Tuesday, September 2, 2008

“Material Girl” had “4 minutes” to save my world. I was left behind looking around for the “Lucky Star”

Sitting at my desk, “Papa don’t preach” on my black iPod, a gift from my best-man, I’ve just come back from Zurich, I reflect upon what I thought would be the ultimate trip back to Memory-lane and my teenage to late twenties period… I briefly managed to travel there but got abruptly yanked back into the inescapable reality of the ending of another decade… things change and you can’t do anything about it.

So I got there, past the long queue, ticket clutched in hand, heart racing with anticipation and dropped in the garbage bin the bottle of water I was carrying– Swiss concert rules forbid bottles into concert areas... Safety first, welcome to Switzerland. Who cares anyway? A whole fair with food and drinking stands had been setup inside the old military airport to accommodate the 70.000 fans – the biggest concert ever organized in Switzerland. Speakers blasting Madonna tunes (even the “old ones”!) in the hot summer afternoon, sun blazing on the people lying on the grass, others walking around with food and beer, waiting to get into the main concert area. I was there with my two friends, 5 hours in advance, I small price to pay for someone willing to be as close as possible to what he considers his ultimate teenage/twenties period soundtrack. I don’t like her as a woman, I promise and even if I used to at some point before she posed naked in Erotica and hooked up with Dennis Rodman, for sure, all that had faded as quickly as she built her muscles and changed her hair from the brown, silver, black,…whatever transformations I adored, to the latest “yellowish-gold” 2000 version look.

Listen up. I am really talking about the soundtrack of my life now: from my first high school nervous up-close dancing with the schoolgirls and “La isla bonita”, to the videocassette of Material girl I played till it was ruined at my cousins’ house in South Africa to the shocking at that time “Like a prayer” videoclip and song that could be heard from our bulky, low power heavyweight stereos during our high school excursions at Shinias beach, to the first vinyl record I ever bought (“True Blue”) with her posing so confident with that short silver hair-do, to the non-stop “Into the Groove” and “Lucky Star” dancing with Ody more recently in Club22 where I thought time stood still and nothing else really mattered. Time did stand still, beat filling my ears and reverberating in body, we danced alone, no need for alcohol or any other “upper” – who needed it? – we danced like no one was there and still having hundreds of people everywhere around us. She’s even written the last song I ever want to hear, me, slowly humming “Holiday” every time I was in the taxi on my way to Geneva airport for my Greek summer break, this is the song I want people to play at my funeral. This is how I want them to remember me:

“If we took a holiday,
took some time to celebrate,
just one day out of life, it would be,
it would be so nice.
Everybody spread the word,
we’re gonna have a celebration.
All across the world, in every nation…”

“…You can turn this world around
And bring back all of those happy days
Put your troubles down
Its time to celebrate
Let love shine
And we will find
A way to come together
And make things better
We need a holiday…”

Period. Get up and dance.

There I was, now just 4 hours to go, the gates open and in typical Swiss fashion, no one rushing in and pushing, not at least until you made it to about 50meteres from the stage barrier. Another 20 is all we could do. Moving further would require floating above a densely knit group of people which by that time seemed like one creature: All ages, races and sexual orientations, heads, limbs and of course eyes and ears, all waiting, all longing for one thing. We made it – it was close enough despite having another 3 hours to go – who cares, this is still the Queen of Pop, right? The seated section started to fill up only later, again in typical Swiss way…orderly excitement I call it. Let’s have fun at the right time. On/Off, it’s a switch. Everything, even feelings, controlled with clockwork-precision.

That’s when I made a first comment to my friends:”This doesn’t feel like a big concert…” Wrong comment, all numbers where against me: this was the largest build up of musical fans in this country, and I probably had about 30,000 looking over me from the seated section and another 40.000 of them leaning against me, pushing behind me. It still didn’t feel right. I was sharing with my two friends my U2 experience in Thessaloniki (already more than a decade ago) remembering that at the moment the crowd got the notion that U2 were coming on stage, the whole arena exploded, taking body temperature and sweat to levels that had to be sustained for the next 2 hours. You had to. You faint, you lose. No option. I was expecting the same; after all, all humans have the same body temperature: 36.6 degrees give or take a bit. But what is the temperature your heart beats when you see for the first (or second or whatever) time your idol, your queen, the musical chariot that has taken you places for the first time in your life, that has made you dream, cry, fall in love, sweat, sing and dance? I couldn’t be the only person feeling like that. Not here, not with so many people around me. Well, that’s exactly how I felt at that moment…

Don’t ask me about the support act – I don’t even remember the woman – I wasn’t paying attention anyway. Eyes, ears tuned to only one thing. We thought she wouldn’t be on time – her Cardiff opening concert was +1hr late. But this is Switzerland and 15mins of delay is pretty acceptable for a star like her. And so it happened, at exactly 21:15 the lights went out, the huge M signs on the sides of the big stage were lit up and there she was, music blasting into the night, lasers in the sky and all lights on her, sliding forward from the backstage, sitting on a glittering throne with a huge silver M on its back. Madonna…

The rest is history and you will probably get it all on DVD in a few months, glossy cover and all, another perfectly orchestrated and commercially successful world tour. I am sorry but the purpose of this posting is not to tell you the sequence of the songs or discuss the stage performance, singing, lighting, sound quality or anything else. Most of you will be seeing her in the next few weeks in Rome, Athens or wherever you’ve managed to get tickets for. And good for you because this is probably a show worth seeing. She might not do it again, you might not have the chance to see it again, so why not, do it, it’s something a few people have and will manage to experience.

I want to talk about me and how I felt there. Read on, understand, and if you do, you will understand more about me and what I am thinking right now than you would in any other occasion.

I didn’t mind the fact that some of the songs were unknown to me. Apart from the ones heard on the radio the past couple of years signaling a great “come back” and an “idol’s reinvention”, this was expected since I’ve stopped following her the past years. She evolved and I didn’t. Or that’s how it felt. While I kept jumping around with the child-like pop sequence of “Open your heart” and “Material Girl”, she was pushing the ABBA barrier with “Hung Up” and jumping for "4 minutes" on cars’ roofs with Justin Timberlake. I connected, for one sweet moment, when Into the Groove came up, the song completely refreshed, with a more contemporary beat and Keith Herring visuals flashing bright on the video walls. There I was, jumping for 5 minutes, non stop, screamed the words at the top of my voice. Word for word, verse after verse, like a big karaoke screen was right there in front of me. No need, this one comes from my heart, no tele-prompter needed; it all just flashed in front of my eyes as the music lifted me up and carried me away. People started staring, they seemed unable to understand, incapable of comprehending my excitement, they didn’t get it, some of them visibly annoyed by the “strange person” interfering with the “correctness” of their concert: This is Madonna you idiots…! Was it, really?

She didn’t like us either. We were too cold, too far away – you would expect a bit more excitement, a few more hands in the air and screaming from 70,000 fans that paid a minimum of 100 Euros a head to be there, even if they were mostly Swiss. Not sure whose fault it was: us (the older “us”) expecting to taste a bit of the past and relive it all again (our parties, our sense of dreaming and freedom she gave us) or us (the younger) who just thought she’s not modern enough, comparing her with the other contemporary 3-hit artists you forget by the time the season is over…?

I can’t answer that but I know I couldn’t follow. Throughout this 2-hour singing journey I was left on the “Borderline” of “La Isla Bonita” and she was moving on fast, past “Die another day” and “4 minutes”. I guess it’s a bit like life itself. Life and the people you love and care about. Everything evolves. Think about it like planets, rotating and travelling into space. At some extraordinary moment two objects come close together, their orbits so close they gravitate and just like people, connect. And at that unique, magically sweet moment, time is frozen and turns into a memory. It’s a memory that you will carry for as long as you keep spinning around, tracing your orbit that might even bring you away from the other object. And as you travel into your life’s orbit, you also change. It’s unavoidable. You’re not the same. No one is. People you met, spent time with, loved in the past, long gone now have changed into something new, better or worse it’s not important, they are different. Just like “Borderline” seemed vaguely familiar, words exactly the same, a more rock version being played out, it took me a while to realize this was the very song I heard again and again when I had a crush in high-school. You can’t stop change or time. You can decide however to evolve with it and still adore your pop idol for what she has become or hold back and relish the past that made you dream. Or you can do something in between…

Just like with your friends and loved ones. I have a few that seemed to have travelled in space with me for many years. They chose their own orbits and transformed themselves. But whenever our orbits meet, despite the differences, there’s still beautiful gravity. For some others, nothing exists anymore. Don’t feel sad, it’s how things work in the Universe and with People. You just need to accept it and make the best out of the ones that are still around. I am there. I am still happy to hear my “oldies” and I might not be up for listening to all the “newbies”. Because I am also different. I’ve also changed. And through my travel in space and time I am so grateful to have met so many beautiful planets and stars: they light up my night, all so bright. They are my own private constellation, my unfaltering ever-brilliant guide that prevents me from getting lost. I am so thankful that they’ve followed me around, despite my wobbly orbit and strange movements. It’ such a beautiful place up there with those stars…Dad, Mom, bro, Aris, Alexis, Andriana, Afroditi, Amalia, Apostolos, Christina, Christoph, Dimitris, Dia, Elena, Fabio, George, Giannis, Ody, Nana, Nikos, Melina, Katerina, Kostas, Kaori, Lefka, Ifigeneia, Stathis, Susanne, Vicky, Vassilis, just like stars, many, too many to write down, too special to forget. They are all up there even if not on this page.

There’s just one thing I am still missing. One thing I haven’t found.
Where’s that one and only, magic, Lucky Star I’ve been searching for so long?

I guess I just need to keep on dancing until I find her…

“You must be my Lucky Star,
‘cause you shine on me wherever you are
I just think of you and I start to glow
and I need your light and, baby, you know…

Starlight, Star bright, the star I see tonight…
Starlight, Star bright, make everything all right…

You may be my lucky star
‘cause you make the darkness seem so far
When I am lost you’ll be my guide
I just turn around and you’re by my side

Starlight, Star bright, the star I see tonight…
Starlight, Star bright, make everything all right…

Shine your heavenly body tonight
‘cause I know you’re gonna make everything all right

You may be my Lucky Star
but I’m the luckiest by far…”


odevoted said...

I opened the blog's page early this morning, moment's after arriving at work and reading your email prompting me to read it (which frankly I was expecting), and I was savouring the moment I'd start reading it with, great anticipation....then the phone rung, work work work...anyway, i knew it had to be a straight read, and not one paragraph every hour sort of read....so I kept it for the afternoon!

And I was rewarded

With a couple of tears in my eyes (we 're at work for Christ's sake!) , I think this is by far the best post on your blog so far!
Planets, their orbits and the perpetual gravitation...it's all about this exactly, Faraway So Close, we're all in the same Universe, having evoloved differently yet at the same time feeling so equal, all needing one another to exist but sometimes also needing to travel alone, isn't the Ying and the Yang forming the whole ? we are ONE and We Live To Tell

VK said...

Madonna mia – what a post! I never expected that She would be able to generate so much insight!

I like the idea of the personal universe and the gravity with which we connect to people. You ‘re right: people change-evolve and that is part of how things are. That however doesn’t stop me feeling uneasy when I think of all the planets that were once near and now far away. In the end, is it only circumstances that form this gravity? If we are who we are based on random events and we change-evolve due to random events, then should we only hope for luck in this life?

More than the philosophical part, I like the inside sharing vibe of your posts! It’s just so …you! Keep posting!

PS: By the way, I prefer Her in the new version (the naked one that is)! :-)

PS2: I especially connected to the word “orderly” that you used for the Swiss. For me, nature is strikingly orderly in Switzerland (even the isolated spots, even the “wild” forests, even the peaks of the Alps look orderly)!!

odevoted said...

until an avalanche brings down the whole mountain....or the mayor loses his dog....