Saturday 11 February 2012

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Feeling Old with Marianas Trench / Simple Plan

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm not young anymore. I can't complain about the ways I spent my younger years, but the world definitely isn't the same as it was back when I knew it all. That point was driven home to me last night when I took my wife to see the opening night of the Marianas Trench / Simple Plan tour in Penticton. Lori had been asking (repeatedly) to see the show, and since I still consider myself a bit of a concert aficionado, it didn't seem like it would be too much out of my comfort zone. With regards to the live show itself, I was right, as the format of concerts hasn't changed much in the last fifty years. Outside of the actual performance though...well to borrow a line from the great Duke Ellington, "Thing's Ain't What They Used to Be".

For starters, the audience today sure doesn't dress like they used to. Now this may have something to do with the fact that Lori and I were easily twenty years older than almost everybody in the crowd who wasn't escorting children, but it seems that concert going attire has been stripped down to the bare minimum. In some cases, the very, very bare minimum. I'm not trying to point a finger at the kids wearing these barely there get-ups, as fashion is what it is, whether I approve of it or not. I will say that Lori and I had a fun time playing a game of "Our daughter would be grounded for two weeks for dressing up like that, three weeks for going out in public like that, and a full month if she even dressed her Barbie in an outfit like that."

This restrictive clothing made the next change even more noticeable as dancing sure isn't what it used to be. Actually it's not even dancing anymore, it's just jumping. On cue. Whenever the lead singer would tell everybody to "Jump!" the entire place would start bouncing as high as they could. The crowd was just as obedient when told to "Scream" or "Crowdsurf". Essentially it was a giant game of Simon Says, with the lead singer calling the shots. Those of us who did most of our concert going in the 80's would never allow a band to control us like puppets with a simple word like "Jump"...ummm, except for maybe Van Halen, but they meant it in more of a "put on your spandex, do the splits and let your long blonde mane fly in the wind" kind of way.

Marianas Trench and Simple Plan definitely aren't Van Halen, but they do something that Van Halen was never known for...they share. Last night there were four bands on the bill (These Kids Wear Crowns and All Time Low are also on the tour), three of which I hear regularly on the radio, and two of whom I knew every song they played. When you bring along bands that close to you in stature, you really run the risk of being upstaged. That's how careers get started, but that didn't seem to bother any of the bands last night. Everybody was given a decent amount of time to play (the show ran just under four hours) and they each came out and did their best to entertain, with the only competition between bands being "Who can make the crowd jump the highest?" That kind of competition probably doesn't create too many hurt feelings, and I can truly imagine the bands enjoying their time spent touring together, although they should probably fire whoever decided that February was a good time to tour Canada.

The result of the bands getting along so well seems to be that the audience has a good time. The crowd may not dress like I'd like my kids to, but I have no complaints about their behavior. I saw no fights, the foul language seemed to be mostly confined to the stage, and my wife only once noticed the smell of "funny substances". The crowd even managed to pass the ultimate temptation test when a slew of beach balls were released into the audience. In my earlier concert days, a roving beach ball was an invitation to see how hard you could drill it off the head of the person a few rows in front of you. When Simple Plan sent the potential concussion-makers into the crowd last night, most of the balls were bounced backwards gently, a few were lobbed back at the band, but eventually they were all claimed by people who decided that a nondescript beach ball would be a perfect souvenir. Nobody went home suffering from beach ball whiplash which, believe me, is one of the more painful injuries you can sustain at a concert.

The fact is, concerts aren't the same as they used to be, but neither is anything else. The days I remember fondly of paying $20 to see Peter Gabriel open for David Bowie (and everybody under age 25 asks "Who?") are long gone, but the show last night was a lot of fun. Live music is still one of the most entertaining ways to spend an evening out, even if you do end up feeling like one of the oldest people on the planet. The good news is that eventually I did find all the other Dad's. They were lined up outside the arena as we left, waiting for their kids to come out. They were going to have to wait a while though, as their children were all in the washroom, changing back into the clothes they left the house in. Some things about concerts haven't changed at all.