We started the evening off by dropping the two boys off at the Grammie's for the night. This is only the second time they've slept away from us, but I wasn't feeling nervous about it. They always have fun with Grammie. If I was nervous about anything, it was that Maestro walks in his sleep, and in an unfamiliar house with a staircase right next to the bathroom, I was a little concerned. But, he did not get up and was fine.
We were later then we anticipated dropping the kids off, so we had only about an hour or so for dinner before we needed to get to the Verizon to pick up our tickets. We tried a place recommended by my in-laws, but it was "at least an hour wait" when we finally got through the line to the hostess. Ah well, we walked Elm St and everything looked packed, we were in for a tough time finding something to eat in the time we had left. We ended up at Penuche's because, unless we wanted a sub, we weren't getting anything else. First we sat down in the restaurant area, which was so hot we asked to move outside. We should have just kept walking when we went out the door. Our server was friendly, but the food took forever to come out and when it did, it was HORRIBLE. Literally the worst meal I've ever had. We actually complained to the server, which we never do, who said she'd have the manager come out. Then 15 minutes later informed us that he wouldn't come out but wanted to give us dessert on the house. Ummm...there was NO chance that we were going to eat anything else prepared by that chef, so we said, "Thank you, but no". She came back and told us that he would give us the cheaper of the meals for free. Honestly, if we'd have had any other choice we would not have even eaten any of it, but I had skipped lunch that day and we were hungry and on a time crunch. So we said fine, paid the bill and left. We were both in utter shock that the manager would not come out to speak to us, they had very few patrons there (wonder why?). Horrible customer service, not the server's fault and we tipped her well for trying to help us, but honestly after many years of working in customer service, I was in awe. It was so bad that we laughed about it in the end, what else could we do?
After a short walk to the stadium, we saw lots of people on their way as well. While Music Man stood in line to pick up tickets, I people watched. I noticed such a large variety of people, young, old, middle aged, dressed fancy, tie dyed tee shirts, sandals with socks...the crowd ran the gamut. And it occurred to me then that James and his music really appeal to so many different types of folks. That would be the true artist in him, I think. It was steamy hot and we were looking forward to getting inside for some air conditioning after a hot meal on the street table.
When we made our way into the building, we had to show our ticket to the person at the door, then again to the person helping to seat people on the floor. She took one look at the ticket and said "AA! You're right up front, nice seats! " . I responded with a disbelieving "I know, right?". We made our way through everyone and found our seats. We were on the right side of the stage with a side view of James and a great view of most of the band (a highlight for Music Man, being the musician in the family). We chatted with a nice couple that sat next to us for a bit and discovered that they did not pay for their seats at all, the man worked for the company that did the sound equipment. Nice gig if you can get it, front row seats to any show? Sounds like Music Man's kind of job!
I was feeling full of anticipation and even a little nervous. Finally, seeing James in person was a great moment for me. He strolled out on to the stage to rousing applause and a standing ovation. I felt myself tear up for what was not the last time that evening. He began to play and sing and I couldn't take my eyes off him. Music Man would point out this or that about the band and back up singers, and I could mostly only focus on him at first. I was very excited to see that he had two of the singers from the Squibnocket band singing with him. I definitely felt the loss of Arnold McCuller during a few of the songs, his voice is so amazing in its own right and I missed his full bodied, smoky voice singing back up for James. But the other singers he had were also wonderful and I enjoyed watching them.
There were a few songs I was really hoping to hear. My very favorite is "Something in the way she moves", which he did not play but played several of my other favs. When he got to "Sun on the Moon" which I always call Ducks in a row...well, I had to belt it out right along with the background singers. Such a fun song to sing back up on, such a range of notes used by the back up singers on that one. I feel real joy when I sing that song, it's more the music and backup singers then the lyrics, but it never fails to lift me if I need it. One of those forms of prayer I talked about before, my way to be connected to the talent that is undoubtedly God given to James and the others. I'm not sure if this explanation makes sense, not even sure I can put it into words. It's deeper then words to me, a feeling I'm not sure I can adequately describe. But when that song was finished, I had a HUGE smile on my face and felt lighter in spirit then I had in a very long time. I was singing WITH them, not just along with the radio, dvd, whatever, but I was in their presence singing with them. Our voices combined (along with many others, I might add!) to raise the roof. Really, very cool indeed.
Music Man's favorite song is Sweet Baby James. He used to sing this to both boys when they were babies. Now, that's significant on a few levels because though he is a musician, he rarely sings loud enough for anyone to hear. So, when he would sing to the boys without self consciousness, I would hear him and know that he was connecting on his own spiritual level to them in their distress in whatever way he could. He used to also play his guitar next to them quietly so they would hear that from so young. His gift to them, and himself, it was very touching. So, I was thrilled that James chose to perform that song, mostly because I knew Music Man would be excited by that as well. And yes, he did sing along with James himself.
When he started Secret O' Life, I sang along for a bit, but then the emotion of what that song has meant to me for so long took over and I felt the tears roll down my cheeks. No stopping them even if I wanted to. I honestly had some flashbacks of the times during the boys infancy that I would sing that over and over to the them..."cause everyone knows that love is the only road"....that line was one I would repeat to myself in moments that I felt overwhelmed and wanted to remind myself to let the love be forefront to the troubles.
James asked people to come up to the stage during the end of the show and we went and I stood right in front of him and sang along. I really enjoyed that until the crowd rushed too much, I was jostled and shoved too many times and I went back to my seat. The folks that wanted his autograph were vying for position and I was not about to deal with that. I had an incident at at concert where I was almost squished against a stage in my early 20's and since then, I have a fear of people I don't know touching me. That was too much for me, so I left Music Man at the stage and went back to our seats, crowds don't bother him, and I was hoping for us to get an autograph if possible. He didn't get the autograph, but did enjoy the few extra minutes to get close to the band and James.
We slowly made our way out and before we left, I stopped and turned and just watch James for a moment, nicely signing autographs for his fans. I was so thankful that he had made those seats be available for his fans rather then the highest bidder. I said thank you to him, even though he wasn't able to hear me and hoped that putting it out there in the universe would come to him in some way. I felt peaceful and happy when I left there, thankful for a wonderful night out with my husband, we don't get many. And thankful for being able to appreciate the luck for tickets in the front row, and for taking the plunge after all these years and deciding to spend the money on the tickets and having it work out like that. Coincidence? I think not.
We decided to stop at the Red Arrow Diner for dessert after the show. We enjoyed a sweet ending to the night with Music Man getting the biggest eclair I've ever seen and me having chocolate cream pie, quite delicious! We enjoyed the surly waitress, the fun atmosphere and it was a great ending to a great evening. Riding home we stopped to watch the moon on Lake Massebesic, in no rush to end the time together. When we got home before crawling into bed, I took that Squibnocket dvd down off the shelf where it has sat since last July and we fell asleep to James in his barn and the lovely Vineyard scenery.
Thank you, James, for many things. I wish for you to have someone you can treasure on your journey as we've treasured you...Rock a bye old Sweet Baby James....