"Thanks so much...I did see your review on the
bulletin board and I've spent some time on your web site. Looking back
at all those old shows brings back a ton of memories..."
The quote above is part of an e-mail from another longtime member of the "pauper" community. He had been unable to attend this show because of work, so had contacted me about the performance. And, as I was pondering a theme around which to frame this newest entry in "The History of Michael McDermott" (at least the live show segment of that), these words popped into my head as an interesting place to start...one seeming even more appropriate given several discussions on the forum "Pauper's Sky" have dealt lately with the McD history topic. For example, one fan pointed out that it was 15 years ago this month that Michael's debut album was released, another has been compiling a "press archive" (a limited one of which already exists here) -- and just days after the show about which I'm writing took place, a photo appeared of Michael's appearance on Late Night With Conan O'Brien in 1996.
What's more, the impressions offered on the bulletin board by various people in attendance at this show were widely divergent, and I have to admit that in making a few statements of my own there immediately arriving home from it, I purposely dodged any real definition of its "quality"...simply because I honestly didn't feel it "measured up" to several -- even the bulk of -- Michael McDermott performances I'd attended in the past. And yet, having experienced no Michael McDermott performances for more than a year prior to it, and being deeply grateful for this very brief (8 song) set, I was deeply hesitant to say anything that might be misconstrued as an implication I felt his ability had in any way diminished, that he wasn't putting forth his "old" level of effort, or any other untrue negative appellation...especially since he himself, up there on the stage with things going a bit awry, was arguably the one enduring the experience's worst effects.
With all of that in mind, the above e-mail quote reminded me of how much of the past each of us brings to our assessment of things happening in the present. Having seen something like 30 McDermott shows prior to this one, it's impossible to stop the mind from categorizing it in some way -- alphabetizing it, if you will, in the A to Z listing of the greatest performances, slightly lesser, not quite up to "par" ones, etc. And, given Michael's rare consistency in finding that place wherein the intangible reality of great art lives, there is no doubt that having witnessed him at his best on so many occasions, anything less -- though still very good, don't get me wrong -- conjures the double-edged sword of memory...a (wonderfully full and welcome) bit of baggage newcomers to his work have only begun to pack.
As a clarification to all that, and an addition to the McD history topics noted above, you can click here to visit a partially reconstructed page from the version of Michael's bulletin board in existence in Jan. 2001...a page (the posts from which are shown word for word as they first appeared) detailing one of those McDermott history highlights...the 1-27-01 show at The Point. (Also, appropriate with regard to how far technology has evolved since this "distant past", if you visit the review page for that show [linked at left] you'll see how primitive the page/photos are commemorating it!).
Back to the present, I got an e-mail from a pauper in another part of the country, also asking about the recent World Cafe Live performance, to whom I privately gave my honest impressions. Part of the response to this stated, "After you wrote me my own personal "review" of the show & then I read the others, I thought to myself, how would Michael perceive this show? So I found his recent blog on myspace very interesting. Seems he agreed with your assessment..."
The reason I mention that isn't to pat myself on the back for accurate insight by any means, but rather to point out yet another way history -- and technology -- have changed since my early days in attending Michael's shows. Back when that 2001 performance took place, there was no www.myspace.com on which to "blog" at all. However, if you click on the aforementioned bulletin board page link above you'll find "the old fashioned way" Michael once used of sharing his own impressions of shows with paupers...a little surprise representing something "new" to McD community newcomers -- and a warm bit of nostalgia for my fellow pauper "old timers".
In conclusion, then, here's to one thing that evolves and changes, but invariably stays the same -- the immense level of Michael's talent. And, of course, here's to the triumphant history I have no doubt is even right now in the making.
Michael began the set with a few nostalgia-laced reflections of his own in the form of"Antique Store"...an appropriate intro to a show ultimately characterized here in the context of history...
"I swear I feel the spirits passing,
Remaining at the piano, this was followed by the song that opened the magical 2001 event discussed in this page's preface -- and itself a magical part of many McDermott shows over the years -- "Bourbon Blue"...
"She was graceful...
I was waiting
But she just
And I didn't know
Switching to guitar, and embarking on the first strains of a familiar intro ("In My Time of Dying), it quickly became evident the next song would be "Arm Yourself"...
"And lead us not
Rather, lead us
You're frolicking in
It's never funny
Offering his first bit of commentary thus far, Michael noted, "It's been a while since I've been here...I'm not sure what I was doing exactly, but they tell me I had fun." Going on to announce he had completed a new record which was as of this evening projected for a July release, he shared a lament the show's challenges may have served to point up just a bit...that sometimes here on Earth we can indeed feel such a "long, long 'Long Way From Heaven'"...
"The din of despair and
broken, drunken tongues,
Again speaking briefly with the audience, Michael acknowledged that the next song was one he'd been privileged to have XPN playing for many years...interrupting himself to ask, "You guys hear that sound?" as small static-like clicks emanated from the microphone every time his harmonica holder hit this...which was far too often for "comfort". "That's me being electrified." Using this as springboard for a bit of accustomed humor, he added, "Just so you know...this isn't as easy as it looks...but it saves me going to the mental home" for shock treatments. What could prove a more appropriate segue to the declaration, "I am A 'Wall I Must Climb'"?
"In this world of
convergence, I'm a prisoner to only me,
Next came a new song debuted in Feb. on the local Chicago television program, The Late Night Late Show -- a link to which was provided in the March issue of my e-newsletter/literary magazine, Mil Mania (the "Music Mayhem" section of which includes McD news highlights every month). In fact, this was one of two songs featured on that program (and the better of them in my opinion) -- "Mess of Things"...
This feeling of
But listen to
That I love
Returning to the piano once more, Michael announced he would be doing only "a couple more" songs, then launched into yet another composition made famous in the Philly area by WXPN -- "Everything I've Got"...
wandering round the graveyards of my mind,
...before concluding the set with "20 Miles South of Nowhere"...the energetic bit of jamming at the end of which certainly proved one thing that went wholly according to plan, and proved a spirited and dynamic end to this brief, but eventful show.
So, without further ado...
Thank You, Michael!
Please come back soon!!!