When I was a little girl, I spent a lot of time at the home of my maternal grandparents, where I often heard the saying, "Confusion rained and nobody got wet!" (yes, I know it's supposed to be reigned, which is exactly why the quote works better in speech than writing...but, in any case)...words that became a valuable lesson in dealing with the challenges, big and small, that invariably confront each one of us in everyday life. And, while I've racked my brain for some lofty literary quote from which to springboard an essay once again expounding on the profundity of Michael's work and to perfectly capture the particular collection of it shared at the rather lofty sounding "Ravenswood Manor Park", somehow those words of my grandparents are the ones that finally sprang to mind as the most appropriate to characterize this occasion.
The thing is, one could wax poetic for days about the artistic merits of the performance, while another could enumerate the causes for the whole event being irreparably marred by confusion (including the news upon the artists' arrival that microphone stands weren't provided for the event...or the kids running around in front of the stage -- laughing, squealing, etc. during a particularly moving song...or the dog fight that ensued at the back of the park near the end of the show...only to name a few). And, given both the subjective nature of art, and the need to adapt to the circumstances presented us in "taking life as it comes", if you will, this duality seems a wonderfully striking metaphor to illustrate the overcoming force that is art itself, as well as, perhaps, the common saying, "attitude is everything".
Anyway, the point is, the purists of sound would surely argue that this show would never make for the "best" live McD show album that could be captured on CD (especially given its uninvited chorus of kids and dogs!). Yet, as a recording of experience that can be played again and again in one's head via the amazingly effective censoring device known as "selective memory", its passion, intelligence and human sensibility certainly hold up well for all of us privileged to be in attendance even these many weeks after its occurrence...as I suspect they will continue to in the weeks -- and indeed the years -- to come.
After all, as I've said so many times elsewhere on this site, genuine art is not merely an imitation of life -- if it were all artistic endeavors would be known as mime rather than creativity. Rather, art is life...beautiful, sometimes strange, as ever-changing as the weather -- and certainly not something to let a bit of confusion keep you from enjoying.
Of course, my grandparents, being the practical folks that they were, also gave me another important bit of advice that I would probably be remiss in omitting here...
Confusion is likely to rain at any moment. Bring an umbrella.
As he'd done at the house concert the night before, Michael opened with that powerful, slowed-down piano version of "Sword of Damocles"...
...and continued on piano for "Saddest Girl" and "Come Around Mary"...the latter of which he began -- then, as a dark, mottled-color dog ran across the sidewalk in front of the stage, stopped to ask in mock concern, "Did a dog just run in front of me or was I hallucinating?!? Sorry... might be just one of those third-level demons coming out again!"
Actually, at the time I indeed thought it was a dog...but seeing the picture below, in retrospect I wonder if perhaps Michael didn't somehow merely catch a glimpse in a mirror at this precise moment!
(I'm kidding, Michael!) Anyway, after finishing the song (without further incident), the maestro moved on to the always excellent Eurythmics cover, "Here Comes The Rain Again"...
Falling on my
...followed by that tale of facing one's deepest darkness, and realizing that to overcome it, there's only "One Way To Go"...
Switching to guitar, Michael said, "I'm gonna take you back to the 80's...again" with the Cyndi Lauper classic, "Time After Time"...
"Lying in my bed
..then moved into the 90's with his own classic, "A Wall I Must Climb"...for which he was joined by Lance on bodhran...
"So quiet is the terror that
swallows me like the night,
Continuing on into the new Millennium, Michael next shared the ongoing headline of "Hellfire In The Holy Land", and a story of strength in the face of (both internal and external) adversity, "Arm Yourself"...
this Chicago street,
Arm yourself with my love,
already armed myself
Next came the beautiful (and, in my opinion, all too rarely played!) "Hold Back A River"...on which Michael faced the adversity of a persistently falling microphone stand. (And, yes, he had a witty comment/metaphor to share afterwards regarding its...uh...dysfunction...adding that this "isn't a reflection on me; it's not my mic stand!")...
"Right now I
And right now I
Be that as it may, he couldn't deny that the next song was most definitely his...a tune that, in a way only Michael can achieve, manages to somehow convey both desperation and the certainty of hope all at the same time..."A Day Like Tomorrow"...
"You're torn by
Come to me,
Once more joined by Lance, Michael's voice next rang out in the form of "Bells"...
...and the always energetic, crowd-pleasing "20 Miles South of Nowhere"
Hmm.. speaking of Lance...you may recall that at the 12-28-02 Schubas show Michael was complaining how Lance had hogged the spotlight for an Entertainment Weekly photo (that appeared in the 1/3/03 issue), captioned simply "Michael McDermott". You may also recall that in my review I'd chalked this up to merely a rock star's constant quest for attention. But looking at the above photos, it is interesting, don't you think, how quickly Lance managed to move his way from Michael's side to the center of the frame...and, in fact, it didn't take him all that long to squeeze Michael out of the picture entirely!
(It's a joke, Lance...hope you won't prosecute...uh, I mean persecute me for it!)
Anyway, on a more serious note...(a truly serious one indeed as) the next song proved to be the last on the setlist, "Around The World"...
"Go ahead and
I can take
Fortunately, both the crowd and the host of the event enthusiastically encouraged Michael to return for "one more"! Hence, he countered the deepening twilight of the summer evening with the brightness of his "Spark"...
And, although he indeed concluded the show on that note, Michael nonetheless graciously obliged several additional requests, not for songs, but photos...including my traditional reminder that this whirlwind weekend in the Windy City was in fact, "really real"!
On which note I can only add,
Thank You, Michael (and Lance)!!!
(And, once more,
I warn you, Chicago...
I'll Be Back!!!)