Right off the bat, extra points if the title says Doobie Brothers to you and you’ve, well, listened to their music. Way to go. That business taken care of, and speaking of music, one thing I have truly missed over this past almost-year (aside from, first and foremost, of course, the human connection), is the music. The pure joy of going to concerts at terrific venues and of hearing music performed live — music that stirs the heart, the soul, and the feet — is unmatched and so very needed right now.
I’m talking about the kind of concerts that stay in your mind forever because of the feelings they stirred when you were there. The kind of artists who manage to reach across the gap between stage and audience to touch your pulse, practically, with their sound, delivering the sense that you have traveled their road with them and emerged feeling — simply put — part of the music. To wit:
Bruce Springsteen. Yup, you knew this one was coming. We’ve seen Bruce in concert several times, including the night that he opened Staples Center, and I truly believe his concerts are the most life-altering (not a word I use lightly) of any I’ve seen. The man’s energy, the E Street Band’s incredible sound, the songbook that is a rocking, rolling, poignant, unforgettable portrait of life through the eyes of a poet with a guitar. Every performance has left me a little breathless and a lot speechless. To see Bruce Springsteen in concert is as close to an alternative kind of religious experience as one might find. The religion of music to stir, to celebrate, to consecrate. Amen.
Billy Joel. To me, going to a Billy Joel concert is like going home to a place that’s familiar and comfortable because of all the years of love behind it. I’ve adored Billy’s music from the very beginning (and the fact that he grew up five minutes away from where I did). From a performance at the Boston Garden (while I was in college) to so many out here in LA — including, most memorably, at the Bowl and at Dodger Stadium — his concerts are so personal to me. Because I know all the words. Because I love his East Coast “don’t-take-any-s**t-from-anybody” attitude. Because of his incredible ability to connect. And because of the fact that he’s that guy from New York who tells such great stories with his music. Say goodbye to Hollywood.
James Taylor. Whenever I’ve seen him in concert — with Carole King (a once-in-lifetime experience at the Hollywood Bowl); Sheryl Crow (love her music and her energy); or Bonnie Raitt (that whiskey voice and silken guitar stop me whenever I hear her music) — the man just gets better with time. And whether the concert was set amidst the legendary acoustics and mountainsides of the Hollywood Bowl or in a grand San Francisco baseball stadium (the former AT&T, now Oracle, Park), there is nothing to compare with James just sitting on a wooden stool, strumming his acoustic guitar, and singing Sweet Baby James. The ultimate lullaby from a voice that hypnotizes. Sweet dreams.
Paul Simon. Art Garfunkel. Simon & Garfunkel. Seen together in concert, whether as one of a half-million spectators in Central Park in 1981 (when the lyric “How terribly strange to be 70” was far off for them) or at a smaller venue in LA (when that age was considerably closer), the duo was an amazing complement to each other — Paul’s poetic and global musical brilliance and Artie’s shivers-up-the-spine vocals. Seeing them separately many years later, Paul’s burnished-gold magic was never more in place and Artie’s silver-aged voice was all the sweeter because of the years behind it. Old friends, indeed.
So there you have it. Can’t wait until the touring starts again, the ticket takers get their scanners out, and the lights go down.
I’m with the band.
© 2021 Claudia Grossman