Boy On Bridge On Stage
Make that Beautiful Boy On Bridge On Stage
And the storm hits my fingertips
And I'm blown to bits to the Pyramids
I buried that man the moment I could dig
And the flag snaps back and I'm scattered to the wind
And the door pretends I never let you in
Never let you in
Let it be dark in this endless caravan
Rocked by lightning, striking metal in the sand
I'm miles from common sense, as welcome as the rain
So close to madness that I even know her name
Lay your lover's hands upon me, let me understand you
No, lay your lover's hands upon me, let me go
Lie to me sweetly, then discreetly leave me alone
Lay your lover's hands upon me, let me go
Oh, let me go - Lover's Hands, Alan Doyle & Russell Crowe
(Unofficial lyrics - in lieu of an official version)
In several interviews, Alan has described his debut solo album Boy On Bridge as a collection of his "grownup" songs; it's a pefectly serviceable - and perfecty true - way to describe his wonderful new songs, but I wondered if there might be an even better way, a way equally as true but perhaps even more more fitting with what they deserve, and also a way which doesn't allow for the casting of any undeserved inferential aspersions on his earlier songs, especially since I think those earlier songs are wonderful in their own right. And write.
So off I went in search of that even-better word, wandering my way through an online thesaurus. "Adult" is also serviceably true, but with perhaps a bit too much of a salacious, titilating connotation (though I've no objection whatsoever to Alan's doing these kind of songs too, should he so choose - I'm not a bit fussy). "Mature" is the too-oft-used euphemism for "old"; it has a stodgy feel about it as well, and that just won't do. There's certainly nothing stodgy about the urgent passion of his Lover's Hands.
Click, click, click...synonym and antonym, adjective and verb. Sorting through the varied shades of meaning, searching for the perfect colour that most truly describes this music I love best - this music which is Alan at his best.
I found not one but two True Colours that aptly and deftly describe Alan Doyle Solo, found both of them listed as synonyms for "mature": Complete and Prime.
Boy On Bridge - Alan's album and his tour shows - gives the most Complete view we have thus far seen of the full spectrum of Alan's talents and accomplishments; this is the music, these are the performances, of a talented and accomplished artist in his Prime.
And both music and performance are Wonderful. No way I'm ever going to leave out that Always-True Colour.
Time to go out to Alberta...
By this third show, Alan had his Twitter Request Segment (or Section - Alan tended to use both terms interchangeably and so did I) intro down pat: How he hadn't really thought through the likelihood that his requestors would ask for songs he hadn't played live (or at all) in years, these requests made just a few minutes before he was due to take the stage performing an entire show of brand new songs he was still learning how to play. And how surprised he was to learn how few Twitter users put their real names on their accounts, making it perplexingly difficult when it came time to acknowledge the person who'd requested the lovely song he'd just sung - this became each evening's Oily Bastard Moment, to the delight of every single crowd along Alan's tour road.
And no surprise since Alan played it perfectly every single time; even though I knew exactly what was coming, he could still me laugh each time. He made everyone else howl.
Alan's first Twitter request response was this stirring rendition of River's Driver Lament.
Next was a dandy two-for-one response: One person had tweeted a request for "anything Disney" and another asked him for Last Man Standing, Alan's co-written title track with Barry Canning for Barry's excellent 2003 album that Alan also produced. He satsified both requests by asking Cory to come out and first do a bit of a Lion King song, then join him on Last Man, perfect timing since Cory had played on that album too.
Alan wrapped up this night's Twitter requests with the classic, and thoroughly crowd-pleasing, Cockburn/BNL tune, an entirely impromptu performance by this entire band of skilled players.
The Rules is Alan's song about the Grownup Love Affair that couldn't be denied; no matter how hard things got, it wouldn't give up or go away. This orchestral-based co-write with the legendary Mike Post is, in my opinion, Alan's boldest and bravest song yet. And the most worth loving.
This screen shot is from Alan's intro to his irresistibly charming Don't Like To Dance (one of two excellent iTunes Boy On Bridge Deluxe Edition bonus tracks - both of which can be purchased separately); the video begins as he is dedicating this endearingly honest song to all the girls who had wished he would dance with him back in his high-school days..."There were three of them - three". The crowd laughed, of course; I was watching him over the top of my camera while videoing, thinking about high-school Alan. Thinking and smiling.
This screen shot is of that moment. The expression on Alan's face looks like he knew exactly what I was thinking. Maybe he read my mind; maybe it was the smile that gave me away.
Yes, there would have been four of them - four. Oh yes.
Lover's Hands is a powerhouse of a song - lyrically and melodically. Already by this third show, that power was increasing even more as Alan continued to work on the song's arrangement and the players grew more sure of their mastery of the material.
This was much the same as what had happened when Alan went out on the road back in 2005/6 with Russell Crowe's band The Ordinary Fear Of God, touring the music of the then-just-released My Hand My Heart album. Each time they brought that music up onto the next night's stage, the songs were richer, deeper, stronger - the music a living organism that kept growing in power and in grace each time it was performed.
Paper In Fire belongs to Alan now, as far as my ears are concerned, my heart as well. And I still wish Mellencamp could have heard it. One of these days.
Alan's got some gorgeous Rock Star Moves during Light The Way, not the least of which is his perfect Pouty Lips Guitar-Pounder pose.
Then there's him being Sincerely Beautiful.
Concluding with the breathtaking beauty of the Climactic Final Chord.
Testify got everyone up on their feet at last, something which some in that classy theatre-style venue had been a little reluctant to do. Us too - the front row was flat on the floor with performers, no actual stage here, and that floor sloped down a bit toward them, so when we stood, we were a bit above them too. Disconcerting. Again, it must be quite the different perspective for the performers.
Love While Love's Awake: another of the songs that show a complete view of Alan in his prime. And it's wonderful too. Of course.
Kris and Dustin singing 3000 Miles, followed by a very intense guitar face on Cory.
I still believe that the incisive irony of Straight To Hell strikes a dissonant note (metaphorically speaking) in the course of a set of songs which consistently, and effectively, derive their impressive power from a straightforward and earnest sincerity. But I still love the song, as did the Calgary crowd. I love its brash honesty in the face of a pervasive absence of sincerity, all of that underlaid by a persistent and heartfelt need. I love how Alan performs this song; those "Love me now"s of his have a heart-piercing power.
If anything, the song plays better with Alan's band than with GBS, since he can hand over the lead-solo spotlight in turn to both Kendel on the fiddle and Cory on the guitar (and to Todd on the keyboards, on those fortuitous occasions when he was present), all while adding in his own sizzling lead-guitar riffs.
I don't know a great deal about the technical aspects of music, but I do recall something about how dissonance (now literally speaking, as a musical term) can be used to create an urge toward consonance, a movement from instability to stability. Which is one way to look at the utterly fascinating segue Alan would make each night from this song about the plaintive plea for love from the Man who has sold away his soul to the song about the Man who knows beyond doubt that he will carry his Home with him in his heart no matter where his journey takes him.
Another way to look at this segue, the way I saw it, would be to gaze steadily into that place that exists perfectly balanced between the push and the pull of these two songs...and to see the Man who wrote both songs. To see Alan, complete and in his prime.
During the Seattle show, Alan had mentioned he'd come out to sign CDs after the show's end, but it was said almost in passing, and I'm not sure all present heard him. When he wandered back out into the Tractor after the show, it was a very casual affair, with those remaining delighted to get their CDs signed and their Photo With Alan taken.
I'm not sure he ever actually said it in Vancouver - perhaps I was the one not listening this time - but he did come out into the theatre, only a few minutes after the end of the show. Again, it was a casual, impromptu sort of thing, him standing in the theatre aisle, up near the front rows, those who had waited and hoped moving down the aisle with alacrity, straight toward their Moment.
Calgarians are apparently considerably more organised. Alan made his announcement during the show, much less in passing than on the first two nights, and by the time we walked out into the venue's lobby area, an orderly, expectant line was already forming. Dustin was deftly handling the brisk CD sales at the merch table, with each purchaser subsequently taking his or her place at the end of that ever-growing line. Alan showed up a few minutes later, Sharpies in hand and accompanied by a burly security guard who would spend most of his time on this job being handed fans' cameras and taking pictures of them snuggled up to the patiently charming Boy On Bridge.
Alan did this nearly every night, no matter how tired he was from a gruelling schedule that saw him playing 18 public shows in 20 days, along with numerous radio/TV appearances and incessant phone interviews, all while motoring across the continent. And buildng a brand new band.
Calgary was the first night I stayed to watch the entire process. It became something I loved seeing, especially in those places, such as Calgary, where the sheer size of the typical Great Big Sea audience has for years precluded any such post-show open-to-all opportunity for personal contact. Perhaps not as big of a deal to the fans who linger by tour buses or buddy up with the members of the crew or make sure to frequent the band members' favourite pubs after the show, but for those who would never do, could never do, such things, this was indeed a Very Big Deal.
Over the course of these 18 Boy On Bridge shows, I came across so many fans who had been waiting years, some for more than a decade, to shake Alan's hand, give him a hug, thank him, get his autograph, and take a picture with him. I took great pleasure, in Calgary and in all the towns thereafter, in watching those folks walk away from Alan with such a deeply satisfied look on their faces - seeing them feeling grateful to him and made content by him, so much sweeter than seeing those who instead of act entitled to something from him and who are always expecting more of him. Not these folks, not yet at least, not on this night, not in the here and now. And that much was more than enough to make me happy.
There's more I was going to write about this time, in particular a few comments about audiences - Alan's and GBS's, how both are changing and adapting in response to the changes in and growth of the artists whose music they love - and also a few comments on the topic of the potential impact of solo shows on attendance at GBS's upcoming XX Tour shows. But I did promise last time that this wouldn't be ridiculously long, and both of those topics might be more pertinent when it comes time to blog about the Torbay GBS show.
So I'll keep the focus here on Calgary, and on that title thought from Cockburn's song.
Calgary and I have quite the complex past, sharing the wonderfully best of times and the terribly worst of times. Calgary was where I was thoroughly and lastingly blown away by my first huge GBS show (Sea Of No Cares Tour at the Saddledome, a scant fews weeks after seeing them rock a dinky US club to its rafters); I can't begin to count the good shows I've seen and the great people I've met in this vibrant city. Calgary is also the place where I was blindsided and flattened so many times that for a few years I refused to do more than lay over in the town - no shows, no hotels, no pubs, not even a brief stroll outside the bus station or airport terminal. No way was I going to risk being wounded yet again by the Calgary Curse.
But in time, the threat of that so-called curse paled in comparison to what I knew I was missing - the Something Worth Having I was missing out on - by letting myself be intimidated by a fear of getting hurt. The time had come to fight. I didn't leave my fear of what new bad thing might happen behind when I next went to Calgary; it came along for the ride, burdensome baggage to be sure, but not big enough or heavy enough or important enough to derail the journey.
Off to Calgary I went, with shaky knees. The show was good, the people were great; I felt profoundly relieved as my plane took off the next morning, glad and grateful to be getting away unscathed. The next time I was Alberta bound, all was good again; so too the time after that and the time after that. The Wheel, it turns; What Was no longer is. Or so I told myself.
It's been a long while since I felt the slightest twinge of wariness when in Calgary. My guard was down, fully and completely down, while I was watching Alan's Post-Show Autograph Session wrapping up, still basking in the warm glow of a grand show of the music I'd waited so long for and loved so much, followed by the welcome sight of all those uncharacteristically contented fans.
And that's when I got caught, with my guard all the way down, by the words of someone who, for personal reasons, quite effectively used willful misunderstanding to diminish and distance, to dismiss and disregard. In a split second, a full and excruciatingly detailed memory, moment by moment, of my own Calgary History flared back to life again.
It shook me, deeply; we went to the pub after, and I was still shaken. But by the time we found our way back to the hotel in the wee hours of the morning, I was thoughtful. A bit wobbly, perhaps, but still thoughtful.
Yes, here I was in Calgary and yes, I'd gotten hurt here again (no, I'm not going to say what was said, only that it was unkindly-intentioned and uncalled-for), just like so many times before. But as much as that truly did (and does) suck - and so not in the good way - I knew, I was sure, that there was still no place I would have rather been on this night than exactly where I was, right there in Calgary, enjoying the great show and the wonderful music and all those satisfied faces. And seeing - clearly seeing and thoroughly appreciating - an immensely talented and unabashedly lovable man.
Definitely something worth having. Something wonderful.