On Joy

It's almost always easier to bitch. Plus, it's generally more fun. But sometimes it's a pretty fair idea to step back and realize that, as it turns out, things are pretty good. I was reminded of that a couple times in the past few weeks. So it seemed a good idea to share.

The first was at Kathleen Edwards's show at Irving Plaza (or FNYaIP, if you prefer). It was her biggest venue for a headlining show in New York City, and she seemed a little frazzled for the first few songs of her set, even copping to as much when she noted that the first time she played in NYC was at the Living Room to about ten people. Now she was playing to a not-quite-sold-out-but-still-pretty-full crowd at Irving Plaza on a weeknight, probably riding the wave of the good reviews her pretty damn good "Asking for Flowers" CD has gotten but also finally seeing the results of developing a fanbase in New York City after three albums and a heavier touring schedule.

She shook off her nerves early on and eventually settled in with her band for a show that was without a doubt one of the best I've seen this year. Then, as she came to the last song of the night, her badass "Back to Me" from her last CD of the same name, she gently chided opening act Dan Wilson for getting more people to sing along to his songs than she was able to get for hers. So, as she started the song she left some space to hear if anyone in the audience was singing along, seemingly not expecting much. But as she kept on going through the first verse, the singalong kept getting louder until the chorus, when it became a pretty decent-sized roar. A huge smile came over Edwards's face and when the biggest singalong roar came back to her ears, she screamed, "Oh my God--that's never happened before!"

It was a moment that you really should've been there for. In that one moment, you could feel Edwards's joy, feel what it's like to realize that all that plugging away, all those miles traveled, all of it was worth it. And when she left the stage, saying "Holy fuck! Thanks so much!" she was floating and if you had any heart, you were floating too. It was everything a live concert moment should be.

And there was some more of that last night at the Lakeside Lounge, where Chip Robinson and the Roscoe Trio capped off a largely morose (but exceedingly good) set with an all-out asault of the Rolling Stones' "Sway" that featured Eric "Roscoe" Ambel passing off his guitar to fellow Yayhoo Keith Christopher. I should start by saying that it was already a pretty damn joyful day for me, as I got to visit my friends and their two-week-old daughter, who, despite her Rangers onesie (parental cruelty at its ugliest) was awfully cute. And then I stepped into the Lakeside about five seconds before the show started with a cover of Dylan's "I and I." I love it when a plan comes together.

Anyway, back to that cover of "Sway." Christopher was sitting in front of Ambel when Ambel came over and placed his guitar strap over Christopher's shoulder and urged him to let 'er rip. The result was such a beautiful and righteous noise that a guy in a wheelchair outside stopped to watch and listen. He was soon joined by another random passer-by and, by song's end, two other guys who were also roped in by the sound. And as Christopher kept stretching out, the four guys outside and all of us inside just went along with him, swinging heads, stomping feet, and just generally testifying to the power of good rock and roll. I dug "Shine A Light," but nothing on that giant IMAX screen even came close to that solo.

That's why I go to a lot of shows. Sure, you don't get the feelings I got at these two shows every night. But when you do get them, you're so damn glad to be part of such moments. Glad to find and share such joy. Glad to be alive.

Here's to joy.

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