I saw a Rodriguez concert at the Hammersmith Apollo last night. I was at the front of the Circle and, looking down on the Stalls it was, at some points during the show, as if people were holding masses of candles aloft. But they were not.
The lights were the screens of phones and cameras.
Occasionally, up in the Circle, Apollo staff would ask individuals to stop videoing the songs, but it was a forlorn and rather out-dated task.
Around ten years ago, I told a comedian he should not allow his act to be videoed by people in the audience because it would affect sales of any videos he himself might release. But that was in another world, before the widespread use of still cameras which shoot videos and mobile phones which shoot photos and videos.
You cannot change technology; you have to change WITH technology.
Especially with an act like Rodriguez, where it is less a music concert and – for people who have seen the documentary Searching For Sugar Man – more a life-enhancing experience like seeing Jesus alive on stage in Galilee.
Another show had been added at the last minute because this one had totally sold out. Occasionally, last night, people in the depth of the full house would shout out the single word “Rodriguez!” and occasionally “We love you!” The instrumental introductions to his most familiar songs were greeted with an eruption of clapping and whoops and semi-screams worthy of a teen rock band but, when he started singing, the Apollo fell silent.
With Rodriguez, the music is almost irrelevant. People come just to see him standing there, alive on stage: an inspirational vision of what life can be.
Afterwards, I got a Piccadilly Line tube train back to King’s Cross station.
At the other side of the carriage, two dark-haired girls in their 20s were in an intense conversation. They were talking about their jobs but I think I am becoming a pervert or perhaps it is all that talk in the Guardian and on TV in the last couple of days about GCHQ using the NSA’s Prism surveillance material.
I turned on my iPhone recorder.
I am getting too obsessed by this blog. I need psychological counselling.
“I wanted a ginger Scottish guy,” one of the girls was saying, “but I got second best. I got an Irish guy.”
I could not quite hear every word she was saying, because it was a crowded late-Saturday-night train with standing room only. But her luck must have changed with Scotsmen because, a few seconds later, I heard:
“I just loved his Scottish accent, but I didn’t understand any of what he was saying. Then I met this guy who was small. He said: Don’t get excited. I’m only Welsh. I don’t want to date anyone younger than me. I’m a young soul; I like rock n roll. If I was going to be interested then, maybe like 25-30. Maybe.”
By this time, the tube train had stopped in the tunnel and everyone around me was talking. When I listened to the iPhone recording this morning, the girl’s thoughts were a collection of random words beneath the hubbub of multiple carriage conversations, but these are the words I could hear – exactly quoted:
“American comedians… The girl I met when I was in Borneo… They’ve bought a house together and she’s had a baby together… massive… We were Skyping loads… loads of drugs from Uni, though…”
At this point, the train’s loudspeaker broke in:
“Apologies for the delay. This is the driver speaking. We have got on the track some type of a smouldering and smoking going on. There are staff on the track. We’re trying to extinguish those smoking and hopefully we should be on the move in a few more minutes. Thankyou very much for your patience.”
“Smouldering on the track?” the girl on the other side of the carriage said, half-laughing, looking across at me. “Might be a little bit on fire.”
“Did I misunderstand that?” a man asked. “Were the staff smouldering on the track?”
The girls continued talking:
“Was it different from your last job, then?… We had a big row in Barcelona… You know what I mean? He’s got a studio in Hackney…”
If I were to be pompous which, of course, I would never dream of being, I would say last night was like life in general.
Intersecting briefly with half-glimpsed sections of other people’s lives.