It only stands to reason that a mid-December show by any artist would incorporate Christmas somehow into the event -- spoken references, inclusion of a holiday song -- something. Yet aside from a bit of lyric relating to the birth of Christ in a song debuted approximately halfway through the set, Michael McDermott's Dec. 14 show featured no such hint. In fact, once inside the venue, one could have easily been convinced it was actually April or August rather than December. And, once back outside, prompted by the reminder of brightly decorated homes and businesses dotting the ride home, this omission suddenly struck me as, well, a bit odd to be quite frank. And, I suppose, some might even construe it as disrespectful or, at worst, downright sacrilegious.
But upon further reflection, it at last dawned that quite the opposite is actually the case. For, while the masses crowd shopping malls in search of the perfect gifts for those they love, crowd churches in search of meaning and truth, and engage in other holiday-specific-behavior only at this time of year, true artists such as Michael McDermott are going about these sorts of activities every day: seeking meaning and truth, wrapping them in the most beautiful packaging of honesty and hope, then presenting the resulting gift, fresh and new, again and again -- yet always for the first time -- to both loved ones and strangers alike. But unlike those crowding the malls, whose family members and friends are as likely to express thanksgiving, indeed joy, over even items for which they have no conceivable need, use or want, the artist faces daily the possibility -- and too often the reality -- of his gifts being ignored, dismissed, or even utterly rejected. And yet he continues to seek, continues to create, continues to give his best.
With that in mind, I realized that Christmas had not been omitted at all from this evening of music. Rather, its spirit had shone forth in a way so rarely seen, in such a truly blinding fashion, that as one's eyes must adjust after a camera's flash goes off before the room again returns to focus, so it took a bit of time for me to focus clearly enough and fully grasp this auspicious occasion: my ninth and final night of Michael McDermott live in 2001.
And, what finally became clear from this analysis
is that not only am I thankful for each one of these special events, but also
that for both Michael and those everywhere privileged to receive the rich (and,
thankfully, always useful) gifts he continually offers, I can only conclude --
for those who will allow it to be -- truly every day is Christmas.
Perhaps it should be prefaced
that Michael was forced to follow a very chatty (even kazoo-playing!) opener
whose style -- quite obviously -- differs greatly from that of Michael
himself. As a result, Michael chose to take a particularly all-business
approach to his own set, one which allowed for little commentary...though, of
course, still permitted an immense amount of passion...
...the show began with an immediately appealing -- and brand new -- song, "Feel Like We Belong"...
"I've written all
Without your love
...before continuing with more traditional fare...
"it's a stupid way of thinking...
"but the clearness clouds my
...after which Michael switched to guitar to share a song I'd never before heard live, "Broken Down Fence"...
They were talking
matter what was spoken,
the -- debatably -- lighter, "Unemployed"...
"I can take tragedy, loss and
This was followed by another beautiful new song, for which Michael returned to the piano...
...and explained that as a child, when he had trouble sleeping, his mother would tell him to "close [his] eyes 'cause there's angels inside". "So", he went on, "I wrote this for her"...
"Close your eyes,
And from this he proceeded directly into another brand new creation, an up-tempo character exploration, the title of which refers to a legendary Greek character whose king seated him under a sword hanging by a hair to show him the perils of a ruler's life...
...a song he approached with such verve that he eventually managed to shake the piano violently enough to send his hapless (and helpless!) beer bottle right over the edge -- an incident on which he commented at the song's conclusion with a brief grimace, "It's been just that kind of day..." Guess it's a good thing he was only figuratively seated beneath "The Sword of Damocles"!
After this, Michael solicited requests, which (to my great joy) someone near the back of the room immediately jumped on by shouting, "Wounded!". And, once more the room was filled with accusation, determination, and a beauty that never fails to inspire inexpressible emotion...
"Then, there at
Things couldn't have
Back at the guitar, Michael began tuning up for his next song -- emphasis on began, as he almost immediately broke a string. And again came that wry comment..."just that kind of day". Recovering quickly, however, Michael simply picked up his second Takamine and launched into "20 Miles" without further ado...
miles south of
20 miles south
...then moved on to a song of (eventual) freedom, "Hand of the Hunter"...
"...it's hard to fly when
Already incredibly intense throughout the entire set to this point, Michael became even moreso as he delivered yet another song he'd not before played at The Point, "Thinkin' About You"...
"Stumblin' way past
Looking for healing
I'm driving myself
...and remained so back at the piano, throughout the always fabulous Randy Newman cover, "Guilty"...
"But I had to keep moving,
I was back in your
...which was followed by the incredibly moving -- and almost never performed live, "Deirdre Dances"...
I no longer know what I
from the fountain of
the meaning of
...and to which Michael attached a portion of "Stumblin" as something of an epilogue, before announcing he would do just one more song...the always fitting conclusion, "Around The World"...
"I had to travel
"In a rainbow night,
I held on tight
To her dirty coat..."
And, as always, wishing to myself hold on to each rainbow night of Michael's music presented live, I again sought out my usual photo reminder, which request Michael once more very graciously obliged...
And, so for the final time in 2001... for everything,
Thank You, Michael...
Please Come Back Soon!