This past Friday night I got to see Queensryche in concert on the Oregon coast and really enjoyed the show, even though they have parted company with their original singer and only played material from their earliest albums, which I wasn’t all that familiar with. But as I sat in the small venue (1,300 people, tops) waiting for the show, and then getting into the music once they started playing, strange thoughts began to surface concerning the odd relationship between being in my mid-fifties and rock music.
When I was a kid, which includes high school and beyond, all that I ever really wanted to be was a rock star. I remember jamming to the radio before the Beatles came out, which was about a thousand years ago. I grew up with the rock of the 60s and 70s, and my love of the music did not die even during the commercial excesses of the 80s and the artistic boredom of the early mid 90s. It seemed that in every decade there were bands that I liked and music that I loved, all of which featured loud guitars, aggressive drum beats and often throat shredding vocals. In the days of my mis-begotten youth I was a frequent concert goer and saw a lot of great bands, but I am forced to confess that Queensryche was my first concert in roughly 20 years (that was Alan Jackson at the San Antonio Sea World, and prior to that it was Christian rocker Darrell Mansfield in late ’87). Not much has changed, really.
That’s not entirely accurate. I have changed, and far more than I had previously realized.
The first thing that struck me was how many of us in the audience Friday night were getting a bit long in the tooth, and I found it rather amusing to see long-haired fifty-somethings pogo-ing along with 80s metal while twenty-something girls danced in the aisles. Someone once said (I don’t remember who, but I suspect that it was some aging rocker or another) that rock ‘n’ roll is ageless, that it is a matter of what’s in your blood and spirit rather than what’s on your birth certificate, and I suppose that’s true; after all, look at all of the bands that are still recording and touring after twenty and thirty years, or worse, a full half-century like the Stones. But over the years I’ve come to see that a lot of that energy behind rock comes from youthful vigor or just plain ego and aggression. Well, my youthful vigor got left behind somewhere and the Lord and I have managed to knock my once monumental ego down quite a few notches.
To tell you the truth, I’m glad that I never did become a rock star. Oh, I could have, of that I am certain – I can sing fairly well (others’ assessment, not mine) when in the mood and I have taught myself guitar and drums to the point where I know that if I really played a lot I’d get pretty good. So it appears that the natural talent would have been there, but where I went wrong (or right) was in putting the cart before the horse: before I actually became a rock star I partied like one. Which right away means that it would have been likely that I would have died young like so many did, or ended up broke on the streets or in a psychiatric hospital somewhere. Sure, the money would have been nice, but there is a lot more to life than having piles of cash, and the same goes for the fame and adulation that goes with being a famous musician. And besides all of this is the fact that I had I actually gone down that road and survived I would not be the person that I am today, which means that I would not have the faith that I do now.
Oh, I still enjoy rockin’ every now and then, but I’ve found that music has greatly diminished in importance in my life. My tastes have also changed quite a bit, and these days you are just as likely to catch me listening to Sarah MacLachlan as you will Metallica. I still pick up the guitar on occasion, but I don’t play a lot because there doesn’t seem to be much point in it; after all, at my age there doesn’t seem to be much possibility of getting into a good band, and I still have just enough rocker pride to not allow myself to get drafted by some outfit playing thirty and forty-year old covers of the famed bands of the past. Besides, these days I’m too busy reading and studying, praying and learning, working closer to the land and listening to the still, small voice to get bogged down in what would assuredly be fruitless enterprises.
Besides, I may still go to a concert now and then. I haven’t seen Marillion yet even though they’ve been at it for thirty years, and who knows, Darrell Mansfield may come through the area. But I do know one thing: you won’t find me doing the pogo or dancing in the aisles.
But I just might have a big smile on my face.