Saturday, June 14, 2008

Under Milkwood

How many words do you have? If you paint pictures, how many canvasses do you imagine you have in you? If you're a legislator, how many efforts comprise a lifetime?

I started thinking about this last night driving home from Billy Joel at a sold-out Mohegan Sun. There was a woman on the opposite side of the stage, floor level (stage left) holding up a sign that said 'Billy Joel Concerts 50, 51, 52, 53, 54 & 55' which I'm suspecting means that she has tickets for a number of his performances at the Mohegan Sun and she has a great deal of passion and cash (because the seats are/were not inexpensive).

It was a little disconcerting last night--my face I see in the mirror every day so as it sags and puffs and ages, to my eyes, the changes are so gradual as to be imperceptible. I stopped listening to Billy Joel seriously (I was and will always be a fan) after The Nylon Curtain which was a great album and had a bookend to Springsteen's "Born in the USA" in his "Goodnight Saigon". After that elpee for a lot of reasons, we went our separate ways.

Undeterred by my lack of interest since his 1983 release, he's had another two plus decades of fine music and, for my part, I've gotten older if not better. I just hadn't realized until last night that he'd gotten older as well and at least as fast. At one point earlier in his career, he had built a band he took into the studio and that traveled with him--I'm hesitant to say his version of the E Street Band, because comparisons aren't valid across genus and between species (you can compare an apple to an orange but not successfully), but sort of.

Since our paths last crossed, he's swapped out his musicians--and his band last night was fine and played well, albeit (remember my ears are 56 years old) a bit louder than suited his material becoming such a sonic wall he eventually had to yell, practically, over it. Not that we minded or really noticed. We came to enjoy him and celebrate ourselves as well as him and he came to be embraced and enthused and we did that.

A lifetime ago I thought of two musicians associated with New York City who were auslanders, outsiders to Manhattan but who were perceived as such. I wasn't considering Lou Reed or Willie Nile, both of whom are true New Yorkers and who have a different take on the Great White Way than the starry-eyed weekenders. The two I thought of, of course, as I mentioned him the other day were Springsteen and Joel. And the reason why I wondered about the number of stories to be told, or songs to be sung, is in the aftermath of the horror that was 9-11-01, I and so many others returned to Springsteen who responded while Billy Joel, at one time in the same weight class, chose to develop and deliver a brilliantly played and staged two hour and ten minute package of musical memories, available for all occasions guaranteed to get us feeling all right.
-bill kenny

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