When I was in high school, I was most definitely uncool. A legit pituitary malfunction left me locked in perpetual soprano range, and a love of comic books left me so far away from the popular circles that I was not even in their suburbs—my address would have instead been a rural route number, probably with an empty mailbox. But I had a secret weapon: rock and roll, the official language of the uncool.
I didn’t know the limits of my uncoolness; I would tell friends, in earnest, that I wanted to be a rock star some day. I mean, Geddy Lee, Robert Plant and Steven Tyler made good use of their own pseudo-soprano voices. Why not me, too? I won’t say I exactly swaggered around like Doddridge Ave was Sunset Strip but I would fill the space in my Mercury Tracer hotrod with the likes of Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Queen, Pink Floyd and KISS and I would revel in the strange certainty that some day, I would have my turn behind the microphone, in the back of the limousine, on the cover of a Rolling Stone.
See also: hubris.
See also: the only band I would have had a shot in would have been a boyband marketed to bashful Lutheran girls, with hits like “A Mighty Fortress Is Your Bod” and “I Got 95 Theses But a Bish(op) Ain’t One.”
See also: I see this now, but back then I could only see a life on the road, rocking out.
My taste in music (unlike the rest of me) enjoyed a brief and sudden puberty, shooting up six inches one summer from Weird Al to We Will Rock You. The thick electric silk of a ‘57 Les Paul spilling through a Marshall stack made almost immediate sense to me, and I grabbed greedy handfuls from classic rock radio and the cassette tapes my Dad would play in his truck sometimes.
It was love. I would sit in my bedroom and spin me those CDs until I knew every lick and lyric by heart. Somewhere in that stack was an album that was love at first sight—how could I resist its mystique, its promise of magic and attraction and class. It was Rumors, by Fleetwood Mac, and so began my imagined love affair with the voice, body, and blonde witchcraft of Stevie Nicks. Had she actually taken me down in the tallgrass, I know not what “stuff” she was supposed to have “let me do”, as the song explained, but I went there often in my rock and roll fantasies, sprawling beside her as she hummed and enchanted me with her every little sound.
Last night, for this week’s time spent doing something I love, your humble Odysseus finally met the Siren of his teenaged years. With Leslie by my side, I prepared myself for a pretty magical evening.
But things quickly got out of hand. In the most incredible way.
I believe in magic as a metaphor—as the act of creating something out of nothing. Last night was magic beyond metaphor. Luck, serendipity, and synchronicity might do most of the heavy lifting in unbelievable circumstances, but as we were walking back from the concession stall to our seats, a woman stopped us.
“Excuse me,” she said. “Are you two here together?”
We looked at each other. I raised an eyebrow, I’m sure, and Leslie would have, too, if hers worked independently. “Yes,” we said.
“Would you like better seats?”
“Do…do you have extras or something?” I had already dropped quite a bit of cash for our seats, so I didn’t think I could swing it if she was looking to scalp.
“I do have some magical tickets (editor’s note: those were her actual words). Your seats are down one level, and right around the corner.”
So we took them tickets and took them down, climbed a mountain and we turned around, and there were our new seats.
In the front row.
Fifty feet from the band.
The first act of my birthday weekend was officially to look at Leslie as we laughed kind of maniacally, in exactly the kind of ecstasy this whole blog project of love is trying to bring on.
Love is a pretty huge part of most bands, of course, but Fleetwood Mac might know more about it than most. Love isn’t so much the unstoppable force we are told about—this kind of armor that will keep us from pain and from failure and will make us perfect people. It’s a dance of understanding, of making mistakes and forgiving them. It’s a force of learning to come to each other because the alternative is empty and without meaning.
They’re older, now. And we watched people once in love, still in love, doing what they love, having grown through the anger and the revenge and the petulance and the calling it quits. Lindsey Buckingham explained that some of these songs feel like echoes—he remembers the emotions that spawned them, but all those feelings have been replaced by something so much better. The best moment of the night, I think (although their performance of Rhiannon was hard to top) was the duet of Never Going Back Again. With just Stevie and Lindsey and a guitar and decades of personal history, they slowed it down to a love letter pace and sang it with the tenderness of two people who finally know that you really can go back again, and sometimes you must because there you will find love.
Others were feeling the love, too. Especially several women in their forties who had come to the concert with their own shawls, and danced and spun and weaved their hands to the tunes as if they were the ones onstage. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a group of women appear to be in their personal heavens like those ladies, and how can you not love that even just a little?
Another pleasant surprise of the night was the moment when John McVie took the stage. Because I thought he was dead. When I’m wrong, I’m wrong, okay?
Also Mick Fleetwood, now 67, is still every bit the inspiration for the Animal, the Muppetty drummer of Electric Mayhem, that he was in his younger days. (see also: he actually was the real inspiration for Animal. Rightfully so. Trust me.)
Also, Christine McVie—playing her first show with them in 16 years—closed the night with Songbird, and clutching the hand of my own little bird, I relished its gentle optimism and promise of dried tears and warmth.
I love rock and roll.