Just One Obsession Will Not Do

on a day when the sun is shining into my room, and i am waiting for a friend who cries over lyrics like i do, i find myself listening to Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” on repeat.  I find myself pulled in by his short affair with Janis Joplin and her “clenching her fists for the ones like us who are oppressed by the figures of beauty.  you fixed yourself and said, ‘well, nevermind, we are ugly, but we have the music.'”

because of this, i have been revisiting concerts past, and this post is devoted–entirely–the beauty of the concert DVD.

two or so weeks ago, i went to see Neko Case at the Nokia in Times Square.  in addition to (now not so secret) desire to have a torrid and passionate affair with this beautiful redhead, i want her to sing me to sleep every night, and i want her to cover some Dolly Parton songs (specifically “My Blue Tears” and “Dumb Blonde”).  In seeing her, I was reminded of the absolutely unique experience a live performance is, and she, boys and girls, is one of the most unique.

on august 9, 2003, Neko performed on Austin City Limits.  I received this DVD as a gift from an old roommate for my birthday a few years ago, and it has fast become one of my favorites.  highlights include the opening with “Favorite” from her album Canadian Amp.  and “Maybe Sparrow,” which made it onto the album Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.  This tune, which she claims to be unsure of during the performance, is absolutely one of the best in her catalogue (along with the new “Middle Cyclone” and her cover of Loretta Lynn’s “Rated X,” which can be found of the live album The Tigers Have Spoken). 

Here is the thing about Neko.  she understands the physical world that surrounds her, and because of this, her music has an atmosphere that few other musicians are able to achieve.  she is connected to a nature that Faulkner predicted (correctly) we would one day become completely disconnected from.  she makes me think of the fields back home and the railroad tracks shaking photos off the walls in our old plantation house.  she reminds me jumping into piles of leaves in the summer and going hours without seeing a car go by.  she makes me ache for the green things my city life has removed from my consciousness.

and look to this DVD for her rendition of the traditional folk song “Poor Wayfaring Stranger.”  that song could possibly be the only thing that can still make me happy to be an american, to be connected to a tradition like that makes me feel whole in a way few other things can.

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last fall, i spent money on another secret lover (in my head only) of mine.  PJ Harvey is terrifying and self-hating and angry and beautiful and discordant with this mouth that takes up her whole face.  when you watch the video for “This Is Love” and see her screaming in her white suit with her beautiful guitar, you are quite sure that yes, “I can’t believe life’s so complex when I just want to sit here and watch you undress.”

her concert DVD, Please Leave Quietly, is filled with priceless moments as well, but none so priceless as the moments in between songs.  Listening to her decide the title of the album is uproariously funny.  but don’t you dare laugh to her face.  she might bite your ears off.

when i saw her, she was touring for White Chalk, an album that I have admittedly still not gotten all that into.  but the performances of songs like “To Bring You My Love” were still as stalkery beautiful as she sat on stage in her wedding dress with words scribbled all over it.  i fell in love with her that night, but i find that the DVD she recently for the Uh Huh Her tour is just not up to par. 

seeing PJ Harvey live is like watching a flood destroy a city, and watching her on a small TV cannot come close to touching the thing itself.  yes, she is still a magnetic chameleon who can be simultaneously beautiful and ugly and redefine the word sexy, but she cannot pull you into her “Long Snake Moan.”

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this inability to live up to the live show is found in many concert DVDs.  most notable of these is the lovely Tori Amos.  yes, i still love her.  and yes, you should too.  forget about The Beekeeper.  we just pretend that didn’t happen (even if “Mother Revolution” isn’t really all that bad).  watching Tori on TV is a disappointment because the thing that pours our of her is missing from the experience.  I don’t care how good the recording of “Me and a Gun” is, there is nothing like being twenty feet from this woman while she talks about singing her potential rapist into fleeing the act.

i have now seen her in concert four times.  and each time, i have stupidly felt like the show was made for me.  and when i speal to other Tori people (we are aplenty), they have all felt the same way.  when she was touring for Strange Little Girls, she was playing “Take to the Sky” (a favorite b-side of mine), and she just stopped in the middle and went all Carole King (another mini-obsession for me) and started playing “I Feel the Earth Move” before going straight back into “Take to the Sky.”

I can remember crying (yes, i do that sometimes) when she began to sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and knowing it was meant for me because my grandmother and I watched Meet Me in Saint Louis so many times together when I was a little girl–not to mention this show was two days before my birthday.

these are the things that are missing from Welcome to Sunny Florida.  nothing feels personal.  nothing feels immediate.  it’s beautiful, and it makes you ache inside for the truths she told you when  you were too young to know how to find them yourself, but she is not there.  it’s like that creepy Carpenter’s song, “Long ago and oh so far away, I fell in love with you before the second show.  Your guitar, it sounds so sweet and clear, but you’re not really here.  It’s just the radio.”  and yes, you do feel a little betrayed.  and you want to say, “don’t you remember you told me you loved me, baby?”  but she doesn’t answer, and you are alone in your living room or your bedroom, and you know you have missed something bigger, and it leaves you so unsatisfied.

But you watch anyway… because you need more, and you can’t do without the little you’ve got.

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~ by acaseofyou12581 on April 26, 2009.

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