I miss most of the opening act Eli “The Paperboy” Reed and the True Loves, in fact by the time I get back to Webster Hall, they are finishing up the last encore. Peppy Rock-N-Roll that reminds me of Animal House, delivered in an energetic over the top style. It’s easy to see that Eli believes in himself and his music, it’s a lesson we all could use. The crews start to dismantle the stage in a flurry of activity for the arrival of Duffy, a Welsh born beauty who delivers a soulful sound that reminds me of my childhood, the early days of listening to the AM/FM clock radio I won for selling tall Xmas candles for my school. I still remember the white on black numbers on the Ferris wheel clock, clicking off the minutes and the now retro look of the white and pale orange housing, I kept it until it stopped working a few years later.
The lights go down and Duffy’s guitarist comes out alone playing a few bars and then Duffy takes the stage. Duffy is a vision not unlike Marilyn Monroe, a blond bombshell in a red dress that hugs her ample shapely figure, with long blond hair coming down on soft shoulders. She is a vision of a bygone age-when women built like her were worshipped. Now sadly we tell women with her body type who don’t have her charisma, good looks, and talent to lose weight and exercise. Duffy opens with “Rockferry” my personal favorite, it is delivered just as it was on the CD. No studio tricks, just a singer using her God given talent and swaying to the soulful beat of her music. By the second song though; she has a momentary lapse. Maybe she was choked up by the words she was singing, or maybe it was the impact of being here in New York City playing a sold out show-she has to wipe at tears and flubs a word or two as well. I wonder if that will be her trademark, a singer whose emotions boil up to the surface and come out in tears. Will she be the next Johnny Ray? I hope not. In this kill or be killed world there’s no room for a crying singer anymore, it’s been done. However, Duffy quickly recovers and sings her heart out… as she does I scan the crowd.
The people here are a strange mix and as usual I seem to be in a traffic lane, a point ( for whatever reason) where people seem comfortable to walk by on their way to and fro. Many older people are here to listen to an old style of music that brings thier past alive again. The younger people near me seem to me to be enthralled with her too, a trio of college girls in front of me take turns taking pictures of each other with Duffy in the background, and one young gay couple next to me nervously, self conciously at first, hold each other and sway to the music looking around to see if anyones a threat, concerned about someone making a scene. I also notice a few lesbian couples near me as well, in a gesture of unity one of the older members of a lesbian couple comes over to the gay couple next to me and gives them a big group hug, it is a poingnant moment for me too, another scene for the memory banks of how the Village is a place where all can find acceptance.
The crowd is really into Duffy’s music and move to the rhythem like one giant being. I mean people scream at the end of every number and when she twirls the mike (while doin a sideways strut looking at the audience) the crowd roars with excitement like a homerun has just been hit! Duffy just captivates us and moves us all in many ways and I feel really lucky to see her like this, in a small place where anywhere you stand-is a good view. She has played two new songs and after the applause brings her out for two more heart stopping encores, she has played her entire CD. Then finally she says goodbye, I’m sure she is as thrilled as the crowd is, and as they file past the T-shirt table behind me where the opening act (hawks his own CD’s like a carnival barker) I watch with interest as the people file out. It’s amazing to watch, already young girls are copying Duffy’s stage moves and I hear a few girls singing snippets of lyrics as we file down slowly to the ground floor and I go below to the coat check and then weave my way back up and out past the people waiting at the stage door, hoping for an autograph and a picture with Duffy. Unfortunately for me I must leave, I’ve got to get some sleep before my alarm gets me up at six to start a new day of work. I walk in the general direction of Penn Station and hail at cabs until I’m picked up all the while wishing I was one of the Villagers and my night was just getting started.
The happy thought in my mind as I ride the train home is how many older couples were there at Webster Hall, still going to concerts together, still rockin at sixty. Heck still getting lit before the show and after!
I think that if I am lucky, I will meet one such as myself-as I am now, and she and I will be one of those old couples at a concert, still rockin in the free world, still dreamin, still creating, still lovin. And if I am lucky I will still be as wide eyed as I am now, and if I’m really lucky….I won’t be too far from New York City.