Natalie Merchant ate my blog post.
Okay, okay. Not really. But kind of. See, this is what happened: I’d planned on being a good little blogger, and had resigned myself to a Saturday night spent with my editorial calendar. I imaged there might be wine, and Gilmore Girls looping on Netflix, just for added fun. I aimed big: not only that I’d not only get Saturday’s post done, but that I’d get posts planned out for the entire week.
But then the universe surprised me. Enter a ridiculously generous friend of a friend who just happened to have an extra ticket to Natalie’s show with the Kansas City Symphony. And, since Nicholas could hang with a friend but I had no such luck pawning Erin in a similar fashion, I achieved the almost impossible task of securing the very last ticket so that I could take my girl with me. How do I know it was the last ticket? Because, before I knew the extra ticket was mine, I pulled up the website to see how much tickets were, and the site told me that the show was sold out. I tried again later—because I’m nothing if not persistent—and it told me I could order one ticket, but not two.
Best part, though? The gifted ticket was in the fifth row. Seat 130, to be exact. And the ticket I purchased for my girl to join me? Sixth row, ticket 135. Serendipity, I tell you.
Of course, Erin didn’t know who Natalie Merchant is. And she zoned out when I tried to tell her about being in love with Natalie’s voice and 10,000 Maniacs music when I was in college. But I had a feeling that she’d love the orchestra behind the woman, and I was right; she was mesmerized by the violins and the brass. She loved the lights, she said, and the architecture of the Kauffman.
“We should come back,” she said. “Like, all the time. You know, just for girl time.”
I was mesmerized, too, but not with the lights. It was Natalie’s voice; a shiver ran through my spine with the first chord of the first song, and I sat spellbound by this woman that I’d so long admired but had never heard live. As I sat there, enthralled not only with how she sang but with how she moved—her hands and wrists dancing perfectly with the music as it played—I thought about how much I admire her for being on that stage.
Not solely for being on stage, but for being herself on stage. I can’t imagine what it’s like to age in the entertainment business. When 10,000 Maniacs toured with REM—their heyday, to be sure—Natalie was, what, 25 years younger? She was pre-marriage and pre-baby. Glossy, ebony hair cut short and sassy.
Her hair now is long and completely gray. And she was gorgeous, dancing and swirling just like I remember seeing her do all those years ago on MTV; her eyes closed, hips swirling, arms spiraling and twirling as she moved from one song to another.
She was soulful and brilliant. Sassy—when someone yelled “sing Wonder!” she responded with “I didn’t see the suggestion box…” even though she eventually did sing Wonder. And Carnival. And many of her other hits, and it was, indeed, wonder-full.
I’m more than a little sad to admit that I lost track of Natalie’s work these past few years. I’m so glad I’ve corrected that because her new stuff—Ladybird and Giving Up Everything—speaks to me now just as her earlier stuff spoke to me then. It’s such a special gift, this woman and her talent, and that she continues to share her voice with those of us lucky enough to witness it.
Today I wondered what Erin must have thought of the show; she said she loved it, though she doesn’t have the frame of reference that I do. What I love is that she saw a show without pyrotechnics and unbearable bass. She heard Natalie’s voice with only the strain of violins and the pluck of the cello behind her. She saw a mature woman standing on stage, exposed in sheer talent instead of naked by what she didn’t wear, who moved with the music but didn’t make one obscene gesture or take a selfie or stick her tongue out.
Last night my girl saw beauty and grace, right from the sixth row. That was worth breaking my NaBloPoMo streak.
I’m participating in NaBloPoMo, and posting every day in November.