Chris Whitley at The Knitting Factory.
Mr. Whitley is no stranger to knocking at the door of major label success, or the bittersweet battle that every artist has to fight when courting the larger audience that comes with radio airplay and having a video in rotation on MTV. Seeing Whitley in a smaller venue far away from his recent festival appearances was a welcome opportunity for this fan. I can’t recall what song Mr. Whitley opened the show with, because the dull pain in my groin was finally accompanied by a new symptom that had me convinced what I thought might be a minor lifting or stretching injury may in fact be a serious problem with my blood circulation. You guessed it: a narrowing field of vision has augmented my concern about the groin situation. I believe the first song of the evening was “Narcotic Prayer,” from the Din of Ecstasy record that first brought Whitley to the attention of the major labels in the mid-nineties. And just hearing the word “narcotic” made me ponder what the prescriptions alone would cost me if, in fact, there was something keeping my heart from moving blood through my muscle tissue. A great show from Chris Whitley, as far as I can recall. Memory’s kind of going these days, what with the week-long migraines and the periodic blackouts.
Medeski, Martin, and Wood at Bowery Ballroom.
Oh, God. To begin with, I’ll tell you that it’s not even fair of me to try and review this concern, let alone recall some of the salient details of the performance. Why have I been forgetting everything but my first name as of late? I took a quick look at the jacket copy of David Shenk’s book about Alzheimer’s in a bookstore earlier this week and have been in a fit ever since. Did you know that something like ninety-nine percent of Americans will be affected by Alzheimer’s? Anyway, I barely remember staring at Medeski, Martin, and Wood in the Bowery Ballroom because I was so busy trying to figure out why I was there, who was in the band, and whether or not I would find my way home later that evening. At one point I was convinced I was at a birthday party that friends were throwing for me, never mind that my birthday isn’t for eight months. If I do, in fact, have Alzheimer’s I won’t be able to afford a fraction of the home-care needed to cope. Real great idea, quitting my advertising job to write full-time.
Cake at Roseland.
Well, there I am standing in the middle of a crowd of Cake fans crammed in front of the stage at Roseland; my groin pain has remained constant and dull when I focus on it, and seems to disappear only long enough for me to make my way to the bar after the band’s third song of the evening. Of course, when I get to the bar I forget why I went to the bar (Alzheimer’s) and I feel my chest tighten when I start thinking that the narrowing field of vision may mean I will need help out of the building at the end of the concert. The lead singer starts a song from the new album. If I got insurance and then went to the doctor, and these conditions were, in fact, real… would they somehow be able to tell that the conditions didn’t develop until after my COBRA benefits expired from my last job? What is he singing in the chorus? Something about a van and a hostel? Suppose I do find some affordable insurance, and they don’t consider whatever might be wrong with me an “Existing Condition.” Is he singing about a man in the hospital? And with conditions piling up this quickly, is it realistic to think I can afford even my share of the medical bills? There’s a line about pills. Pills, or is it bills? Oh, my God, he’s saying something about a man in the hospital who can’t pay for his medication. What was I thinking? I’ve made a huge mistake. Oh, Cake, Cake was okay.