Monday, July 4, 2011

I heard there was a secret chord...

I'm a few days late with this, but it's been a busy weekend. And you don't even read this thing anyway, so shut up, you.

I have had the pleasure of being within spitting distance of three of my personal heroes in my life. (In terms of famous-type people. I have plenty of everyday heroes I see regularly. Hello there, you peoples. You're alright by me.) The first was ten years ago, when I saw George Carlin in Atlantic City just a few months before 9/11. A friend and I drove the four hours from Worcester and got sit in the third row and see him do a bit on the end of the world that he wouldn't do again until years later, when we all finally realized that entropy and gallows humor were still funny, terrorism be damned.

The second was in 2008, when my wife and I saw Tom Waits at a club in Dallas during his "Glitter and Doom" tour. Another four hour trip. The place was miserable, hot, and the lack of any actual seating meant we were pressed up against the stage by a crush of bodies the entire night, but it was amazing nonetheless. And the third was Friday at the Paramount Theater in Austin (this time driving only a little over three hours) when we saw Tim Minchin.

I stumbled on Tim's unique brand of madness via The Friendly Atheist, where a commenter had posted a link to "If You Open Your Mind Too Much, Your Brain Will Fall Out (Take My Wife)." I knew then that this weird Aussie with crazy hair and no shoes was someone worth some serious attention. I got hold of everything I could one way or another (illegal downloading is wrong, kids. You wouldn't download a pizza, would you? Actually, I totally would. That'd be some serious Back to the Future II shit, right there.) over the course of a few weeks, turned my wife and a few others on to him, and slowly developed a tiny obsession. Very few people espouse the worldview I hold in such a clever, thoughtful and razor-sharp way. Even fewer can do it while making me laugh.

We got decent enough seats, at first, a few weeks ago. It was a relatively small venue, so there'd be no "bad" seats, per se, so I was ridiculously excited. Then my amazing velp (Vaginally Endowed Life Partner, for those of you who don't share my quirky passions) surprised me with 2nd row center seats that the theater had just happened to release on the day she checked their site on a whim. Fate? Not bloody likely. But an awesome stroke of luck nonetheless. And so, I was left practically turgid with antici...pation. This also left us with a couple of extra tickets, which we gave to some friends we'd been visiting. They'd never heard of Tim before, but after one song we'd got two more converts. This reinforces what I've been saying to you people all along: You should like the things that I like, because they're good. And the things you like are terrible. Stop that.

After a drink at a trendy Japanese restaurant (one of Austin's main natural resources, apparently, bested only by hipsters. Coincidence? I dunno. Post hoc ergo propter hoc might be in play there, but it's really hard to ignore.) across the way from the theater (we found out shortly after that Tim had most likely been there only moments before we were. I've gotta work on my stalking skills. Apparently, I'm a bit rusty), we shuffled in. The seats were better than I'd hoped for, and Tim came out with a couple of "Oh hey, guys. Didn't know you were here. Well, best get to my piano," sort of head nods, and went immediately into "Rock and Roll Nerd." Things went a bit fuzzy for me after that. There were so many of my favorites, for sure. Getting to hear "Storm" performed live may be one of the highlights of my year. Before I knew it, more than two hours had passed.

I'd heard and knew every lyric for every song beforehand ("Obsession," remember? Check your DSM IV.), but I still laughed genuinely until it hurt. He looked a bit exhausted at the start (simply an affectation or not, I don't know, but it seemed genuine), but he still played his heart out and rocked our fucking asses. And, in Texas no less, (Austin's still Texas, no matter what they like to tell you there) he sang "Thank You God," and "The Pope Song." Short of a sing-a-long to "I Love Jesus," I couldn't have asked for more.

He ended with two encores (three, if you count "Second Encore"). The first was "White Wine in the Sun," one of the most beautiful Christmas songs ever, and one that hits particularly close to someone who now lives thousands of miles from home. Absolutely amazing, and I'm not too proud to admit I teared up a bit. But the best, for me, was yet to come.

The last song of the evening was a rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Already one of my favorites and one that my wife and I danced to at our wedding (the Jeff Buckley version, which was the one Tim did), this sent us completely over the moon. One of my fellow attendees put it best outside of the theater shortly after, saying something like "Only Tim could get a room full of a thousand atheists to sing along to "Hallelujah." During our harmonizing, Tim remarked "Oh, that's delicious." As one of my fellow "angry-feeters" put it, "Why yes, Tim. Yes it was."