Since there are no reviews of Arrowhead Pond 9/23 I thought I´d post my own recollections of last night.
´Strictly no cameras´ was posted on the doors, so my wife and I decided against taking ours, but one or two did flash during the show. The ushers were intent on keeping everyone out of the aisles for safety reasons, so the opportunity to make our way forward to the stage was dashed before the lights even dimmed. Probably 80-90% of the seats were filled, everywhere except the nosebleed section behind the stage. Artie did acknowledge the people behind the stage a few times, but mostly they had to watch the video screen to see the singers´ faces. It was chilly given that just under our flooring was an ice rink, but things later warmed up with the concert itself. We spoke to fans before and after the show; some had been more than once and the age range was wide indeed. We were sitting in the back half of the floor, which was a mistake for visibility. This should have been the first concert in Anaheim, but due to the postponement from 11/14 it was now the second.
Paul and Art went through the motions at first, probably with the tour schedule catching up with them, and were uncharacteristically ragged in parts of Old Friends. When the audience warmed up, however, they found their adrenaline and an energy level exceeding those concerts of earlier times where they forged their reputations. They were not so much legends recapturing former glory, although the scale of this tour suggests that their popularity had never really gone away. They stood as two human beings intent on expressing their gratitude to their body of fans through the giving of their music and their personalities. Their traditional public personas of seriousness and grudging mutual respect were not in evidence. They joked about their habitual power struggles, Paul theatrically gesturing to Art, ´That´s your opinion and I respect it.´
It was a chance for them to correct mistakes of the past. Allowing Paul to sing the middle verse of Bridge and harmonise on the third enabled him finally to receive his deserved share of the applause. The finale´s high note will always belong to Artie, which he pole vaulted with aplomb. They exited the stage after Bridge, and the subsequent encores engendered a party atmosphere.
Retrospection was served up like a friends´ reunion. The concert opened with the giant screens showing news bites from the last thirty years - an updated and abridged Voices of America - while the band unseen hammered out the ´All come to look for America´ refrain. Cue spotlight on the two singers. Hello. The night begins. The size of the arena resulted in more reverb than was ideal, muddying the louder numbers but bringing out the acoustic guitar pieces clear as day. ´That´s a pretty good song,´ understated Artie at the conclusion of American Tune, grinning like the self-described Cheshire Cat.
Musicality has not deserted their voices, although the average acoustics masked what was really happening in periods. From time to time though, they hit their vocal sweet spots simultaneously and the old magical blend rang out. Enough impression was given to remove doubt that they could at least achieve excellence in the studio if that is their next port of call. Artie´s voice was the stronger overall, although Paul made a surprisingly fine contribution to Bridge, incidentally the only time he was not wearing his guitar, and hit the line ´I don´t know a dream that´s not been shattered or driven to its knees´ from American Tune with all the fire of his prime.
Like the rest of the show, the mini Everlys set was a treat just to be a part of, if not for the overall sound. Paul frequently jumped around while he made the big chords on his guitar, while Artie was attentive to the audience throughout, always smiling and inviting us in an emotional sense onto the stage. It´s something to take home and remember forever. The band itself was world class. I just hope there´s a CD in the works of this tour to document the output of these fine players.
From a songwriting point of view, it´s always interesting to discover the alterations Paul has made to his songs. The grooves were more or less untouched, as promised in the pre-tour press conference, with very little change in tempo. Lines that Paul didn´t like from his 30-year-old repertoire were simply thrown out and became instrumental lines or were diced up to phrase with better word economy. It has been an ongoing lesson to hear the development of Paul´s material from one era to the next and reflect on its significance.
I think they dropped Song For The Asking from the set list, possibly because the show only got started at 8.40pm or because their scheduled 9-day break is only 5 days due to the postponements. They seemed genuinely moved by the accolades, holding their hearts repeatedly, while one row of fans revealed a thank-you banner at the concert´s end. There´s always a magical unity when the lights are turned onto the audience in standing ovation mode. It´s difficult to consider whether this tour should be a springboard for another joint album or two. As one who missed out on their initial rise to the fore, I would wish to see them centre stage in my own adult lifetime. On the other hand, they have made the perfect bookend to their careers, as this tour did not contain any new material. At this moment, either choice would not be unfitting.
Sunday traffic on the way home was a lot better than the Friday traffic from the previous week, or perhaps it just seemed so. I probably didn´t notice it was night until halfway home.
Best wishes to all of S&G fandom in this great concert season,