Yesterday, at thirty four and having been to quite a number of live gigs, I found myself at the concert of my life.
Some experiences come with a total clarity. Last night had that quality; I knew right there and then, from the first note, this emotion that everything was right: it was the concert of my life. Quite literally; it took some twenty odd years for me to get there.
STORY TIME : )
I used to love this band as a kid. All of Central Europe loved them back then in the crazy 90-ties. This band was a family. They have earned the success the hard way, working their way on cold streets and metro stations, in busy shopping passages of various Spanish, French, Dutch, German, even Irish towns. They were the kings of the street, the local circus in town, the entertainers of common people on the unlikely stage.* I loved that band with this first, pure kind of adoration that only young teens are capable of. Innocent. With no frame of reference to judge my emotional upheavals against.
I would like to paint a picture for you. Imagine a small, sleepy post-communist town, somewhere in central Poland, where the old reality is gone, but the new not quite there. Now picture a small town family, on a surface a good home, caring in material ways. Deep down however a place devoid of relationships. Empty. Joy, excitement and closeness did not have place there. Stuck in the middle of it, little me. “Everybody’s darling”, acutely needing love and attention. I was working hard on bringing people together:marching uphill never to really get there.
That band – they seemed to be all about the things I missed: excitement and adventure, warmth and family, diversity, cultures and joy. I did not realize it at the time, but they presented precisely what I wanted from life, without being able to give a name to my yearning. So when I learned that they were planning a show in Warsaw, I did the only thing I could in response, subconsciously escaping “the cage” – impulsively spent my whole pocket money on buying two tickets for me, 14 and for my sister, 12. I did not know how I was going to figure out the money to get to Warsaw, or find the venue on my own, survive the mad dash to get to the stage or come back home safely. Initially the idea was to keep it all a secret. However, it would have been very difficult to justify a sudden disappearance of the two of us for the whole night. So one day my plan was divulged to my dad, to countless arguments. My mom resorted to calling in a support army of my grandmother; the despot of the family, who no one ever thought of standing up to. Well, I did – and as unpleasant as that was, I did not back down and felt as if I was fighting my equal. That was my first teenage rebellion.
Now, from a perspective of a thirty four year old, I can understand the worry of my parents. After all I subjected them to countless re-watches of a video, which in no uncertain terms showed a stampede of teenagers at one of the concerts in Germany. But at the same time I know a teenager needs freedom to grow and communication to make sense of the world. Raising someone in freedom, responsibility and clarity is difficult. It is easier to limit them by fear and one’s own comfort zone. Except that it produces deflated adults. All pure experience of joy beaten out of them, no air.
In the end I “won”. My parents were not going to go anywhere with me and my sister, but my dad called his friend in Warsaw, who agreed to pick us up at the station, deliver to the concert and bring safely home. I “won” the battle that did not need to take place at all.
My beloved band cancelled the concert. It never actually took place. I never got to go.
I moved on not long after that. It must have been 1997. I left pretty early. There was lots else to discover in the wide world, old rock, blues, jazz, experimental. That kind of sucked to be honest, because as a result of that I missed out on some pretty amazing albums, like La Patata or Homerun, which came later. Fully recommended, this to me is them at their best. I listen to these albums quite frequently now.
Growing up happened rapidly. I became a young adult. I could not wait to get out of my town, start my own life. I made a lot of mistakes and I fought my way through. And after a few bumps, ups and downs, and a proper crisis (maybe the only way to grow?), I learnt how to love myself and love life.
We all follow a pathway through life, looking for happiness and love, and I found my happiness in living as an expat with my loving partner. Diversity of cultures, taste of life. The essence of day-to-day experience when immersed in a different reality is what really makes me tick. The unexpected, unknown, moving forward, not looking back. I thrive on a challenge. Working with people, bringing them together around important projects. Motivating every single person to reach their potential in a way that is personal.
By 2015 I have lived in five different countries, existing in three different languages, living out the freedom I could give to myself as an adult. Experiencing the search for what it really means to be alive, to die, to exist – on my own terms.
A couple of months ago, out of the blue I was reminded about the band I used to love. In the age of Internet, their lives were not difficult to map out. I googled and watched one interview. Then a second one. Then third. Then, an avalanche. I simply loved what I was hearing.
I was astonished at how mature and wise many of them became. Wisdom as a sensitive intellect and intuition, based on life experience – I value that so much. Not that many people become this exposed and adored, and remain this normal, retain so much healthy distance to what it means to be “famous”. I was somehow proud to see how they grew up, as stupid as that sounds.
Memories came flooding in, pushing a mirror of my childhood right back into my face. I realized that my picture of this sad trapped teen – the picture or memory that I acquired when cutting myself away from the reality of my childhood when growing up – isn’t fully correct. Yes, I have been sad and unloved. But I also denied memories that linked who I became as an adult to my true nature as a kid: impulsiveness, upbeat energy, little fear, recklessness. A traveler without a plan. It has been squished and pushed down by lessons in fear and guilt, but the real nature of things and people cannot be changed. The curious soul, path wanderer, humanity lover, all of it was there – a core of me – from the beginning.
I finally felt a connection within myself. I found the element of me I did not realize was lost. I felt “whole”. This really was a priceless gift – and I have them to thank for this. Somehow, in some way, they have inspired me to take a closer look again at themselves – and in the process, find myself. Very few people have been this inspiring in my life so far.
PADDY CARRIES MY SOUL
Among that band, the one person that I connect with the most in terms of intuition and symbols he uses to convey how he sees life, universe and humanity, is Paddy. He inspires a lot in me. It was no mistake that four months ago, giddy with excitement, I bought a ticket to the Stade concert of his autumn leg of Human Tour. A returning “fan” (I am not too crazy on that label) after years of not paying attention… now loving all music that I missed out on. Not very loyal of me… but I am back.
This decision to come back, buy a ticket and enjoy his live show had nothing to do with him being the former teen magnet of half of European female population circa 1995. It was about what he represented in 2015. His personality, the chunk that an outside observer can see, his sensitivity, spirituality and strong imagination. It was also about the music, starting circa at Homerun and In Exile, but with notable earlier exceptions – it drew me back in.
It is very rare that an artist speaks to me as much as he does. His songs move me beyond what words can describe.
His music is a Synästhesie of vivid images painted through metaphorical lyrics. It nests tenderly in beautiful melodies and meticulous arrangements, in tune with the emotion of the image, sung out with a confident feeling. There is a real craft there at work and words never do it justice, as it is so much more than just words. I invariably fail to describe what I sense when I listen to his songs. They come from the soul, that much I am sure of.
I am all with David Ianni on this one (classical pianist who beautifully re-composed some of the most heartfelt songs of Paddy). As he wrote, “working on Thanking Blessed Mary made me appreciate Paddy Kelly’s art even more. His talent and his musical craftsmanship are beyond question. What makes him truly exceptional as an artist is his unique ability to express the human yearning for truth, beauty and peace with his music.”
I am not religious. I only started to explore spirituality about a year ago, after having experienced hope as an eternal value – as something real, from beyond me but deep down in my soul. Something accessible but not limited to “me”. Something within me but without me, a quality that I did not know was there before, which came out of nowhere; my senses and my intuition could not foresee it. I was in a place where I felt true despair about a part of my life that was not turning out the way I wished – and suddenly there was this certainty in me, this feeling: hold on. Believe, hope, it will ALL be. Those exact FEELINGS, coming in one ray of consciousness, instantly, expressed in those exact words in my mind, in a moment of total clarity and peace. It was not me, just saying those words to myself, slowly losing my senses : ) It was from beyond me but deep down inside me, of those two natures. I have never felt something like that before.
This happened months before finding Paddy’s music again – and I did not know Hope (the song) before, so imagine my astonishment listening to the lyrics of this song. It felt as if that connection with the unsichtbare Welt has led me deep into my spirit – and somehow this journey lits up with meaning and support through Paddy’s music and his words. My journey continues and is very personal and private to me but somehow I feel I do not travel alone. Without doing anything at all on purpose, he is an inspiration for me to delve deeper into my spirit.
Sometimes I question if reflecting or meditating on eternal values: hope, which was later joined in my heart by faith and love, is the right way for me (following my heart, on instinct), or I am fooling myself trying to lead my own personal development in the dark – there is always a reminder that this way makes sense. Like the Hope song – such similarity that it felt like repeat of my own experience, a touch of truth.. I can also experience the real impact of those feelings. Growing up in low-on-love and depressing home, I was literally used to experiencing abandonment, despair, emptiness and the internal darkness they bring, so much so that it was my reality, my habits. I was blind to their impact on me. Unaware of their true energy. I never saw in full light that love, hope and faith can be such cleansing, healing life energy forces. Now, I believe. In astonishment, my eyes opened, my heart full. This discovery is still shifting my world.
Still, I am not religious. I admire those who can really give into the faith, irrespective of doubts. I never really got there. So I find myself surprised by the fact that his monastery-time songs move me to the core. When he sings them, it is as if there was an ethereal light in that sound, the beauty is silent but shocking, and I cannot help but be totally disarmed and just fall in love with his spiritual music. I really wait for his RUAH album.. I know it will be so, so beautiful.
The concert yesterday held a lot of meaning for me. On one level it was a gift to the fourteen year old me that never went. That was why the old songs caused me to bounce around a lot. The kid in me had fun the way it should have happened twenty years ago! I apologize to anyone I might have accidentally bounced onto.:)
On another level, in the moment of silence, I dedicated me going there to my grandma, who passed away 15 years ago. She fought me over that idea and somehow through that she validated it and for the first time in my life made me feel as if I was taken seriously. My recognition and gratitude was long overdue. Eternal peace.
The concert to me was a fiesta of harmony and joy. Paddy emanates pure joy in a way that is so palpable it just gets in one’s blood. I enjoyed that atmosphere to no end – like going back home to who I really am! I doubt any other artist could ever get close to creating such joyous experience together with his audience, and transferring every bit to our hearts. There is something very, very special about his ability to radiate joy.
Paddy is truly born to be onstage, an entertainer since birth. From the first beat to the last bow, yesterday everything felt just right. Right and perfect. Upbeat, rocky and lyrical. I had a million of goosebumps listening to Brother Brother live… even though by now I heard that song a thousand times. People around me literally dissolved in tears. And then came rock and blues, oh the sinfully beautiful blues… Gotta love those who sing the blues from the bottom of their soul! As much as I like Paddy’s Human album (it’s really good as far as pop albums go), it is the spiritual ballads, the blues and the rock that I love him for. That man has a set of pipes and a very versatile voice, such talent.
Yesterday’s night was filled with the nearly tangible “togetherness” in the air. Incredible. Everything in my world aligned, the inner joy and the surroundings, making it for me ein kleines Stückchen of paradise. There was also a brief moment, when I felt his eyes on me and shared a second of connection, looking directly at each other (his eyes are dark blue in such an intense way it shows even in a darkened concert hall when he looks straight at you – a surprising discovery of last night). This moment was so very peaceful and filled with this kind and quiet attention, very human to human, positive but subtle energy. It happened after the song Crisis, when he got the whole room to murmur the melody, and it felt like one deep wave of harmony. It might sound cheesy but to a teenager of the 90s, the chance of this down to Earth, no pretense exchange – even if fleeting – was incredible **
So maybe twenty years too late, or maybe just in the right time, when I could appreciate it best, this beautiful evening happened, making it the concert of my life. I am not going anywhere anymore. Here to stay. “Fan” or not, here to stay.
AFTER-SHOW MUSINGS ON THE HUMANITY OF FAN/STAR RELATIONSHIP
I would have loved a possibility to say “thank you” face to face, to tell him how much this concert meant to me. However, upon leaving the building and making my way backstage, I saw a crowd waiting for him in a cold night after a long performance. And maybe because of seeing this material and never quite forgetting the dejected pain on his face when he talked about the isolation, pressure and the suicide attempt, I refused to be a part of a crowd, in order to avoid pressuring him. Other than an evening of music, he owes us nothing. That for me is where the line is drawn. He is a sweetheart and a walking charisma – so many feel an urge to connect. Some cross that line carelessly and taking his kindness for granted end up trying to walk all over him. Why, I will never understand – but it does give me creepy flashbacks to the metaphor of “Perfume” – the adoring daze and instinctive human urgency to own what is beautiful leading to literally tearing a life apart. Awe and aggression, divided by but a misstep. Working on setting boundaries and saying “no” IS the right way to go : )
I do not need a photo with him or his autograph; my experience of his music especially live is “full” enough. I did not need to add my face to that queue. I left. Maybe some day I will have a possibility to meet him in a way that would feel better to me. It has to work both ways.
It is a weird place to be stuck in, not quite feeling like his “fan” because I find that putting someone on a pedestal to adore them in effect robs them of the humanity they should ALWAYS retain. He is just another human, a guy with talent. This is way easier to see coming back with a bit of distance as an adult. Not knowing him personally makes it hard to justify the feelings of empathy and understanding. He brings in so much inspiration and just genuine soulfulness into my life, I do think of him as someone that is in some way dear to me. Like a friend, which obviously is kind of crazy since I do not know the real him. I find it confusing.
But the fan label definitely does not sit well with me. What is “a fan”, anyway? There is more to me than a “fan”, so why would I put myself in a role, an equation that is skewed like that? I am not really interested in “adoring” a star – I really do not get that aspect of culture of today. If I connect to an artist or another human, it is always someone who inspires me to dig deeper into my soul and bring more meaning to my life, or I just don’t react… But then those reflections aren’t something you can just contain in one minute conversation while other people crowd around you taking selfies. It doesn’t work.
Paddy rarely speaks of trivial things in his interviews, the way he is onstage and in words awakens connection and inspiration – and this shortens the distance, mental, emotional or otherwise. He comes across as honest, direct, down to earth and kind. A sprinkle of crazy and a bucket of intuition and smarts. The same way he was during this live performance. No mask for show. I guess the shorter distance is a blessing and a curse for someone who loves people and humanity, and is genuinely interested in his public – but can be crushed when the sympathy turns into demand.
It must be a truly bizarre world to navigate. I do admire his courage and his inner strength. I do not know if I would ever feel like putting myself out there again after living through a genuine trauma. People who feel okay don’t climb on window ledges of tall buildings to jump. But the joy he gets from playing his music live is palpable. At the end of the day, I trust he is strong. It is the crises that make us and what we learn from them. And it has to be said: wonderful he has found the love of his life and his faith. Healthy life for him means happiness shared with us ❤
THANK YOU, BEAUTIFUL SOUL
I hope that maybe one day he would read this post. As honest as it is, it isn’t going anywhere on Facebook under my real name and 400+ something of my contacts able to read my life story. Way too naked. But I would like him to know what his music and his existing & communicating with his audience really means to me, without having to put myself in his face in the cold and dark. It is so weird to have received so much, think about it so deeply, really want to pay back but not be able to share any of my own thoughts. So maybe in this way I can say my deepest “thank you” for the concert of my life. It is on repeat in my heart and will forever be one of the most beautiful memories. And now that he is back (or rather, I am), I hope there is more to come!
So here it goes: thank you Paddy for last night in Stade. For the fourteen year old me and the thirty four year old me, it was equally incredible. I will not forget. And no matter how talented or inspiring, for me, you are always human first, artist second. Always human.
I will see you again, stay safe & hasta la vista : )
*As one of them put it in a recent interview – the street is a very specific type of stage, because the public one can reach is extremely mixed: no other place allows one to entertain a middle-aged serious looking guy in a suit standing next to a young girl, dancing next to a granny who works in the local kiosk, all stopped in their tracks purely because you are good at what you do. I know that, I tried for a crazy summer-travel fun to play guitar one day on the street. No one stopped! 😀 No, wait, I am lying. One person stopped. She told me to take a shower and get a real job 😀
** A friend who went with me said “I did not notice the color of his eyes but I noticed something in his look. It is as if he was there for all of us, together, but also separately, one to one. There is focus and almost ‘heaviness’ in his look”, as if he was looking into our faces and searching souls – tried to really see individual people, individual hearts. So Paddy, if you do that – we can feel it, we know : )