One of the best things about seeing Bob Dylan at The Albert Hall a couple of years ago, was the finish. The grizzled old geezer and his band were onstage at 7:30PM prompt, played for a shade under an hour, buggered off for a 20-minute intermission (for which a round of applause on behalf of middle-aged bladders everywhere, feeling the inner tension brought about by that ill-advised third pint) and politely finished up the second half at a most civilised hour – i.e. well before 10.00pm.
Such a timetable has much to commend it to the older concert-goer. Someone who no longer wants the show to go on all night, and isn’t happy to walk home because public transport’s folded its tents and turned out the lights for the night.
For the aging concert-goer, there are certain things that are essential in these middle years:
- A good view and studio quality sound
- A comfortable seat
- Clean and plentiful toilets
- Easy access to decent food and proper ale
- Value for money.
- As few of the idiots who view a musical event as the perfect forum for a general chit-chat and lark-about as possible
My sister went to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s show in Hyde Park in 2009. She couldn’t see anything, was surrounded by people milling about gossiping and impervious to the show, had to queue for an age for the privilege of being shilled out of £8, for a plastic cup of something more Sarson’s than Chardonnay, and then spent three hours trying to negotiate eight miles to get home.
There is a splendid DVD of this concert, and I would suggest that points 1-6 above are met quite perfectly by watching it in your favourite armchair on a Saturday night. Plus, in your own home there’s no likelihood of some pillock in front of you, hoisting his girlfriend onto his shoulders, and getting home takes less than no time at all.
How things change.
When I was a teenager, a 20-minute guitar solo was the wibbling highlight of the evening, but these days I much prefer a sit-down acoustic section, rather than use it as an excuse to duck out to the gents or the bar. It’s a bit like the spinners coming on to replace the quick bowlers in a test match. There’s less slam, bang, crash and a bit more finesse.
We went to see The Who in Cardiff recently, on their farewell tour. I always like to look around the audience, and yes, there were young people there, some family groups, but the majority were grey, or balding, or more likely both. Our beer bellies were draped in black shirts, tucked into black trousers, for even the older chap is now keenly aware of that slimming, some say ‘flattering, effect’. There were even a few ‘Pensioners in Parkas’, bless ‘em. But the old adage about there being a time to put away childish things, surely applies itself to wrinklies at rock concerts. as to anything else.
If I’m at home of an evening (and you may have gathered from what you’ve read so far, that I usually am) I tend to get changed into a pair of loose-fitting trousers, what we used to call tracksuit trousers. I think they’re called track pants nowadays, but Mrs. Bryer refers to them as my ‘Happy Pants’. Which is fine. Pete Townshend was wearing Happy Pants onstage in Cardiff. This was also fine, a little sobering perhaps, but I do understand the quest for comfort. A bit of extra give in the crotch region may well allow for added windmilling. It must have been a big decision though, to retreat into the leisure trouser, for those nights standing next to the buffed-up and muscular Roger Daltrey onstage, someone who looks to be pushing an age some 30 years younger than he actually is.
A few months ago we spent an evening at Salisbury City Hall, in the company of John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. This was billed as The Eightieth Birthday Tour, and to be honest I was a little trepidatious. Not that he might still be wearing his traditional singlet of choice, but rather that his vintage might be showing a little. Perhaps it was. But I’ve seen performers a quarter of his age having a little difficulty strapping the guitar on and off, and counting-in the band. The bass player had his back though, and was most attentive to Mayall’s needs. However, when the music started, John Mayall could well have been 21 again. Although a po-faced 21-year-old would surely not have stopped the show mid-song to announce gleefully that a fly had landed on his hand. It had too. We all waited a few seconds until it flew off, then he hit the keyboard and the band (all from Chicago) completed the number seamlessly.
How things change.
Queuing outside Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena for The Who we were split into two lines. Boys to the left, girls to the right. Security commenced the frisking.
“Any bottles or cans?” he asked.
He grasped my inside coat pocket and looked at me.
“Glasses.” I explained.
He continued his squeeze around the pockets. Another enquiring glance.
“Pills.” I said.
His interest piqued, his eyes took on a keen gleam, as if they’d just been backlit, and his nose twitched like a bloodhound picking up the scent of an unguarded pork chop.
“Tic Tacs and Gaviscon.” I said.
Philip Bryer – January 2015
Philip Bryer’s new book ‘Repeat Offender’ is available now.