The ticket was a gift to myself. You know the kind – there’s no special occasion, you just decide to treat yourself to something you’ve always wanted. But the show isn’t happening for months, so you all but forget about it for a good length of time.
And then it’s two weeks away and you’re freaking out because you’re going to see Colin Hay live in concert.
To this day, Colin Hay is best known as the lead singer of that great 80s band Men At Work. And he’s long since come to terms with that legacy – at the show, he joked about “Down Under” waiting backstage with all the other songs, a little too full of himself because he knows he’s the biggest hit and he’ll always go on at the end.
But in the years since the band came to its end, he’s formed an even greater legacy with his solo career. Through a dozen albums, spanning nearly three decades, he’s evolved into one of our most observant and affecting songwriters and performers, able to make you laugh or cry without the slightest idea how he’s doing it.
So when I found out he’d be returning to San Antonio, I wasn’t going to miss it. Which brings us to Monday night.
The Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater, at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, is a beautiful space. It’s designed for more intimate performances, so every seat, front row to back, has a wonderful view. It’s perfect for the kind of solo acoustic show that Colin Hay has made his own.
It was just as perfect for his opening act. I’d never heard of Heather Maloney until just a couple of days before the show, so her set had that thrill of discovery about it. It was a wonderful set. I’ll not even try to label Heather’s music – it draws on country and folk influences, but becomes something uniquely itself. And her performance was full of emotion and grace and charm. By the time she got to “Woodstock” (a moving rendition of Joni Mitchell’s classic), she’d made a room full of new fans.
I got to chat with Heather during intermission, and she’s just as nice as you could hope for. Which is why it was so infuriating and sad to hear that her gear and merchandise were stolen after the show. It’s also why it was so encouraging to find fans stepping up so quickly to support her, donating to help recover what she lost. It doesn’t happen nearly as often as I’d like, but sometimes humanity comes through.
That word, “humanity.” When I think about the show, I keep going back to that word. It was there in Heather’s performance. And it was all over Colin Hay’s.
Needless to say, the crowd went wild when Colin walked in, picked up his guitar, and dove headfirst into “Beautiful World.” And for nearly two hours, it only got better from there.
Colin’s reputation as a storyteller is well known. And he easily lived up to it Monday night. His tales were sometimes long, sometimes short. Sometimes sincere, and sometimes profane. Sometimes warm, and sometimes wry. Sometimes all of that at once. But they were always moving.
And so were the songs. Colin brought all his emotion to songs like “Did You Just Take The Long Way Home” and “Waiting For My Real Life to Begin” and “Maggie” and “Next Year People” (which closed the night, and inspired this review’s title). Even “Down Under,” stripped down to its acoustic heart, became something deeply affecting. No, I didn’t get something in my eyes. It wasn’t allergies. Those were tears.
When you see Colin Hay in concert, the thing that strikes you is how… and here’s that word again… how human he really is. He’s not afraid to be open and present and vulnerable with his audience. And coming at a time when I’m trying to be more open and more present and more vulnerable, I needed to experience that.
And when it ended, when I got to meet him and talk to him after the show, when I got to thank him for so many years of so much great music, I think what I was really thanking him for… was that experience.
Needless to say, I won’t forget Monday night anytime soon.
Thanks as always for following along. Until next time…