Yesterday evening, I walked a very short distance from the hotel to a gas station which housed a shop containing some food things. During that short time I felt somewhat alien; with such wide roads and cars everywhere, it seems I, a lone walker, lacking a car, must have looked like my car had broken down and I’d left my family to die at a roadside; or I might have been mistaken for a loose-cannon car thief. And all I really wanted was a banana.
Waiting at the traffic lights, peering across the half-mile wide road and trying to figure out which button I should press in order to cross it (for you see, there were two distinct buttons) I noticed a man with a sign strapped to his chest; I couldn’t read the sign, but the man was selling ice-cooled bottles of water to motorists as they awaited green lights. We made eye contact and exchanged the stock greeting ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ and his answer was ‘It’s a beautiful day to be alive, my friend.’ Yeah, he’s probably right.
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Forwarding fast to today, the Straz Center is a nicely sized venue, accommodating our needs well. The loading dock is small, but there’s a ton of space on the big stage which we filled with unloaded gear.
I usually come in early and get the latest news; it would seem Mickey’s back in the lineup today, and that makes my working life a lot easier.
Do you ever have a moment in which you see something, and certain dots in your mind are connected? Well, in case you didn’t know this stuff, here’s a little theatre trivia for you. If you’ve ever been in the wings of an honest-to-goodness theatre, you’ll have seen a bank of vertical ropes which control the height of horizontal bars (fly bars) on which are hung backdrops and such. The collection of ropes is operated by a fly man. Anyway, superstition states that it’s bad luck to whistle in a theatre. One tradition says that by doing so, you will raise ghosts and they will cause havoc, kill you, drink your blood and fashion your skin into a hammock. (I may have embellished the ghost thing slightly.) Another tradition of this bad-luck whistling is more practical. Apparently, when theatre was becoming more complex, around a billion years ago, the people who operated the ropes in the wings, fly men, would have had naval experience — riggers were sailors. These rigger/sailors would communicate certain cues through whistling, and so I suppose it would be considered bad luck if you whistled backstage, caused a backdrop to rise or fall when it wasn’t supposed to, and lost your job or teeth due to an angry stage manager. But the thing today which triggered this recounting and regaling was the picture to follow; if theatre has a sailing influence, it’s no wonder the stage goes by another name.
Today’s soundcheck sees a few oldies we haven’t heard in a while. Chelsea Hotel gets a look-in, as do Guests and Save The Last Dance. A laid-back model of Passing Through is played and La Manic comes by for a wee look. I know people are talking about some of these songs, wondering if they’ll make an appearance in the set, and all I can really say is, ‘I dunno.’
Come showtime, the crowd were ready to stand afoot to the literally dashing Leonard, who met his fans at centre stage, cueing Dance Me to begin the night. A staple of the set is a moment during The Future — when the line ‘And a white man dancing’ is sung, Roscoe does a wee spin on his feet, adding a slice of merriment to the audience mood. A little later when LC changes it up to ‘The white girls dancing,’ the Webb Sisters Charley and Hattie do a great Ballymena Mingle, with their exaggerated arm movements and rear ends stickin’ out; it truly is a white-girl dance and the most amazing thing is, I don’t think they’ve ever been to Ballymena.
At the opening of the 2nd half, Leonard thanked the audience ‘for coming out on this most festive of nights — a Monday night,’ getting a bit of a chuckle. The whole show was moving along like clockwork until Mitch had a problem with a guitar that seemed to baffle the pair of us; it’s likely his backstage whistling conjured a spectre to untune and retune the guitar, leaving us both scratching our heads. Whatever the phenomenon was, it went away and the gig ended with the audience wanting more.