Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001 14:25:04 -0400 (EDT)
From: Richard Handal
Subject: Wallingford was dangerous
I’m starting to feel like an idiot when I talk about the concerts on this tour. I mean, I’ve seen lots of amazing shows since 1994, and as for public comments, I have always tended to discuss the better shows and to remain quiet about a concert unless it was either pretty damn good, or there was something special to mention. So, maybe I never left adequate room to describe shows that might achieve heights no show has before.
Such is my current dilemma. This Wallingford concert was so far off the scale of any show I have ever seen that there is no possible way to not sound like a flaming lunatic when discussing it. I know it wasn’t just my own distorted view of things, though. To a person—including friends who’ve seen twenty- or thirty-some concerts and one who, as myself, has seen a hundred-some—EVERYONE I saw afterwards was astonished at the sheer force of power and deep emotional expression of this concert. Folks were absolutely flipping out. There’s nothing like the high of seeing a show where she has just hit one out of the park into the next county, and looking at the faces of friends as their jaws are dragging the ground in amazement.
’97 Bonnie & Clyde was delivered with the most concentration of intensity of any night on this tour. Past the Mission began with huge, crashing chords on the lower register of the Boesey which were answered with supple, organlike tones from the Rhodes.
Then it was time for the first appearance on this tour of Sugar. This was not the lovely, soaring version of Sugar from the Dew Drop Inn Tour. This was essentially a piano reduction of the band arrangement from the ’98 and ’99 tours—sledgehammer powerful still with “just” the piano and her muscular chest voice. Wow. How fantastic it’s been when the old favorites have shown up on this tour for the first time! The (for me) long-awaited appearance last week of Little Earthquakes was a real breath-taking moment for me.
By the time she was into Doughnut Song with its increasingly strong repeats of “you can tell me it’s over,” I was shaking in my seat.
At this point I want to mention that this show had one of the necessary ingredients for an astonishingly good show—a great audience. Folks were darned quiet during the songs but explosively enthusiastic after they ended. Without this there’s no way she can do a truly top notch concert.
My notes for Mother say “tons of rubato but it still seemed natural, appropriate, and enhanced the expression.” I see I also noted how wonderful it was the way she had such wide-ranging dynamics, such as when she whispered “he’s gonna change my name” during this Mother.
If I’m ever gonna finish writing this I best skip to Imagine. She had supposedly told someone in New York that she would play it there, and of course last Tuesday was the anniversary of John Lennon’s birth so why she skipped it there and brought it out in Wallingford I don’t know, but the effect was staggering. She prefaced it by saying something like “If you could help me sing this it would be good.” Perhaps eighty to a hundred folks streamed down to the stage area and formed a warm cocoon for the performance of what HAD to have been THE most overwhelmingly emotional version of this song—ever. I know this sounds like bloated hyperbole but I’m not kidding. Remarkable. She also slipped in a change once to make the line into “a brotherhood of man—and woman.”
The first version on this tour of Mary and then Twinkle, and we were done.
The brother of a friend of mine had a ticket to this show but didn’t attend because the last several shows had already taken their toll and he didn’t think he could take anymore. He made a wise decision to skip this show, because surely, it would have at least put him into the hospital. So, if you’re feeling none too stable these days and have tickets for a show yet to come, steel yourself before you go with a barrel-full of resolve at the very least. Yikes. I’m not even sure how much more of this I can take and I ought to be used to this by now.
Be seeing you,