As if on cue, the dead rose from Forest Lawn. Discarded bin liners and copies of the Daily Mail stuck to their legs and they stiffly found their balance and staggered towards the mass of people paying homage to a distant messiah-like speck on the horizon. We nodded along to the music, raised our hands when directed to and shouted out the Messiah’s name as if he could hear us from 150 meters.
The whole day had been in jeopardy. Three months of unseasonably cold rain had made London’s green fields a sea of mud. The concert venue carefully segregated from the rest of Hyde Park had been turned into a sea of clinging mud and rough wood chip.
I have lost count of the number of times I have seen the man perform now. Bruce, The Boss, Springsteen, whatever he is known as; I have been attending his concerts with loyal regularity since the mid 1970s. Then I was a young teen following the music that the older kids were listening to. Eventually the music became a reflection of my own life. But each time I had seen him play, the crowd around me had gotten older. I hadn’t aged; of course, I was still the child of the 1970s hung-over from Woodstock and embracing David Bowie. My arthritic hip prodded me in the side reminding me that youth was an illusion.
We had arrived two hours before he was due to perform. My wife suggested we sit on the plastic bin liners she had brought in front of a big screen on one of the few relatively mud-free areas of the venue. We sat back to back, drinking vodka and munching magic brownies as we waited for the show to begin. Others joined us on the grassy knoll and soon about 20 small camps filled the space. I took great consolation in the fact I was neither the oldest nor the fattest concert member- not by a long shot.
The brownies worked their magic and I sought out conversations with those camped around us. The man behind us, far too young for the woman he was with, smoked a cigarette which caused huge dismay to the people behind him. In that passive aggressive tone only a sanctimonious ex-smoker can recognise, the indignant woman invited him to blow his smoke in a different direction. I invited him to blow it our way not just t remind myself of my Benson and Hedges days but also to counter the aggression with a spirit of “all is cool.”
I made the observation to my wife that the knoll now resembled a cemetery.
As the chords of the first song were struck, the 50 bodies on the lawn began to complain in unison that they couldn’t see. Their small claimed patch of little England had been infiltrated by people actually wanting to stand, dance, interact with the performance. I struggled to my unsteady feet and hoisted my wife upright. I was a child of Woodstock, not the Stock Exchange.
And at the concert’s end, a Beatle walked on stage. I had waited 35, 40 years to see one of the Fab Four in the flesh and the moment had come in a muddy field where the Stones had played their legendary 1968 concert for Brian Jones. It was a defining moment for me in my 50th year.
And then the sound faded out. Curfew. The rich and powerful residents that live in the multi million pound apartments along Park Avenue had lobbied Westminster to ban any noise after 10.30. The moment was gone, evaporated.
I shouted out my disgust and raged against the system. I turned to vent my disgust that the free spirit of the 1960s was gone, replaced by the selfish gaining the moral high ground. The Beatles were either dead or had sold their soul out long ago.
Keep the Faith,