For those of you wondering if I will ever again post about anything other than Kevin Costner, yes, I promise you, I will. Besides, I just posted an album review that has nothing at all to do with the greatest actor in the land.
Last night, as I had initially pondered here and announced here, I attended the Kevin Costner & Modern West show at the House of Blues, accompanied by my handsome friend Matt. It was, I believe, our second man-date, and I for one think it went pretty well.
We met in the lobby, picked up our tickets at will call, and entered the House of Blues venue, when I immediately remembered all the flack veterans of the live music scene give this room. Personally, I take a different tack. I'm a huge outsider/southern art enthusiast, and the House of Blues curators do an especially good job at collecting this stuff. So when I go to a House of Blues show, it feels like I'm hearing a band inside a (big) museum exhibit hall filled with the kind of stuff I like to look at and own.
The main knock on the Cleveland House of Blues venue is two-fold: bad acoustics and obnoxious middle-aged drunks. I'll touch on the latter criticism later, but the first one I think is unfair. There isn't a room in this town that has GREAT acoustics, and as long as you aren't standing in the back near the bar area and behind the sound engineer's booth, the acoustics are just fine, comparable to the Beachland Ballroom and certainly better than the Agora or the Jigsaw (though I don't know why I'm bothering to bring Parma into this).
The acoustics served Mr. Costner well enough on this night, as well. After standing through a pretty matter-of-fact opening set by some forgetable East Coast quasi-country outfit, the stage cleared, a screen descended, and the roadies went to work setting up. Eventually the stage lifted and a man with his head down and Costnerian hair walked out. The crowd went wild, in a conspicuously high-pitched way, to which Matt commented, "Dude, this place is filled with girls. Imagine that." More on that later, too.
Turns out, the dude wasn't Costner at all, but his doppleganger. Or at least his doppleganger plus 20 years. He kind of looked like Costner's dad, or more likely his big brother, as Kevin looks a lot younger than his actual age (54!) would indicate. Eventually the real deal strolled on stage, smiling and waving, and he was dressed IDENTICALLY to the aged doppleganger! Wearing jeans and a button-up dark shirt with sleeves tastefully rolled to approximate what a workin' man would do, he greeted the audience, thanking the ladies for coming and the men for allowing themselves to be dragged along. Again, high-pitched squeals and waving of numerous "I love you, Kevin" signs (including a woman who clearly forgot to make one at home and scrawled the message on a manila envelope). It was then that a realized the truth behind Matt's aforementioned joke: Kevin Costner's target audience is married women.
It never occurred to me before, but now I feel like I'm the only one in America not in on this. Costner certainly was, as he openly acknowledged it and played up to it throughout his performance, with banter and song topics designed to make the ladies melt and apologies for the cartoonish buffoonery of all men, everywhere.
His banter, actually, was pretty good, though he did seem uncomfortable and unnatural behind a guitar and a mic. Matt commented that it seemed like all the banter was pre-planned and taken from screenplays that had been rejected in Hollywood. I agree, but I still looked forward to it between every song.
One of my favorite examples was after the second or third song, when the lights dimmed considerably, and Costner says, "This is how we've always met, these last 20 years." No one got it at first, so he explains, "you know, in the movies." Awkward giggling, and then KC says, "Seriously, thank you for coming to my movies." Later, as he proceeds to introduce a song about men struggling to find a way to fix the situation with their woman after screwing it up, he tells the story of how common it is for a man to find himself in a cheap motel room on the outskirts of town, with a broken ceiling fan in the 105 degree heat, tossing and turning all night.
It was then that I learned a valuable lesson: Kevin Costner is a liar. Seriously, KC - when was the last time you stayed at a motel like that? You rich bastard.
He did, however, give me and all the other men permission not to participate during a sing-a-long. He taught the words to the audience, but then said, "Now ladies, don't go trying to make your men sing. Just cause you brought 'em don't mean they have to sing shit." That is why I love Kevin Costner. Everyone wins.
Another sincerely great moment was when he talked about the sometimes skeptical response he has received to his choice to pursue a musical career, to which he responded that, in essence, in life we have to do what we feel we need to do to make us happy. I've always (pretty much) lived that way, figuring life is for living, so when KC closed with the phrase, "If you want to play, just play," I took it as sage career advice that, even in the depths of this recession, is good to heed.
At this moment, the middle-aged, drunk, live music tourists turned on me. First came chants of "If you play it, we will come!" - a phrase that I'm entirely certain the chanters had no idea could be interpreted multiple ways. These folks are the kind that think "entendre" sounds French and that will tell you, without irony, they prefer their fries with Freedom. And preferably from somewhere in the Warehouse District.
Then it was the drunk middle-aged women who I am certain have no voice today, as they were screeching at one another to be heard over the din of the music they'd paid money to hear, while their husbands stood next to them, grimacing in their button-up shirts and staring at the floor. There was this one women behind me for a while that I wanted to fight, but instead I spied an opening a few people in front, pointed it out to Matt, and we made the move. But now we were surrounded by three women, on the left, right and in front of us, that were just as bad, making the situation at large even worse. I started to look around and realized that the only thing that out-numbered the chattering middle-aged women in the audience were men in Hawaiian shirts. It dawned on me: This is Jimmy Buffet's crowd. And then I wondered, what have I done to get myself in the same audience as these people? Immediately, flashbacks to the B-52s show I hit up at the same venue for all of 25 minutes last year, which I left because of the same middle-aged drunks, excited only to be out on a weeknight. I started to scan the room for the cliches, and didn't have to look far before I could find people talking on the phone (including a stupid girl behind me who kept calling people to tell them that she couldn't talk because she was at a concert, at a CON-CERT), wives showing off their just-bought $45 tour t-shirts, and dudes two-fisting Miller Lites. These folks make the worst kinds of crowds. Say what you want about the hipsters that come out for Pitchfork-hyped scene bands, at least they tend to listen. I'd put the middle-aged drunk female crowd just ahead of the slick-haired rockabilly dudes and the guys who like to go to Hold Steady and Black Lips shows and throw beer at the band as my least favorite people to be in a venue with. And that's really saying something.
The show was a fun experience to see an actor I've long stood up for against mean critics and film snobs (though I admit I often, if not usually, can be classified in both categories), but more than that it gave me an opportunity to think through my position on the House of Blues venue. The House of Blues doesn't often book bands I want to see, but when they do I'm usually willing to go. And now I have a philosophy: Go see shows there when you are willing to make a night of it, financially speaking. From now on, if I'm gonna see a show there, I'll go have dinner at the House of Blues first, which is smart on two grounds: (1) I dig their new-southern cuisine and (2) if you tell your server you are going to the show, they'll let you in a back entrance that gets access to the venue before anyone else. This means no standing at the back of the venue, which is where the worse middle-aged drunk talkers take up residence. The other part of my philosophy is that from now on I'll think through the likely crowd, and if it seems like a show where Buffet-type live music tourists will show up en masse, I'll bow out.