Monday, September 22, 2008

Probably one of the best concert moments ever...

Friday night I took my Dad to see Chris Botti play with the Boston Pops and "special guests" for the filming of a PBS special. Dad and I are both Botti fans, which we have proven by the four times we've seen him in the last 16 months. The special guests, however, were just as alluring: Sting, Yo-Yo Ma, John Mayer and Michael Buble. Buble ultimately did not show, but what unfolded otherwise has become what I think is one of those concert moments I'll treasure forever.

The show started at 7:30 and went splendidly for the first 90 minutes or so. We saw Sting, Yo-Yo Ma, Katherine McPhee, some jazzy chick I barely recall, Josh Groban's violinist...all performed duets with Chris Botti and his band with the Pops as the back-up band. Then John Mayer came out and started his song. And all hell broke loose. Seems a guy in the third row chose that moment to have a heart attack. I heard "No Pulse" and saw a flurry of activity both in the area of the now-dead guy and the stage, where all the performers scurried off-stage. A long 12 minutes later, the medics showed and shuffled a newly-defibrillated conscious patient off. As thrilling as it was that he appeared to have been resuscitated, however permanently, the life was sucked out of the room. Understandably. How would the performers come back and finish? I guess that's the same question that was being bandied about back-stage.

Immediately the orchestra came back and the stage hands set four chairs up center stage with mics at each. Chris Botti came out and expressed exactly my sentiments: "what to do?" He put the question to his mentor Sting and Sting told him to "let the music heal". Sting and Chris had faced a similar conundrum as they prepared to film Sting's DVD All This Time in Tuscany on September 11, 2001. Ultimately as a band they decided to continue the taping as a catharsis, as a way not to let the terrorists win, as a way to find something normal in a harried situation. And so they did this on this night as well.

Out came Sting, his guitarist Dominic Miller and Yo-Yo Ma. Each took a seat with Chris at center stage. And they began an impromptu acoustic version of Fragile, which just so happens to be my favorite (solo) Sting song ever. And it was absolutely perfect for this situation, with a room full of 2600 people who'd just seen exactly how fragile we are. But what was amazing was that here were four people who hadn't planned to play this song, three of whom hadn't played it together in years, and indeed I don't think Yo-Yo Ma ever had played it, yet it sounded as though they'd played this song together forever. It was heavenly. It was beautiful. It was cathartic. When it was over, Sting, Ma and Miller quietly left the stage and Chris asked us all to let out a big exhale, which the entire room did. It was just what we needed to let the night continue. I only hope it makes the video of this night.

Not ten minutes later, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith blew the roof off Symphony Hall, a release which I think we needed just as much as we needed the deep sigh. But for me, the night belonged to Fragile.

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