Some 18 months since my last one, I finally got to see a live music event, or gig as it is referred to by we regular concert attenders. Last time for me was seeing The Man Elvis Costello way back in early March 2020. This time, it was at the same venue, the splendid edifice of the Usher Hall, built in 1914 and funded by Andrew Usher II. Much to my surprise, he was a whisky blender. I had always thought of the Ushers being a brewing family. It is wonderful the things you can find with a few clicks. Anyway, back to the main event. I had the absolute privilege of, for the third time now, seeing The Specials live. What a way to break an enforced abstinence.
I have hazy memories of seeing the gig advertised way back and instead of my usual heightened sense of excitement, I dismissed the possibility of it going ahead. For heaven's sake, we were in the midst of an unprecedented lockdown. I am actually going to another event at The Queen's Hall this Friday, when the oft-cancelled John Shuttleworth gig, originally scheduled for 16 March 2020, will finally happen. Though that would have been a fine way to end my 18 months of enforced non-activity, The Specials was to be a very, well, special
way of doing so.
It was only while out walking Daisy the weekend before and passing the venue that I realised they were going to be playing. Not only that, it was to be Tuesday. Now as most people will realise, tickets for events like this are not cheap, ranging in this case from the low to high-ish £40s. However, having spent 18 whole months without a gig, it was a no brainer. Or so I thought.
First, I asked my youngest, Mark, who had accompanied me to see Elvis, did he want to come? No, was his response, he had just come back from visiting friends in London and was not, he informed me, a big fan. My other boys were indisposed, both in Glasgow on the day of the gig, so no companionship possible from them. By the time I had contacted nearly every single person I have known, including classmates from as far back as primary 4, I knew I would have to make a decision. In fact, the
decision. Would I be prepared to go on my own? Billy no mates; on my Jack; flying solo; on my tod?
I wrestled with the idea for the day or so before the event, coming down on either side depending on my mood or list of considerations. I desperately wanted to go but could I face the prospect of rolling up on my own? On the afternoon of the concert, I made up my mind: I was going. I chose the best seat available at the top shelf of the hall – upper circle (it's an age thing), moved through the payment process and was at that point thwarted. I closed the site, logged in again and tried to order, again unsuccessfully. Was the event sold out?
In desperation, I tried the venue number, only to be advised by the recorded message that the lines had closed a few hours earlier. I was in a panic and grabbed my jacket, heading down to the Usher Hall in the forlorn hope that there may be some late returns to be had at the venue. However, as it was being used as an access point for the gig, I was unable to get anywhere near the box office.
The earlier panic went up a few notches. It was then that I noticed him and his fistful of briefs. We performed the dance: he asked if I was looking, I replied I may be interested and inquired after the price. His response nearly floored me, south of £5 extra on the regulation ticket price. The deal was very quickly completed. I was a bit nervous as I approached the venue entrance, after all I might as well have thrown my money at the traffic if I had purchased a fake. But no, it was real and I was in.
The gig? Well, if you really want to know, you should have bought a ticket.
All is darkness in the wee swamp. The beam of light arcing over from beyond the parapet and down onto the sturdy, ancient walls has been dismissed elsewhere, for the time being. No end date is identified.
The shouty people are back. They are many, and they know who I mean. Broadly speaking, they may be herded under the banner of The Establishment Voice. Politicians, their mentors, minders and managers; think tankers, their viewers, reviewers and influencers; meedja worthies, their presenters, pundits, viewers and reviewers (oops, sorry, have I already mentioned... just checking); the caring professionals – ye gods! – masters of education, justice, social work, health (eh?!), immigration, the economy stoopid. Don't get me started on tax and national insurance.
Yes, the great, the good and the verbose are busy after their summer break/ recess/lockdown-out-in-up umpteenthth version. Talking of which, the mantra tells us, increasingly, that we must learn to live with COVID-19. Hmm... What about learning to live without
it? Not getting it? Not passing it on? At all
I'll be doing my best, cooried down in the dark wee swamp, away from the beam of light which, let's be brutally frank, is just birling in a gloom going nowhere. Or nowhere interesting.
Meantime, let the shouty people chunter on. They will anyway, too busy reviewing each other's books/research programmes/polls/focus groups to pause, reflect and understand that the shouting, perhaps unintentionally, masks the second-rate tedium underpinning the noise: same old same old, the repetition of tired old routines braying for an imagined glory.
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