April 8, 2012 – Once upon a time, the ultimate concert experience involved visiting a large arena or stadium, paying a hefty fee to park, pushing your way through crowds of young people either drunk or stoned or both, and waiting at least an hour after the performance to move your car from the parking lot.
Back then, this was fun. When you’re a teenager, most things are.
This formula still applies for many of today’s top acts, but I’m usually not in attendance. The same acts I shared this experience with back in the day are the same I can buy tickets for today to see at my local theater that seats about 1,200 people, offers convenient and free parking and relatively no hassle. Some things do improve with age.
On Saturday night while thousands were at the Wachovia Center seeing Fleetwood Mac, we went old school at the Keswick Theater, a little gem with incredible sound quality in Glenside, Pa. that is about 15 minutes from home. Headlining that night, Dave Mason and Al Stewart in an evening filled with solo acoustic selections from their music libraries. I’ve seen both before on separate occasions at the Spectrum and Tower Theaters in Philadelphia in the late 1970s, but the Keswick offered an intimate venue, which complemented their acoustic performances brilliantly.
Before I left for the concert, a Google search informed me that both men are still recording new music – and why wouldn’t they – but the news offered slight cause for alarm. I wouldn’t mind hearing a few new songs by these talented singer/songwriters, but I bought the tickets hoping to hear the songs that provided the soundtrack to my younger, crazier, carefree days.
At 66 and 67, Mason and Stewart can still rock the house down, even unplugged. I had read an interview with Stewart recently that said he enjoyed performing as a solo artist, that it was in front of a band he usually felt uncomfortable. Though often jazz infused, I believed his music would translate nicely to an acoustic style. It was Mason, who always performed with a rock band, whether Traffic, Blind Faith or his own, I worried about. The Hall of Famer handled his set well and captivated the audience with his amazing voice and guitar. He also had a gifted guitar player with him, Jonathan McEuen, son of John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, who I’m sure we’ll all be hearing more from soon.
Individually, they shared classic hits such as “Only You Know and I Know” and “We Just Disagree” (Mason) and “Year of the Cat” and “On the Border” (Stewart). The high point of the night, Mason’s “All Along the Watchtower” and Stewart’s “Roads to Moscow”, which made me feel like I was 17 again, cruising around with my high school boyfriend blasting mixed tapes on his father’s car stereo.
Thanks to two men in their sixties, my trip to the seventies was short-lived, but well worth it. And that’s OK. As the saying goes, it was a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there … again.