I went to a gig on Saturday night. Nothing unusual in that. What was unusual was that I had a powerful, visceral object lesson. More on that later.
In the last 44 years, I’ve been to about 500 gigs. I’ve seen all my favourite bands at least once and all of those have been super special occasions. I’ve seen The Cure dozens of times, Mogwai, The Sex Pistols, Nirvana, Sonic Youth, The Fall, Motorhead, Interpol, The Jam, The Clash, AC/DC, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Massive Attack, Foo Fighters, you get the idea. The list goes on and on… and on.
But something happened on Saturday night that I haven’t experienced since I saw my absolute favourite band for the first time, back in 1979. That was Joy Division at the Hemel Hempstead Pavilion by the way. What a privilege.
What happened back then, inspired by the still mourned genius that was Ian Curtis, transcended music, culture, fandom, bragging rights, status or anything else you might expect. It happened again on Saturday night and it happened because of the band, the absolutely brilliant The Twilight Sad and their front man, the equally brilliant James Graham.
Let me try to explain. The Twilight Sad have been through it all as a band. They remained true to what they believed in and what they believed needed to be said. But they couldn’t break through. It nearly broke them, they nearly quit.
Then they had a beacon of light in the presence of another one of my music heroes, Robert Smith of The Cure. He gave them advice and a support role on The Cure’s 2015/16 world tour. They recovered, worked incredibly hard and never gave up the raw, honest, heartfelt, passionate, almost desperate, almost too much, edge that they had had from the beginning. They built a small but loyal fan base and critical acclaim, but in May 2018, their closest friend and much loved songwriter and singer with Frightened Rabbit, Scott Hutchinson, died. It was devastating but they managed to record and release a new album in early 2019. It’s called ‘It won/t be like this all the time’.
The band have been touring ever since and the pain, the need to carry on, that passion, that fragility and their sheer brilliance led to something that’s been building all year, growing with every gig and with every massive social media and critical reaction to those gigs. You could sense it and on Saturday night it happened.
They were on stage for only a few minutes before James Grahams presence collided with an audience who were willing them on because they loved them, genuinely adored them, because of who they are, what they stand for and what they have been through. The affect was profound and immediate on both the audience and the band.
James Graham realised, in that moment, that it had all been worth it, that they had broken through and that they were adored because of their honesty, determination and passion. There was a huge emotional release. He broke down. The band stopped playing. The crowd literally became silent.
Through the efforts to try and recover himself, he stood at the front of the stage and simply, quietly, said…
“If you fucking love what you do, never, ever, give up”. Then he said thank you to everyone for their support.
The rest of the gig was extraordinary. The atmosphere was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. The bond between band and audience was so close that we all seemed to meld together, just like at the Joy Division gig 40 years ago.
We’ve all been through massive ups and downs in life. In my past, I have been so down, so confused, so convinced that I was a failure that I couldn’t see any point in anything. But then, at the lowest point, I remembered everyone who had helped me, been there for me, believed in me; and I resolved to try again and never give up. That was some years ago, but Saturday night brought it all back again – but, this time, in a very positive, life affirming way.
So the point of this post is simply to say, be passionate, be fragile (it’s ok), say what you think needs to be said but say it for the right reasons, remember that you are probably more respected, valued, loved even, than you know, and, most of all, find something that you fucking love and then never, ever, give up.