Schubas 12-27-02
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"The the dark... And...the soul!  That was all you."
Roxanne, from
                                                                       Cyrano de Bergerac
by Rostand

     How to explain the reasons for choosing the quote above to describe the Michael McDermott show this page has been created to commemorate?   How to explain the communication that passes between a true artist and an audience at any given time in mere words upon any page?   Indeed, that is the challenge with which I'm faced as I stare at this blank screen...and attempt to capture on it in such a way as to pass on to you reading it even the tiniest whisper of the feeling of actually being there...the smallest hint of the meaning that was shared in a deeply darkened space lit -- to magnificent effect -- by only the voice of an artist's soul. 
    The quote I have chosen was spoken by a character awaking from self-deception, in a play about beauty and acceptance in a world where too many, too often are unable to recognize nobility and greatness even when faced with them on a regular basis for many years.  It was written and takes place in a time long ago and a country far away.  And yet, as with all great literature -- indeed all great art -- it is here, and it is now. 
     But there's a twist.
     For in that play, the voice in the dark, the great soul of which Roxanne speaks, was in part to blame for Roxanne's blindness, as he allowed disbelief and self-doubt to mask the beauty of his humanity, the love and truth which characterized his soul, under the guise of a more "desirable", more "perfect" external form.   In short, he was afraid.
     Courage, so I've read, is often defined as not a lack of fear like Cyrano felt (frankly, from my perspective that would be defined as mere insanity -- and not of the positive variety for which this site is named), but a willingness to press on in spite of fear.  And, as I've stated in many other comments on this site (and elsewhere) it is this I believe the true artist makes his life's pursuit...the struggle to again and again find the courage to show us all he is, all he isn't, all he is becoming, all he hopes to be -- and all the (often self-spawned) impediments (doubt, fear, etc.) that seem to forever block his way (now we're talking "crazy" in the form I embrace most).  And it is only when an individual displays such courage before an audience...or before someone viewing one's work in a museum...or reading one's words on a printed page...that one's voice can not only be heard, but recognized...and that one's  soul can be seen, and felt, and maybe even shared.
     Michael McDermott is a great artist.  And in what was probably the most (speaking from a wholly literal perspective) darkness-laden room in which I've ever witnessed one of his performances, a great artist's voice was heard.  And his soul was felt.  And that voice...and that soul... were indeed all...Michael McDermott.


Schubas Tavern

A sign on the door announced this was the place for the sold-out crowd to begin filing in...

...and  soon after all had found their places, Michael took to the stage to debut a beautiful new song recounting the arduous road back from a battle with oneself, a fight whose victory slowly comes into view as the lone combatant at last resolves, there's only "One Way To Go" from here...


    "You feel like your luck's
                 run out...

      You only find love in the
                 things you hate...

      You're so tired of being tired,

       And you're angry because
                you're mad...


       There's only one way to
       One way to go from here."



This was followed by "Darkest Night Of All", an only slightly older song that was indeed new to much of the deeply appreciative audience enjoying it...and for which Michael was joined by TJ on bass...


          "He was talking to the
              statue on St. Joseph's
              front lawn,

          Nobody knew what to


            He said nobody listened
               when he spoke,

            He said, "They think I'm just a

Next Michael switched to guitar for a bit of more familiar material, including the Greek mythology inspired "Sword of Damocles"...         




     "You wake up to 
          the sound of
          your aching 




      To see your soul's
         enemy approach
         your rampart..."






...and the (unfortunately, ongoing) headlines-inspired "Hellfire In The Holyland"...



      "He woke up near Damascus

      With a widow's mite sittin'
              in his hand

       He wasn't sure what 

        It was somethin' no one else
              would understand..."



We'll never know what was scheduled to come next up on the setlist as, upon Hellfire's end he noted to Mike Hanisch -- who provided wonderfully appropriate visuals for each selection from this and the 12/28 show as a backdrop to Michael's performances -- that he was "gonna call an audible" on the next excellent choice, as the turmoil of the last tale was balanced by a reminder of the "Grace of God"...


    "Shrouded like the holiest


       Are you sure you're
                   ready for the truth?"



...which was followed by the McDermott classic, "A Wall I Must Climb"...


                "Things were moving so fast,

                  I couldn't comprehend it...

                  I was first, maybe I was last...

                  Confusion had descended...

                  I was amazed by what had

                  Down through the pages of 


and a song with which "it all began", so Michael said (the likewise classic "#49"), adding in further addressing the crowd that,  "every time you show up, my dreams come true"...a comment that surely could have as easily been spoken by each member of the audience...



    "The lost postman
           wanders American

       Past Henry VIII,
           who quietly eats,

        Being entertained
            by a drunk quoting

         Who pays a dollar
            a week for




Next came a truly surprising intense and beautifully artful version of Prince's "When Doves Cry"...which Michael sang largely to only the accompaniment of the Irish percussion instrument known as a bodhran, played to great effect by Lance, a welcome newcomer to the circle of guest musicians that have joined Michael at various shows from time to time (and yes, Michael did forget a couple of the words about midway through, but shh..I won't tell if you won't...and besides, the overall effect was still fantastic)...



         "Touch if you will,
                my stomach...

           Feel how it trembles

          You've got the butterflies
                all tied up...

           Don't make me 
                  chase you...

          Even doves have pride..."



Also fantastic was that "revised" version of "Spark" Michael began playing a few months back, supposedly happened upon as the result of a mistake when he meant to embark upon "Broken Down Fence" instead.  I have a sister-in-law who has a favorite expression that says, "It was a mistake, but not a regret"...a line that comes to mind as most appropriate in regard to this matter, as although I've heard this version of the song a few times now, I'm yet to come close to getting anything near my fill of it...and daresay I enjoy it even more than the "original"...



    "Spark the heart in a
             godless night,

       Spark the dark 'til it
              turns to light....

         Spark the colors in 
               the eyes that 

         Spark the embers 
               until they turn 
               to flame..."



After this came another recent composition, entitled "The Road To Abilene", for which Michael returned to the piano...




   "When your happily
           ever after 

      Has become your
            new disaster,

       Inside, your heart
          just wants to scream...

       We've been too long
          on this road to
          Abilene..." which instrument he remained for the always amazing "Wounded"...



           "My soul feels just like


             For you've painted it with
                   the scars you so




Switching once more to guitar, Michael then shared another new song he said he'd begun writing during a Paris vacation, and finished upon his return to the U.S., "Dimestore Mona Lisa"...


          "On Lancelot's horse
               I ride,

            Esmeralda, for to see...


            Tell me, Esmeralda...

             At least, give me a clue...

             About whether you choose your

              Or does your life choose you?"



Obviously, I don't know what answer Esmeralda gave him to the question that last song posed, but personally my answer would be "both" -- in other words, while indeed you choose certain aspects of your life, there are also times you unexpectedly find yourself in a place that seems to have instead chosen you...maybe sometimes even a place "20 Miles South of Nowhere".  However, even there I'd say it's pretty much your choice how to react to such a discovery....



        She referred to me
            as sailor...

         She was beautiful
             not long ago

          Before everything
             began to fail her..."




On a more definitive note, the next song shared a conclusion of which Michael seemed much more certain...a truth he learned by traveling "Around The World"...


          "I've been in books,
                 I've been in movies,

           I've rubbed elbows with
                 many celebrities....

           I've jettisoned with the
                  jet set,

            I've flown over six of
                 the seven seas..

          I had to travel around the world
          Just to find my way home."


Clearly, however, there remain other questions and mysteries that haunt this artist's soul, including those explored in the itself haunting "Can't Sleep Tonight"...




         I wonder if it's because

         I'm thinkin' about the
              person I know I 
              once was?

         I wonder where did
              he go;

         I wonder what it is 
              that he does?


         I can't sleep tonight...

         I wonder if it's because..."


In his characteristic fighting spirit, however, Michael rallied from these dark ponderings to set off once more for a place of hope and restoration, a place glimpsed in a soul behind eyes of "Bourbon Blue"...


     "She restored what
             I had lost, 

       Downward I was
             falling, reaching
             for a strand so true...

        I'll keep holdin' on

        For my bourbon blue..."



...a place he concluded could only be attained by "A Closer Walk With Thee"...




     "Just a closer walk with thee,

      Grant it, Jesus, if you please...

      I'll be satisfied as long

      As I walk, dear Lord,

      Close to thee."




...a walk Michael apparently wouldn't be satisfied without embarking upon immediately, as even before the song was over he leapt from the stage and sauntered off -- with the voice of his amazing soul still ringing out in the dark of the Schubas night...

But, wouldn't you know, the aspect of life that "chooses you", or rather, that chose Michael to be an artist, brought him back into the light a few hours later at another venue, where he (and Lance, TJ and Paul Fitzpatrick) joined the band performing there for a few additional tunes...


And, of course, before it was all over, I again sought out a photo reminder of having been in this great artist's company on this amazing night...

Oops...wrong picture!  Actually, however, this one features another great Chicago area friend who was named for a great artist (Vincent Van Gogh).  Ah well, it seems I'll have to do a little more thorough photo sorting before preparing the page that will be coming soon to recap night two of the "Schubas December McDermottfest"!   In the meantime...

As always, for everything,

Thank You, Michael!!

(And, I warn you, Chicago...

I'll Be Back!!!)





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