I went to see Natalie Merchant in Midtown Manhattan this week. For me, the show was the pinnacle of an interesting tour. I should explain. In 2000 I was the rabid fan, wanting to see as many shows as possible, wanting a seat as close as possible. Denver, Newport, Boston, Providence, Portland, New York City, Albany, Wilkes-Barre. It didn’t matter. I wanted to be there. Up front and in
your her face.
2003-2004 was more of the same. Negotiating seats, navigating miles. Show after show. It got to the point where I could predict the set list, the clothing, the comments. I started to recognize faces, fans with the same obsessed agenda.
Then Natalie took time off from touring. There was rumor of retiring. I half wished it were true.
Finally after a seven year absence Leave Your Sleep was brought to light. Then there was talk of a tour. Suddenly, the questions started again. What? When? Where? No question of Why. We would go. Of course we would. I could feel that old pull of HaveToBeThere attitude creeping back in. Would I be missing out if I skipped out? I didn’t want to find out. Instead I offered myself gifts. The reality is you can’t have Christmas everyday. That would diminish the experience, would it? I decided on one show at a time. One show with a stripped down, acoustic band; followed by one show with a bigger, louder, more complex band; then one show with a full, booming, glorious symphony; and finally, finally, one show that was mostly conversation. A taste of all the different ways Leave Your Sleep could be presented and heard.
While I could have added more shows to the list this (new) way of seeing Natalie seemed, well, more respectful to her and myself.
And speaking of respect – this last “show.” The TimesTalk show was amazing. It was as if we were voyeurs in Natalie’s living room; talking about her career from start to finish. When she and Gabriel Gordon performed Nursery Rhyme of Innocence and Experience, The Sleeping Giant, Man in the Wilderness and Spring and Fall: to a Young Child it was if she sang only for the love of the musical poetry and nothing else. Nobody else. When she said she hated the Q & A portion of the show I squirmed for her and refrained from adding a stupid question of my own. When she looked like she detested the signing of cds I didn’t try to hold her attention or ask for anything else. No personalization. No probing comments. Just thank you. Thank you for sharing a part of yourself. As much as you hated to do it.