How often does reality live up to – even surpass – expectations?
A silly question I guess. I usually don’t know enough about what I’m getting into to have a set concept of what to expect. Okay, playing in Cleveland on a Tuesday night in mid-February…things like that I have a fairly good idea what I’m in for. But in general, I try to keep an open mind and aim low.
So I set off for a Sunday afternoon of music at Tanglewood with only a vague image in my head of ladies in crisp cotton dresses and men in shirts and ties tucking into elaborate picnic hampers on a lawn with Leonard Bernstein conducting an orchestra, crossed with a monster truck rally: see I’ve been around enough to know people are going to wear exposed flesh, cargo shorts and sports sandals in public, even at tony Tanglewood. It’s in Massachusetts after all.
Our friends Danette and Frank had invited Eric and I to the last day of the season at this fabled outdoor venue in the Berkshire mountains, just a short hour from where we live – on clear days we can actually see the Berkshires from our mountains. When Frank said the Boston Pops were playing, it sounded like a classic. Danette threw together a lovely picnic, we brought along cheese and smoked salmon and the ragged lawn chairs we’d dug out of a dump in France, and I treated myself to a Sunday copy of the New York Times, hoping to fit in.
God it was a perfect day – warm, sunny with a slight breeze that made it clear summer was officially over in two days and barely hinted at cold and dark months ahead.
And the setting was out of a Maxfield Parrish illustration: a lush lawn ringed with graceful old trees facing a discreet but enormous shed housing an orchestra dressed in white, tuning up as people found picnic spots in the shade and unpacked wine goblets and Thai takeout. When the music started, selections from the American songbook, I was awed at how in tune they all sounded. Not just in tune but magnificently in sync. Now of course I don’t go along with the introduction “folks, today we’re going to hear music from the days when songs were still songs, and melodies were something you could sing – ” face it, the old-timers who believe that are barely older than we are now. There are good songs written all the time – it isn’t over, ever. But the music of Gershwin and Bernstein, Lerner and Loewe and Irving Berlin stirs some other part of the soul that doesn’t get out much.
And there were Broadway stars, I hadn’t counted on that! Michael Feinstein who I love, and Betty Buckley who made Danette and I squeal because she’s just that kind of Broadway dame, and the effervescent Christine Ebersole (see just being around this kind of stuff turns me into Eugene Levy in a Christopher Guest movie). I was sure they’d break with the program to do something to honor Hal David, one of the great songwriters of all time who’d died the day before.
But I never expected to hear these magic words: “Now I’d like to bring out a friend who just happens to be around this afternoon – her father knew a thing about musicals, her mother wrote the book on being a star…ladies and gentlemen, Miss Liza Minelli!”
As one, the female portion of the audience over forty rose from the lawn and started heading towards the shed. Gasping for air, I grabbed Eric’s hand and pulled him with me to join the Pilates and yoga-toned hordes who were vaulting the ring of wooden benches separating lawn from shed seating. Septugenarians strong-armed ushers who stood in the way of getting a glimpse of the tiny figure in black way down on the stage. The audience just couldn’t stop cheering. As Liza settled in with her mic and the orchestra started the intro to – you got it, New York, New York – I knew I had gone to a heavenly place, where my mother and I used to sit together in front of the TV in awe of that face and those big brown eyes and that trembling smile – yes I could see it and feel it all even though she was no bigger than a postage stamp from where Eric and I had found some seats and…Eric? He was caught up in the moment at the same time he was looking at me a little funny, probably wondering who the hell he was married to as I’d suddenly become this quivering heap of near-hysteria.
And as that song you thought you could happily live the rest of your life without hearing again, but who ever thought you’d hear it like this, without expecting to or meaning to, slammed to a close, the crowd went nuts one more time, faces beaming, blessed and exalted. The woman next to us turned to her friend and said “Now I can die.”
That was it then – we went back to our chairs to find Frank and Danette, and enjoyed a sublime rest of the afternoon. And now am I going to sully this post by plugging something, again, telling you Eric and I are playing on Friday in: New York, New York – the first show of our new album and tour, one year to the day from arriving here in America, on the brink of that big moment, that new start, when I think (but never expect – no expectations) maybe this time?
You bet I am. If I needed any extra energy, that push – I got the juice, the go-ahead from Liza.
Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby US Tour
Fri 9/7 New York, NY Bowery Electric
Sat 9/8 Hastings, NY Take Me To The River festival
Thu 9/13 Asbury Park, NJ The Saint
Fri 9/14 Phila, PA Tin Angel
Sat 9/15 Boston, MA Johnny D’s
Tue 9/18 Washington DC Black Cat
Wed 9/19 Raleigh, NC Berkeley Cafe
Thu 9/20 Columbia, SC Conundrum
Sun 9/23 Richmond, VA tbc
Sat 9/29 Peace Dale, RI house concert
Tue 10/2 Indianapolis, IN Do317 Lounge
Tue 10/9 San Francisco Hemlock Tavern
Thu 10/11 Seattle, WA Funhouse
Sat 10/13 Portland, OR Mississipp Studio
Tue 10/16 San Diego, CA Soda Bar
Sat 10/20 San Luis Obispo Vines On The Marycrest
Sun 10/21 Los Angeles CA tbc
Thu 10/25 Dallas, TX Allgood Cafe
Fri 10/26 Austin, TX tbc
Sun 10/28 Memphis, TN tbc
Tue 10/30 Chicago, IL tbc
Fri 11/2 Rochester, NY house concert
Sat 11/3 Ithaca, NY The Nines