I honestly never thought I’d get the chance, but Saturday night Christopher and I saw Thomas Dolby perform at the Fenix Underground here in Seattle. This is a guy I’ve admired for years and years… It was an amazing show of thumping music, cool sound and video technology, and Dolby’s nice-guy wit and charm. He really is a funny guy, which kind of surprised Christopher because the concert poster makes him look like kind of a badass with his big flappy coat and mad-scientist-at-work goggles. And from watching him it’s easy to see that he really enjoys peforming…he’s completely at home surrounded by his consoles, but he also took time to step out of The Rig and chat a bit between most songs. After a few numbers the coat came off, the goggles moved up to his forehead, and he settled in for a cozy trot down music memory lane. Everyone went nuts at the start of each song, and he played a great selection of stuff from his albums. Most of them had been completely re-worked and electronically rendered for his performance, and I would KILL to get a bootleg recording of one of these tour sets. Wow!
And yes, he did perform it all himself…some of the basic elements appeared to be looped on his Mac, but the rest of it was played live on multiple machines. He even “built” a few of the songs from scratch by sampling himself playing certain sounds and pieces of it, then looping them and adding more layers on top. It was fascinating to watch, especially since he had a camera mounted on his head so you could watch his hands going from one console to the next. Amazing stuff.
The crowd was an interesting mix of young ‘uns, older folks, a goth or two, some obvious 80’s fans, and hyperexcited geeks. I’m a geek in many ways, but these guys were downright worshipful, which was kind of fun to see…however, some of them were obviously drunk and were getting a bit loud and obnoxious. “We love you Thomas!! GAAAAGGHHHHHH!!!!” He’s one of music’s original geeks, so it’s no wonder they were whipped into a frenzy. Luckily he was good-humored about it and even engaged the crowd in a little geekspeak to describe his massive rig.
There were a couple of things about the evening I could have done without, though. First, the wait was absolutely horrendous! I mistakenly thought the show started at 7:00, but the ticket actually said 8:00. So we got there an hour early and had to stand around listening to the DJ play 80’s music we’ve heard a zillion times over. After the opening act, we had to wait another hour until Dolby finally hit the stage. I blame the venue, not Thomas, because it happens at almost every show I go to. I just don’t understand why they make people wait so damn long. Do they really want people drunk and belligerent by the time the show starts? Gee, how nice for the performer!
Oh, the opening act. Forgive me, but the claws have to come out for a minute. Around 9:30pm they took the stage: Basic Pleasure Model. The first thing we noticed was that the lead singer was a bit too old for his Banana Republic fratboy outfit. Like Christopher says, “He’s just such a type!” But how was their music? Actually, it wasn’t bad at all. It was pre-recorded stuff played by their Mac laptop, which they accompanied with electric guitars and a synthesizer. It was decent electronic-rock stuff…but then he began to sing. The lyrics reminded me of a teenager in his room trying to write cool, badass lyrics to impress a girl. Choruses like “Welcome to my mind!” (complete with screaming synth-guitars) and “You don’t have to die” (oh, wahhh) should give you a good idea. These guys also had a gaggle of MySpace groupies by the stage who jumped and shrieked and swooned at the start of each song, which was actually kind of funny to watch. I really have nothing against them — they’re just not my bag, and after standing in place for 2+ hours to see Thomas, we weren’t exactly in a forgiving mood. I’m bound to get a ton of hate mail from the MySpace groupies now…
Aaaaanyway. The next day I posted a link to my photo gallery on Thomas’ websites forum, and his cool webmistress said she passed him the URL in case he wanted to use something on his blog or for his personal collection. How cool is that?? Anyway, I’m still buzzing from seeing the show…I have enormous respect for Dolby, and if he ever plays in Seattle again you can bet I’ll be there in a flash!