Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Roy Harper - A story of a concert

Roy enters the stage, half an hour late. He greets the audience with a raised right hand and sits down on the chair made ready for him. He places his pint of stout by his left foot and picks up one of the four guitars placed on the rack, next to his chair. He doesn‘t look very comfortable, moving around in his chair. “I didn‘t realize he was so far away”, he says quietly into the microphone. Then he turns in his chair, crosses his feet and smiles helplessly at his supporting guitar player, at the other end of the stage, who is smiling back at him, friendly and with respect. “Why are you so far away? I‘m sorry you‘re so far away.”

“I like your shirt, Roy!”, a man shouts from the bar. Roy freezes for a second while tuning his guitar, then lowers his eyes, pretending to examine his grey buttoned shirt with long sleeves, while the crowd is laughing. Then he becomes mute, staring towards the bar, as if offended. “Stand up, sir!” Roy shouts, but with a childish smile in his face. “Wearing a suit, are you? Black and white, is it?” There is no answer. “Of course you are. You need to, I guess. Then again, that‘s probably why I‘m up here while you‘re down there. The voice was coming from the bar, wasn‘t it? Then at least you‘ll find yourself close to the door. Consider it.”

“Is there any children backstage?” We can‘t answer him, so we just listen. “I hear children‘s voices backstage”, Roy tells us. He turns, and shouts; “Are you having fun back there?” We can‘t hear any answer. “Of course you are”, he adds with a lower voice.

“Some time ago my love story with my long-time partner ended. This happens at some point in life, as I am sure all of you would know by now”. He pauses, smiling sadly at the crowd. “I immediately fell apart, simply crying it all out. I cried until I couldn‘t cry anymore. After a few days spent in a house in east London, the feeling of grief and loss finally came to an end.” He pauses, looking into the air above the crowd, moving nervously in his chair. The crowd is completely silent, but the silence is patient and sympathetic. “After the grief came the sheer shock. My nose started to bleed, and it wouldn‘t stop. Tissue was of no help, it just kept pouring out, and the shock increased with my loss of blood. I had a gig in west London that day, but I still felt I could do it, go through with it, life has to go on you know.” He smiles sadly at the crowd. “The gig was sold out, seven or eight hundred people were waiting in the orchestra for me to come out and play. And I was walking around backstage, blood everywhere, not knowing what to do with myself.” The crowd laughs, and Roy smiles sadly. “The guys tried everything, we tried every drug available, but nothing worked out. But I still felt I could do it. Then this guy came up to me with a balloon, he shoved it up my nose and started blowing. And my nose finally stopped bleeding.” Laughter spreads across the crowd. “So I came onto the stage and I went through with it. It hurt like hell for five or six hours, with her in the audience, this was 1992, she was still mixing the sound.” Roy becomes quiet, as if wanting us to reflect on what he just said. After a short while he smiles and says; “Yes, it was truly a cathartic experience.” “How do you spell that?”, a young man with dreadlocks shouts out, with a sarcastic and broken voice. The crowd laughs and Roy looks puzzled, as if the question brought him out of his private thoughts. “Oh, do I need a blackboard? C.A.T.H.A.R.T.I.C.”, he spells slowly. “As from Greek mythology. Effecting catharsis. My experience was cleansing. Through pain and suffering. I`m sure you know all about it.”

So, what do you want me to play? Five or six voices separate themselves from the crowd, shouting out their favourite songs. Roy shakes his head and smiles towards his supporting guitar player who also shakes his head smiling, he is much younger than Roy and probably doesn‘t even know the songs. Maybe even Roy don‘t know them anymore. “You need to look forward, always forward”, Roy says, and becomes quiet for a minute. “All right”, he says, and looks at his supporting guitar player, telling him that he‘s going to do this one by himself. The crowd is cheering. “Do you know why?”, he asks us. “It‘s because I wrote this song all alone, and on hard drugs. I don‘t even think that drug is obtainable anymore.” A young man shouts: “Good on you, Roy!”, and laughter again spreads across the audience. Roy smiles wisely in the direction the voice came from. “Did you know I quit smoking when I was 28? You really should try and confine yourself a bit, keep it ceremonial, that way you‘ll get the most out of it. I smoke occasionally. I used to have a ceremony every night, the problem is that it really effects your phone calls.” He makes a telephone gesture with his hand: “Hello God?” Laughter. Man shouting: “You‘re just making matters worse, Roy!” The crowd laughs, almost collegially. Roy smiles, not knowing what to say. “Have a spliff, Roy!” Again laughter. “I already had one”, Roy answers, smiling but clearly uncomfortable. “Have another, then!”, a kid in the back shouts. Roy is quiet for a few seconds, while the crowd is laughing. “You might be young and on a spree now, but you will eventually find these things don‘t work out quite as you think. Or don‘t think.” Laughter again spreads across the crowd, but not as if appreciating a joke. Then silence, now the crowd badly want him to play his song.

At the end of the song something happens with his face. He raises his hands in a dramatic psychedelic gesture, raising his eyebrows before closing the song with his hands and upper body. He looks at his feet while the crowd is applauding. “Something happened”, he says. “I broke a fingernail at the end of the song.” He sends his supporting guitar player a concerned glance. The guitar player nods and places his guitar at the rack. “What happens now is we take a break. I need to file down my fingernail. Please give me ten minutes.” He leaves the stage slowly.

Roy is quiet for a few seconds, he is thinking. “No, but really, I had a telephone call just now, during the break. You‘re never safe. Never. I have a strongly ambivalent view on this. “Try to shut your phone off, Roy!”, a young woman shouts. The crowd laughs and Roy smiles, he laughs along with the crowd. “Is that why you`re so lazy on your website, Roy?”, someone shouts, but Roy stops smiling. “You`re right. I don`t need a phone, but while on the road I‘m told to carry the thing around. But I agree, I should get rid of it. As I get older the need of being alone with my guitars and a few thoughts becomes stronger. That‘s what I‘m all about. That‘s why you‘re here today, isn`t it?”, he smiles sadly.

“It is really all about the writing. I have been writing songs for as long as I can remember. It is like if components are being thrown at me, at some point there is impossible not to write the song.” He pauses. “I guess that goes for most creative work. It is like if my songs become places I‘ve been in the end, they become unexplainable.” A man laughs vulgarly from a corner. Roy looks up, with a serious expression in his face. “No. That‘s not the place I‘m talking about.”

“Are you all right there?” Roy looks at his supporting guitar player, addressing his guitar. “It isn‘t sharp, it‘s slightly off. “The machine says it‘s all right”, the guitar player answers, embarrassed and possibly slightly insulted. “Not in open E it isn‘t. The machine is wrong”, Roy smiles.

“I have always been a foreigner, so I know how the foreigner feels. This is never going to change. It is what it is. When I look at the wars we‘ve participated in over the last few years, the feeling only grows stronger, and on another level.” “So I gather you don‘t care too much about Tony Blair, then?”, a man shouts, laughter in his voice. Roy smiles childishly in the direction of the voice for a few seconds, then he starts making pet sounds. He gestures with his hands and pretends to be a cat. It takes the crowd too long to start laughing.

Roy is standing alone on stage, we are applauding like mad. He is smiling and nodding modestly, trying to get a word in. Eventually the applause fades. “Thank you. I really appreciate it. “Will you come back, Roy?”, someone is shouting. Roy smiles introverted, and nods. “Yes, I guess I will return. Thank you for listening. I want you all to know I consider you my friends. Thank you.”


Blogger Grillski said...

I et samfunn som krever effektivitet er det skjelden man leser noe som er så langt. Men jeg er glad for at jeg tok meg tid for det var ille fint og fikk meg til å innse hvor inderlig jeg savner å gå på konsert. For her i Alta er trekkplastrene til UKA 06 Bjørn Eidsvåg og Jo Nesbø. Grøss.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Polarprinsessa said...

Saa raatt!

7:08 PM  

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