yang would seem to suggest that.  Is there something intensely more romantic about tortured love enduring through extreme challenge?  To care enough about someone that even happiness becomes less important than sticking out hard times?  Is "healthy" love with its support, rationality and ground rules a bit sterile or at least prude?  Interesting question.  Is the truth in the balance?  Craig and I had a great discussion on these and related questions, but no decisions or enlightenment was attained.

The most amazing performance I've seen though was in the upstairs part of a bar called hootenanny.  There was a hippied-out guy who laid a guitar across his lap and played it like a steel guitar.  He was stunning.  His whole set was improvised, but he just closed his eyes and went for it.  He had a need.  His music silenced the room and this was a bar!

This wasn't a professional, he just loved his music.  He learned to play to channel himself through it.  That is the goal of study I think.  To know something well enough to just let go and express something.  Theater, Art, Music, Writing.  That is the goal.  It isn't about fame or fortune.  The only one who can be relieved by it is you.  Purging, working through and sharing.  Art should be cathartic - even when it doesn't result in catharsis.  Getting it off your chest makes it identifiable, whether in words - Images - or melodies.  I want to resume violin study.  I want another chance on stage.  Maybe I could even paint.

Traveling is making me Bohemian.