Tell me. When do you think the worst possible time for my hand to cramp up would be? In the middle of the show? Right at the beginning of the acoustic segment with me and Ziggy? Right in the middle of “Candlelight?” The fact that it happened the in the five minutes before we went on proves that things could have been worse. Right?
I would have tried to hide it but it came on so suddenly while we were standing backstage getting ready to go on that I shouted some obscenity.
Team Daron leaped into action. Colin unkinked my fingers and Flip gave me a measured dose of alcohol and Carynne told me everything was going to be okay.
And then they put a guitar pick in my hand and sent me up there.
I had enough other things to worry about that by the time “Parade” was over, I had stopped thinking about my hand, again. I was just caught up in the moment-by-moment experience of trying to make live music and not get distracted by dancers or the way the light show worked in this venue or the sky or Ziggy.
Ziggy was very distracting and he wasn’t even near us most of the time. I guess until then I had not been completely sure that he was actually a really good dancer.
Let’s face it, I can be kind of stupid about a lot of things. Ziggy was at the top of his game, in the best shape of his life, and utterly in his element. The audience was one-hundred percent into him. I forgot to worry about how things were going to go when we got to the acoustic set.
And then suddenly there we were with Flip gesticulating in my direction from the edge of the stage. Right. Change guitars. Right.
He also handed me half a bottle of Gatorade, which I guzzled as he fussed with getting the strap and my wiring in the proper orientation. “I really want to take this damn jacket off,” I told him.
“Okay.” I had merely been complaining, but he apparently took that as me saying I was intended to take it off. The next thing I knew he was helping me out of it. I was wearing an old, black Wednesday’s Child T-shirt underneath. It’d have to do.
Ziggy had been doing his schmooze with the crowd all during that and had already started his solo song with his Echotron by the time I was ready to go out there.
It was not lost on me that he was singing a song about anxiety right when I was experiencing extremes of anxiety. But, you know, when you’re anxious–or at least when I am–it’s easy to have that paranoid feeling that everything is about your anxiety.
Flip nudged me on the shoulder. Right. I was supposed to be taking my place. I walked to the back of the stage at the center. Night had fallen and no one would really see me because you can’t see into the shadows past the bright beacon that is Ziggy. I walked forward until I was maybe 15 or 20 steps behind him, listening to where he was in his song. He cut all the looping tracks with a stomp on the foot pedal and then wound his way through the last verse.
Was it a coincidence? Or had he planned it? The last note of the last word, which he held and held and held, was the same as the first note of Candlelight. People were just starting a smattering of cheers at how long he held that note when I came in with the Candlelight intro, and suddenly all those voices that had been silent during the song called out in approval as they recognized it.
To be honest I wasn’t sure that they knew the song down here, but apparently they did.
It went great. A triumph. Thank god. I needed a win at that point.
Ziggy and I took a bow together with one of his arms draped over my shoulders. I was suddenly aware of the closet in a way that I had kind of put in the back of my mind in our day-to-day life. We were up there in front of thirty thousand or so people who assumed we were straight. And it hit me how fucked up that was.
I met Flip at the side of the stage to change back to the Strat. Drank the other half bottle of Gatorade. And powered through the next few songs on autopilot. It wasn’t until the costume-change break where I had to solo improvise for a couple of minutes that my brain came back online. They put a follow spot on me. I couldn’t remember where I was supposed to go exactly but I went to the edge of the stage and played my solo while the light show went nuts all around me, illuminating the night sky.
Make no mistake, I still felt like shit about a lot of things, but if there’s one thing that might make a person feel like a god it would be nailing that solo.
And I nailed it.
And then I went back to the band riser where I belonged.