I have two stories, both of them intertwined. Warren Zevon passed away yesterday. What a truly sad day for music. Zevon was one of rock’s most original personalities and as clever a lyricist as there ever was. Like many others, I discovered Zevon at some point, I would guess sixth or seventh grade, through one song – “Werewolves Of London,” which was clearly his biggest hit. Many people only know him for that one, which is fine, but those people are doing themselves a tremendous dis-service by not seeking out his string of albums from the late 1970s, which measure up with any solo artist of that time. “Lawyers, Guns and Money” and “Excitable Boy” were hits, though not as widespread as “Werewolves….” and songs like “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” really showcased his bizarre and clever wit. Anyway, Zevon had well-documented problems with alcohol, which derailed a lot of his work in the ’80s and he was a heavy smoker, which probably contributed to his death from lung cancer, but he had enjoyed a bit of a renaissance with his last two albums and gained a lot of press for his fight with cancer, which lasted about a year. Specifically, a very emotionally-crushing VH1 special which aired a few weeks ago that documented the making of his last album, The Wind, which he made after given the diagnosis and knowing he didn’t have long. My bet is that VH1 will run it again now that’s he’s passed away – do yourself and favor and take the 40 minutes to watch it. Zevon was not a pioneer by any stretch, nor was he some magical, musical tour-de-force – the guy was just good, solid, clever entertainment and this morning the music business is just a little less interesting. Rest in peace…..
“Dry your eyes, my little friend
Let me take you by the hand
Freddie get ready
When Johnny strikes up the band”
In retrospect, the irony was not lost on me that on the day Warren Zevon passed away, I found myself on the hallowed grounds on Fenway Park, in the 7th row to see one of Warren Zevon’s good friends, Bruce Springsteen. I really hadn’t known for sure I was going to be attending this show until Saturday afternoon, although I did have a decent notion I’d make it in. I probably will have a difficult time putting into words what last night meant to me. Aside from being an absolutely perfect night to sit outside, there were so many other great things happening. First and foremost was being able to walk around on the field at Fenway Park, a place where so many of us have dreamed we’d stand in a Red Sox uniform someday. The 11 year old wide-eyed boy came out in me when I stood at third-base (they left the infield intact for the show, but fenced), imagining myself running home to score a run or diving for a screaming line-drive down the third-base line. To stand there and just look around this beautiful park from the player’s perspective was a truly moving experience for me. That sweet combination of perfectly trimmed grass, the “Fenway” green facades and the perfectly blue/pink twilight sky was just such an incredible experience. We stood on the warning track in right center field and ate a hot dog and drank a beer. We walked down both foul lines in the outfield. We stood right at the base of Green Monster in left field. Other than being able to run the bases, we took in every last part of the field that was available to us and it was just a dream come true – and the show hadn’t even started yet!
Oh, the show. Yeah. Well, suffice it to say that 7th row for a Bruce Springsteen concert isn’t the same thing as 7th row at a niteclub, ok? Nonetheless, Bruce Springsteen puts just about every other traveling rock show to utter, pitiful shame. Now in his ’50s and sporting a few sprouting gray hairs, the guy puts out more energy, more showmanship and more personality than any band I’ve seen, and I’ve seen lots. And yes, he did literally hang upside down on the microphone stand. Sure, some of Springsteen’s recent songs are hit and miss (oh, the pun…), but the guy knows what he’s doing – he knows what people are there to see, and he delivers. So when they launched into what I consider to be the highlights, stunning renditions of “Spirit in the Night,” “Jungleland,” and “Because the Night” it gave me actual, real, chills of which I’ve only experienced maybe three times in my life while seeing music. Springsteen played for 3 hours and 10 minutes with no intermissions. He jumped. He ran. He slid across stage, he danced, he spun, he even howled at the moon. It was my second time seeing him, and he was just as entertaining this time around as he was ten years ago.
Finally, during the show, I just couldn’t help twirling around, doing a 360 to continuously take it all in. Our seats were – no joke – 100 feet or so from the Green Monster. So to be sitting there, getting the chills when Springsteen belts out “Adam Raised A Cain” look to your left and see the Green Monster, look to your right and see a sea of people at one of your favorite places in the world, look up and see a beautiful, clear sky and an almost-full moon and then that gentle, perfect September breeze hits you – you realize just how great it is to be alive to experience such magnificence and to be just hanging out with your friends and enjoying the hell out of something – Warren Zevon’s enjoyed the hell out of his life and his friend made ours pretty blissful last night.
Song now playing: Wilco – “How To Fight Loneliness”