It was all the way back in October when I was getting ready for work and heard on the radio that Mike + the Mechanics were touring America for the first time in 25 years, and Pittsburgh was one of the stops. I freaked the fuck out and texted Henry immediately because I needed to see this.
When I was a kid, my Pappap used to drive me to school (which is probably where my fear of public transportation stems from—I never rode the bus to school!) and he went through a pretty heavy Mike + the Mechanics phase after they released The Living Years. He kept the cassette in his truck and every time the title track would play, he would thrum his fingers along the steering wheel and get real quiet. He told me once that this song made him think of his father, but because I was At That Age, I never actually bothered to ask him questions about their relationship: if it was bad, if there were things he regretted saying or not saying to him, did he miss him. So in a way, this song has always had the same effect on me, as well. And after my Pappap died in 1996, I would sometimes listen to this on purpose, just to make myself even more miserable. Because why not.
I had to go to this show, because I just couldn’t stop thinking that maybe my Pappap would be there. Dumb? Don’t care.
In addition to this, there are the other face-value factors, such as MIKE RUTHERFORD. I loved (and still love) Genesis when I was a kid, and while I got to see Phil Collins, I never had the opportunity to see Genesis. So even though M+M have two new singers who replace Paul Carrack and the deceased Paul Young, being under the same roof as Mike Rutherford was worth it to me. And the other factor is that it’s just a great fucking band with some huge hits that defined my childhood.
Every time I would hear the commercial for the show on the radio, I would tear up. And all last week, I was sick to my stomach with excitement and also anxiety, because I knew it was going to be a rough one, emotionally.
Henry and I had time to stop for dinner beforehand, and because it’s all about me, we went to the Tin Roof, a vegetarian restaurant a few blocks away from the Carnegie Music hall. The food was OK, but I’m so spoiled by Zenith that it takes a lot to impress me when it comes to vegetarian cuisine. I had carrot ginger risotto, which was slightly burnt and served on a roasted portabello mushroom; I feel like Gordon Ramsay would have called the cook a donkey over that one, but I still ate it and it was fine. Henry basically ordered the thing on the menu that had the most cheese because god forbid, No Meat.
I had some wine to calm my nerves. It didn’t work.
Thrilled to be on a date with me!
We arrived shortly before the opener went on, and I was happy to see that Henry got us the same seats we had for Goblin last year. I love balconies! And then we looked on in amusement as more and more people trickled in and Henry realized he was one of the Younger Ones for once. And if that was true, then I was practically infantile by comparison.
I love the vibe at Older People shows. You know I love my scene kid shows, but sometimes it’s nice to experience other things, too! I was about to say that older people are much more respectful and appreciative at concerts, but then I remembered the old hags I was standing behind at Afghan Whigs at Riot Fest, who never shut their fucking Botoxed faces. So we’ll just go ahead and say, “Mostly.”
Daryl Stuermer, also formerly of Genesis, opened the show at 7:30. He played some covers as well as his own solo stuff, but what I liked best was when he would talk in between songs. Especially when he told the story of when his friend urged him to audition for Genesis in 1977, and then Mike Rutherford sent him a cassette of demos.
“You seem like the type of crowd who would be familiar with cassettes,” Daryl joked and I laughed just a tad too hard, because Henry hates that.
Then when Daryl announced he was from Milwaukee, I adopted that weird growling-voice I do sometimes and said in Henry’s ear, “So was Jeffrey Dahmer.” Henry just shrugged me away from him.
My favorite parts of Daryl’s set was when the man in front of me would pump his fist and cry out, “YES!” and then follow-up with a quieter “Yes.” Also, I enjoyed his cover of “Shock the Monkey.”
It was sometime around this point where I fell into my standard, “What if someone starts shooting?” paranoid thoughts, and then I started laughing out loud at how absurd it would be to start a story with, “That one time I got shot at a Mike+the Mechanics show.”
After Daryl peaced out, Henry and I went to the makeshift bar and I got more wine. Henry got beer or something, I guess.
And then it was time.
Everyone went nuts when they came out, and while I do love to see an old folk go apeshit, my heart was beating so rapidly that I didn’t have it in me to mock any of them for Henry. I know he felt sorely remiss. All I kept on thinking was, “OMG THIS IS HAPPENING YOU GUYS!” because “you guys” are always in my thoughts. Whoever the fuck you are.
The new singers? PHENOMENAL. I was so worried they were going to stink up the classics, but nope. Nope, nope, nope. Tim Howar was my favorite of the two: he reminded me of a young Phil Collins, ironically, vocally and appearance-wise. I fucking swear to god he kept looking up and smiling at me too, and not at the old lady in front of me, so don’t get it twisted, lady. Immediately, I was like, “OMG HENRY I HAVE A CRUSH ON HIM” and Henry was like, “He’s wearing a scarf, so…”
So I was OK, smiling and clapping a lot through the first two songs, just generally being happy to be there, when “Silent Running” happened. Earlier that day, I told Glenn, “I am going to cry so hard when they play Silent Running” because I just love that song so much and my god, the childhood memories. However, I was mostly joking. I figured I would probably tear up like I do at most shows, but what happened that night was so much more than “tearing up.” Before I even knew what was happening, tears were straight SQUIRTING out of my eyes, my face involuntarily scrunched up, and my bottom lip was quivering so badly that I was afraid I would never get it to stop.
I had gone from “Yay this is fun” to “UGLYCRY” before the vocals even kicked in. I went from “OMG TIM LOOK AT MEEEEEE!” to “OMG TIM STOP LOOKING OVER HERE, I’M A MONSTER. A WET-FACED MONSTER!!” It was seriously concerning. I mean, I’m crying right now just typing this.
And then Tim performed the Genesis track “I Can’t Dance” and if I closed my eyes, it really felt like Phil Collins was there. It was SO GOOD that I actually stopped crying for a little bit.
This bimbo in front of me was wildin’ out all night and at first I was all about it, but then After the Tears, I was so pissed off and wanted to punch her in the back of the head because I was miserable and EVERYONE AROUND ME NEEDED TO BE MISERABLE TOO. (Seriously though — she was fine. I was just being a crybaby. Literally.)
And they played “Taken In”! That was one of the many highlights I was witnessed through tear-blurred eyes. It had been a really long time since I heard that one.
But then the inevitable happened: They played “The Living Years” and I couldn’t stop it. I tried. So hard. But I began to absolutely sob and I was actually too distressed and absorbed in my own pitiful cocoon of grief to be even a little bit embarrassed about it. My whole face was spasming and soaking wet with tears, so I can only imagine what a lovely sight I was STOP LOOKING, TIM. I mean, I cry pretty much every day because I’m Erin Rachelle Kelly, but I can’t remember the last time I expelled such pent-up sadness. It was a good old-fashioned bereavement.
Every word of that song slammed against my heart like a mallet and I just felt pain. Everywhere. Like arthritis all over my body. I put my face into Henry’s chest and wailed, “This was a mistake.” Almost 20 years and it’s still like this this gaping wound that time just fucking refuses to heal. And though it was painful, it was worth it in the end. Like honoring a part of my childhood, one of the best parts of my childhood. I think my Pappap would have been happy to know I was there.
“Weren’t they incredible?” I sighed to Henry in that weird, on the verge of hiccuping voice you get when you cry like a little bitch for too long. And my Henbot 4000 blip-bleeped that “they were ok.” And then I cried about it some more in the car, because when you open the floodgates….Shows like this really make realize how much I’m carrying with me. “You look really tired,” Janna said when Henry and I came home to relieve her of her Chooch-sitting duties. I guess that’s what an hour-long power-weep will do to you.
Coincidentally, the next day Janna and I were en route to Cleveland, and because road trips are the best times to reminisce, we were talking about the stupid shit that’s happened over the course of our friendship, including the time I almost killed an FBI agent and the time I got pulled over at 3AM for going through a flashing red light in a pretty bad area of Pittsburgh and then your basic traffic violation hilarity ensued (a story for another day).
“We were listening to Mike + the Mechanics that night, you know,” Janna pointed out, and I have no idea why I can’t remember that, other than it was probably when I was going through one of my many mental crises.
It felt like losing my Pappap all over again.