I hate leaving my home, hate interacting with people out in the world, hate the whole hullabaloo. It’s SO much easier chilling on my couch, wearing comfy clothes, feeling at absolute ease. But you can’t be a functioning adult that way, and sometimes you can’t avoid society. This is Adam Leaves His Apartment!
You know that person at a concert who’s always dancing and singing along, super into the band, just zoning out in the music in a rather obnoxious manner? That’s me. I’m that guy. I know, the audacity to pay for a concert ticket because I really like the musical act, and want to fully immerse myself in that experience. What an asshole!
Look, what’s really weird, what’s really awkward as fuck and discomforting at a live show, are the people who sit idly by and don’t seem to enjoy themselves. Seriously, why the hell are you even there if you either don’t know or like the music and/or artist? It’s baffling when someone sits, disinterested, for several hours as I’m standing and swaying, screaming at the top of my lungs right beside them.
If it’s an aversion to letting go of one’s control for whatever reason and loosening up in a public setting, well, then, as someone who’s incredibly self conscious and uncomfortable in just about any public social situation, I say this: you’re dumb. Cause if I’m going to leave my home, embark on a trip somewhere, spending my hard(ish) earned money, then you bet your fern I’m gonna let go and have the best time possible. A connection happens in those moments, to hear an unencumbered, less produced and processed product of the songs that lend to a visceral experience unlike any other. Live shows are always fun, but when you truly love the music? Then it’s magical.
This summer, I sought out and attended three concerts: Fitz and the Tantrums at the Lowell Boarding House Park in June; Smashing Pumpkins at the TD Garden in July; and Cake/Ben Folds at the Blue Hills Pavilion in August, in a co-headlining show. These are four of my absolute favorite bands and artists, and each show was just about as great as I could hope. But if I’m going to subjectively rank each of the shows and each artist’s performance (which I am because why not? Lists are fun), well, some weren’t quite up to snuff.
Unquestionably, the greatest performance I saw was the Smashing Pumpkins during the stop in Boston on their ¾ reunion tour. One of the greatest rock bands of all time, and a top 3 group from the 1990’s, the Pumpkins have had a rocky road since their peak and heyday two decades ago. It’s no mystery why, given front man Billy Corgan’s massively intrusive and destructive ego, but the band has slid into slight irrelevance since Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. With James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlain joining Corgan (without D’Arcy Wreztky, because reasons) for the first time since the late 90’s, and a setlist filled with classic songs and old hits, the show was UNREAL. They performed a blistering 31 song set, playing every song you’d hope to hear and leaving out all the bullshit ‘Smashing Pumpkins’ tracks from Billy Corgan’s solo run using the band’s moniker.
The quality of the show, with the original Pumpkins seeming as in synch and on top of their musical games as ever. The surreal nature of seeing these men on stage together after so many acrimonious years, performing the songs they’d written and recorded over a quarter century ago–songs which have meant SO MUCH to me throughout my life (I named a screenplay after a lyric from “Mayonaise” after all)–this was unlike any concert I’d ever seen. It was the confluence of fandom from the age of seven onward, and if they simply showed up and went through the motions, I’d have been satisfied. Thankfully, they came to town and blew the fucking roof off the Garden.
Speaking of, if there was a roof at the Boarding House Park in Lowell (there isn’t, because a roof on an open air, outdoor venue would defeat the purpose), Fitz and the Tantrums would have blown that bad boy away. The band known for “The Walker” and “Out of My League” are an amazing eclectic outfit, and have a penchant for superbly energetic live shows. I’d seen them perform several years back on New Year’s Eve in downtown Long Beach (sigh; I miss CA), and knew how impressive they could be. With them coming to Lowell, and my ineffably wonderful girlfriend being a huge fan as well, it was meant to be that we’d attend their show.
And they did not disappoint. Honestly, the concert was great, the band was awesome, and the night was everything we’d hoped for. They played exactly what we expected, since I’m a huge nerd who enjoys researching the setlist for upcoming concerts in preparation. I loved Fitz before, and I still love Fitz now. Since there’s little else to describe, I’ll just say this to you who aren’t very familiar with Fitz and the Tantrums (which seems like many folks out there): go listen to their albums, and thank me later.
Pulling up the rear, in a rather disappointing manner, was the co-headlining show earlier this month with Ben Folds and Cake. Both sounded good and weren’t bad performances, but really, the night was a peculiar letdown. The issues began with Ben Folds coming out way too early, when half the crowd was still mulling around, and leaving without an encore and after only two Ben Folds Five songs. Granted, he played mostly solo songs given he was, you know, touring solo, but still. No “Army” and no “Brick” makes Adam a dull boy…ok, not really, and he was wonderful on the piano and mic. Plus, he played the Paper Clown’s song, about being male, middle class and white! (“Rockin’ the Suburbs,” fyi). But it just felt off, and wasn’t helped by the hour gap between his departure from the stage and Cake’s arrival.
Look, an hour between headlining bands is a long time. My girlfriend and I speculated the band was late to the venue, with likely travel issues caused by the torrential downpours in and around Boston that day. Things happen, but regardless of what occurred, Ben Folds shouldn’t have gone on so early. It threw the whole dynamic of the evening off, and created a frustration (with us, at least) towards the artists that they didn’t deserve.
But Cake did finally arrive, and frankly, I was underwhelmed. I LOVE Cake, as you all know, and they kicked ass when I saw them live eight years ago (hi, Darren!). But they sounded a bit off, like something was missing, and they looked OLD. I know they aren’t young men, but they looked every bit of a group of older, veteran rockers.
That’s a bit harsh, though, and they did perform a great set, but it was soured by the band’s insanely self indulgent audience giveaway of an apple tree. Seriously, John McCrea spent over TEN MINUTES egging on the audience about someone receiving the tree they brought on stage for their show. I’m all about nature, but they could have fit in at least three more songs. We paid to see you perform, not spread the distribution of fruit in New England!
Concerts rock, literally, and the couple hundred dollars I’ve spent on the show’s I attended this summer were worth every penny. Some were, naturally, better than others, but that’s life. There’s always winners and there’s always losers. The only thing for certain about the three concerts I attended was that I was the big winner (And a cheesy, lame writer).