618. Ghost Town

The way big tours are arranged you very rarely play three nights in a row. To hear Waldo gripe about it, it’s logistically difficult, it’s hard on everyone including crew and performers, a bitch to schedule, etc. But sometimes three places are close enough together to make it work or it’s the only way to work it out with all three venues. So you do it sometimes.

We only did it twice on the 1989 tour, and each of those were actually four in a row. Each time we’d booked two nights, a day off, and then another show, but we sold out that third show so fast we added a second one in the day off. That’s how we ended up playing the Cow Palace, Santa Barbara, and then two nights at the LA Forum on four consecutive nights. Likewise the four Texas shows, Dallas, Houston, and then two nights in Austin.

I didn’t mind playing every night. But I could see how it could get wearing if I had to sing like Ziggy does. And I accept that your people need their rest.

There were a couple of times when Nomad would be doing three nights in a row, and three NYC-metro dates were among them. Here’s how things shaped up for that week:

April 2 Madison Square Garden (in New York City)
April 3 Brendan Byrne Arena (in New Jersey very near the city)
April 4 Philadelphia Spectrum (two hour drive)
April 6 Nassau Coliseum (Long Island, just outside the city)

I’d already played two of the four places. I figured that was a good thing. On April 1st most of us didn’t have much to do so we worked on “Baker Street” and on April 2nd we concentrated on staying fresh and loose in soundcheck. MSG is a big place and you need everyone sharp but loose. You can’t go big if everyone’s wound too tight.

Have you noticed I was starting to get good at giving other people the advice I should have been giving myself?

In my defense, I didn’t realize how haunted I was going to feel at Madison Square Garden. It started shortly after soundcheck when Remo asked me to come meet some VIPs. Of course I said yes, and off we went through the corridors and hallways up to a sky box high above the floor. I shook hands with a bunch of people without really tracking exactly who they were. They were all a certain class of entertainment industry professional–i.e. important and connected enough to be at this pre-show party but not important or connected enough to be wearing our dog tags–and that was all I really needed to know.

And then in a moment while I was standing by myself picking at a large display of shrimp cocktail, I suddenly realized this was the same sky box where I had met Ziggy’s mother.

Ziggy’s now-dead mother.

Should that have affected me the way it did? I don’t know. But a chill crept up my arms and I found myself sort of stricken by the thought that I had met her, right here. She had been alive when I had met her and now she wasn’t. That sounds stupid, I know. It sounds so obvious, like how could a person get freaked out by such a simple fact? But I felt stupid for feeling that way. Immediately the voices started chattering in my head: you didn’t even know her, what do you care? Yeah, people die, staring mortality in the face blah blah blah, so what? You’re young. Get over it. Stop being such a crybaby.

That voice inside my head sounded a lot like Digger, didn’t it? He would’ve been in his element at this kind of party. I looked around to reassure myself he wasn’t there. No, he wasn’t there, and neither was Eugenie Farias (or was it Ferias, I could never get a straight answer) and neither was Ziggy, for that matter.

Why did it make my heart feel like it was cracking when I remembered he called her “mama”?

And I remembered him crying in my arms after that show, barely making it through, and I remembered him crying in my arms in Los Angeles, at Remo’s, about losing her, and that left me with two questions in my head.

1) Whose arms did he cry in when he needed to now?
2) Whose arms was I supposed to cry into when I cracked?

I snapped out of it then, briefly, with the thought that I was going to crack but that it wasn’t going to be tonight. Therefore I should put it out of my mind and get on with the show. I made my goodbyes from the party, found the backup singers, and invited myself to their vocal warmup.

It didn’t help. I was jumping at shadows right up until the moment when we went onstage, where the lights are so bright they practically obliterate thought. That’s why you rehearse. So you don’t think, you go on autopilot, and it works.

I’ve got a fucking good autopilot. Autopilot has gotten me through some of the most stressful situations in my life. Fraught social situations. Key performances. Illness.

A two-hour set at Madison Square Garden. There were some fucking great moments from that show. There were some fucking great musicians on that stage so I’m not surprised by this exactly, but you know, when I get into a negative mindset I don’t always realize when things are good. But I did. My playing was fine. I mostly stayed low key except in the solos that were designated mine, and when Remo and I went back and forth I was mostly just throwing it back to him with a little twist, a little flair, keeping him firmly in the lead. The audience was very loud.

We went off after the first encore, the band gathering in the curtained-off area to one side of the stage, to listen to the build before going back out for the second encore while grabbing towels and bottles of water. I was hyper now–perhaps overcompensating for the negative energy that kept trying to suck me down–and I bounced myself all the way to the lit hallway.

And Ziggy was there. We locked eyes. There was no way to say anything. It was too loud and maybe nothing was real anyway and even if I had wanted to corner him and say something–even something as simple as “meet me for a drink”–security was hustling me back to the stage.

I spent the entire encore wondering if he was still going to be there after we were done or if that was just a mindfuck and now he’d disappear again or what. The encore was only ten minutes, but it was ten minutes where it felt like acid was eating away at the shreds of my soul.

Yeah, that building brings out my melodramatic inner goth.

I won’t leave you with acid eating away at you for days while you wonder whether he was waiting for me or not, though.

He was.

Yeah, be still my heart, the whole nine yards.

He was.

(Liner note coming soon. Meanwhile, zip back to the post at https://daron.ceciliatan.com/archives/4021 to signup for a slot to post on a an-takeover day or down in the comments to suggest who Amy should draw next.)


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