Letter to Rob

Dear Rob,

Okay, I feel awful because I saw you play back on 30 December and am only now getting around to writing you a letter. Usually I’m much more timely. But with New Year’s and all, and then I was sick, you see, so . . .

Also, not a lot to say about the concert. You did great. How’s that? You know how I tend to pick things apart, criticize your clothing, &c. But it was all lovely. I mean, I had to endure “Ever the Same” again, but I’ve come to consider that the price of admission so to speak. And no, we’re not having that discussion again, even though your intro to the song attempted to justify my past rails against it. Let’s just agree to disagree.

What I especially enjoyed about the show was that it was different from a typical concert. Back in the day, people went to concerts to see a band live and have a sort of experience, something that differed from simply listening to the music on the radio or LP or whatever. But nowadays so many bands and artists play the songs more or less exactly like the recorded versions. It’s kind of this weird negotiation; musicians know the fans love the songs and want to be able to sing along (oh God, the guy on my right, but that’s another story), but at the same time, it’s got to be mind numbing to have to sing the same things over and over in just the right way.

Anyway, I enjoy hearing the songs changed up a bit. Though, yes, I thought there’d be drums. But it was nice, a real treat, to hear the songs differently. And I never would have thought I’d hear “Dear Joan” live. Ever. It is, as you said, a pretty song but very dark, and I used to love it until I sort of, I don’t know, outgrew it somehow. But it’s still lovely in a “Scarborough Fair” kind of way. I wish you’d played “Dizzy,” though.

Not every song benefitted from reduction; “Streetcorner Symphony” is better when uptempo. But still, interesting to hear the piano version.

Oh, and I love “Save the Last Dance,” and you were so endearingly human and earnest in forgetting how to, well, sing it. If I hadn’t been sitting quite so far back, I’d have gone up and done it for you.

What was truly marvelous, too, was how you made a large arena full of people feel like an intimate group. That takes talent.

You’re a good guy, Rob, a genuinely good person, and there are so few of those in the world. Never stop rockin’, Sweetie. Keep putting your shine out there; the dark places will absorb it, and the light places will reflect it back and out and around the world like a halo. It’s the most any of us can hope to achieve in this lifetime.

Sincerely,
~M

P.S. So looking forward to the matchbox twenty album later this year!

_______________
Rob Thomas played a solo show at Mohegan Sun Arena on 30 December 2011

Sherlock: “A Scandal in Belgravia” revisited

Here is what I wrote a day after having seen the premiere of “Scandal” at the BFI. And here is a follow-up I wrote a week later.

I’m pleased to note that “Scandal” played better the second time around. Less distraction, maybe, which allowed me to concentrate a bit more. Though the imitation violin playing was still just about the worst I’ve ever seen. And I think Moriarty blowing a raspberry is just dumb. AND—just to continue being nitpicky—airline tickets actually put your surname first. Even if it were a fake ticket, that doesn’t seem like the kind of detail Mycroft and his people would overlook.

I do still feel slightly unsatisfied by the episode as a whole. Part of the problem might stem from John’s character being unfulfilled. After all, John is supposed to be the sympathetic character, but we get less of him in this episode, and what we do get, aside from a couple strong scenes, is somewhat hazy. This makes sense in a way, since John is clearly having difficulty processing what’s going on with Sherlock. And it’s interesting in the moments when John seems to think he does know what Sherlock feels, but it’s made clear he’s somewhat off the mark. His stating that Sherlock despised Irene at the end? Shows what he knows. (And he’ll know she’s not dead soon enough unless Sherlock changes the text tone.)

I’ve come to the conclusion, after having seen the episode again, that Sherlock must be a bit smitten, though he chalks it up to chemical reaction. I don’t entirely follow what’s going on with Irene, though, since she professes at one point to be gay. Her occupation requires her to be, er, flexible, of course, but . . . One could assume she was lying to John.

As for Sherlock, chemistry aside, he seems to like that someone likes him. And that she’s his equal in many way as well. Because of course John likes him (in his own way), but John is not nearly as interesting, not as clever. And for his part, John finds Sherlock very interesting and a lot of fun and would probably not welcome Irene taking that away. It becomes a triangle of sorts. Or maybe John is just the third wheel on a bicycle built for two.

Certainly they’ve left it open for Irene to return. It’s nice for her that she can rely on Sherlock for a modicum of protection, especially now that her phone is defunct. Well, it’s just as likely she’s acquired a new one. After all, what’s to stop her?

“Uncle Rob”

Tomorrow night, my husband and I will go see Rob Thomas in concert. My children refer to him as “Uncle Rob,” though none of them have met him.

I’ve seen Rob play more than any other musician (this is if you count matchbox twenty concerts as well as solo performances). This will be #7. I last saw him in November 2009, when he was touring for Cradlesong. Back when I still had my Letters to Rob site, this is what I wrote about that show:

Dear Rob,

Yes, yes, I know you’ve been waiting to hear what I thought, etc. etc. Well, let’s see . . . I missed Carolina Liar’s set due to the rabid inefficiencies of the merchandise table coupled with herd mentality bent around today’s ego-centric mindset. Sigh. But I did really enjoy OneRepublic’s set. I’d heard a couple of their songs on the radio, but after hearing them last night I think I will definitely need to buy the album when it drops next week. (Why do albums “drop” anyway?)

As for you. Good work opening with “Fire on the Mountain” as per one of my previous suggestions. But your clothes, dah-ling, tsk tsk. You were trying to provoke me with that jacket, but I knew better because it gets hot enough fast enough up there that you were sure to shed it quickly (and you did). The jeans weren’t flattering, though, hon. Part of the problem being where your t-shirt fell; it made an uncomely sight line. And we just won’t even talk about the muddy mix of colors involved.

Well, on to the show itself. I did especially like “Getting Late,” which is one of my favorites off the new album. (Aside: Alexander likes to ask what songs are about, and when he asked about that one, I softened it a bit and told him it was about getting old. “And dying?” he asked. Christ. If he’s this smart at four, what will he be like at six? Or sixteen?) Nice segue into the Elvis bit, and I admit to having a particular liking for steel guitar, so . . . Also loved that you performed “Little Wonders,” which makes me think of my kids and so I always tear up when I hear it. (Aside: Alex calls it “the umbrella song” because of the video.) Just as you talked about being frustrated with Tyler, I’ve had my share of frustrations with being up with the baby at night, etc. “Little Wonders” is a nice reminder that they won’t be little forever, so I should savor the moments while I can.

“Not Just a Woman” is another song I really like. And how did you know “Dancing in the Dark” is my favorite Boss song?

Oh, but “Sunday Morning New York Blue” (that’s a long title, should I shorten it to “SMNYB”?)—really nice little song. There was something about it that reminded me of Jimmy Buffett for some reason. Not the sound necessarily, but maybe the sentiment? Jimmy has made a career of capturing moments like that, for making people feel like they’ve lived those moments, even if they haven’t really. That takes talent—which you have in spades—but also careful crafting, which you are clearly capable of.

I was also pleased to hear “Ever the Same” back in acoustic form. I know I’ve given you a hard time about that song in the past (and boy did your fans rake me over the coals for it!), but I still cannot love it. As I’ve said before, it requires too much understanding of the author’s situation to completely appreciate it. It’s really too personal to be universal. It’s pretty—and much, much better when done in acoustic style (which is how I first heard it back in 2004 at the China Club)—but it doesn’t resonate as much. It requires too much vicarious sentiment from the listener.

Now, I had wondered how you would handle the brass on “Wonderful,” and it seems you chose to do it by cutting the song down to brass tacks. While I still prefer the album version, I could totally see Sheryl Crow doing a cover of the one you played last night.

Finally, we need to talk about the lame animations that go on behind you during the show. They all look like bad Microsoft screen savers. Excepting, perhaps, the one that plays while you sing “Cradlesong,” they’re just awful. Go find something better and post it online somewhere so I can see it and stop thinking badly of your stage aesthetics.

Anyway, unrelated but tacked on nonetheless: you’d mentioned on your site something about whether “Give Me the Meltdown,” “Mockingbird” or “Real World ’09” should be the next single. Well, fans will choose “Meltdown,” surely, and I really like it, too. But I’m partial to “Mockingbird” myself. Although I have one bone to pick with it: the first couple lines about standing “somewhere in between this moment and the end.” That’s not true. You don’t stand between the moment you’re in and the future. You stand IN the moment you’re in. Unless you’re somehow inhabiting a space that is slightly ahead of the current moment in time?

Okay, well, good show. I was sitting by Maison and his friend, btw. Had no idea who they were, of course, but felt bad when the event staff guy came and said, “Come with me, boys.” I was like, Hey! They weren’t causing any trouble! But then, as it turned out, they weren’t being removed for having caused any trouble. They were, in fact, very well-mannered boys.

Speaking of which, I must go take care of my littlest one now. Best of luck on the remainder of your tour.

I’m hardest on the ones I love most, no question. Hardest on myself, actually, but nearly as tough on the ones who mean a lot to me. I was a reviewer for online magazines for a while, and the books and music and movies and shows that weren’t worth the effort were many. But the diamonds in the coal . . . They just sometimes need a little polishing, a little nicer cut. I don’t do it to be mean. I do it because there are things and people I admire, things and people who are at least as good as I am if not better, but their being told all that doesn’t help them. Their being told where the problems are so they can fix them—that’s useful. Or at least allows for interesting talking points and discussion. Telling someone they’re wonderful is a sure way to end a conversation, after all.

Not that we don’t all like to hear that once in a while. But only when it means something. Because of inflation, a yes man’s “yes” carries no weight. And since I work in words, I like to make mine worth something.