Please Check that Blackberry at the Door

posted by Tom Moon on August 02, 2008 at 4:05 am
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After years of going to concerts, I thought I'd arrived at a place of grudging acceptance of the smartphone. I'd look out and see those glowing rectangular screens in the rows ahead, and watch their owners engaged in the thumb-volleying of information, and try to rationalize: A cardiologist making a diagnosis. A parent trying to calm her child. Sometimes there are good reasons for the world to intrude.

This was the summer I hit the wall. It was probably nine or ten songs into My Morning Jacket's show at Radio City Music Hall in June. The deco palace was sold out, the crowd pumped, and the band attacked everything with the determination of a warrior tribe. After nailing a few new tunes, lead singer Jim James paused to speak about what it meant to him to be on that stage. This was not "Hello Cleveland!" He was moved and maybe even a little bit astounded to be there, and as he talked about the spirits he sensed backstage, his heart was in his words. A certain part of the audience missed this completely - all around me, people were busy beaming urgent-newsflash setlist updates back to the home office. Actually I don't know what they were doing. Don't care. All I know is that most of us in the room were completely transported by the experience of this band in this place at this moment. And some were not having that experience. Hope they got their texting money's worth.

Same thing at other shows. And then, most dismayingly, at Giants Stadium in late July, with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Now Bruce is about as High Church as rock and roll gets - twenty years from now, those of us who were lucky enough will be telling our grandkids about the outright thrill of seeing this band live, its balance of rock and roll muscle and righteous conviction. As Springsteen and his musicians grind out their magic every night, they transform a mass of thousands of strangers into a unified collective. Everybody on stage believes, and that energy surges right through the crowd until everybody within earshot believes. It's an incredibly galvanizing ride, the kind that can renew your faith in the power of music. But like the man said, the ride ain't free: You have to be willing to surrender to the moment. Can't do that while thumbtyping.

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#1 from jc - 08/07/2008 5:32

At a Springsteen show? Who could do such a thing? I once tapped out a message when Dylan was having a bad night, but Bruce… He’s always on and completely engaging.

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