Look, I hate the song too.

Originally written April, 2011

A few months ago a very close friend called me to tell me she had some tragic news.  It was the worst news someone like me could ever want to hear.  She told me that she had just purchased two tickets to see James Blunt at The Beacon Theater here in the city of apples.  After I was done chastising her in my best Bluntian vocal, she said, “Don’t laugh too hard mister, you’re going with me.”  After I caught my breath I replied, “No, I am not.”  To which she retorted, “Just trust me.  You will like it.  I promise.”  And while my friend has some very questionable taste in music (Clay Aiken to name just one) she has taken me to see two of the more amazing shows of my adult life, Peter Gabriel at Radio City Music Hall and Bryan Adams solo at The Beacon Theater.  Both were amazing, with Bryan Adams being only slightly better because I’ll be damned if the little Canadian songsmith isn’t one funny dude.  Well, now my friend has taken me to THREE of the more amazing shows of my adult life.  People, I am here to tell you that the little limey songsmith James Blunt is one helluva performer.

After foolishly sitting in a deli/coffee place in the bottom of the building where the ex works, drinking coffee, foolishly thinking I may catch a glimpse of her or better yet, she would come in and see me, throw her arms around me and tell me she’s been a fool.  I admitted it, foolishly waiting.  So I plugged in my earphones, pressed play on the ipod and queued up something loud and raucous cuz I knew I wouldn’t be hearing it for a while.  The selection?  An obscure 1980’s LA Rock band called Broken Homes last song of their self titled debut album, “It’s All Over Now”.  Turned it up and pressed play cuz the song seemed appropriate enough.  I gathered my crap, shook off the foolish thoughts and percolated on out of there to meet my friend for a drink before dinner.

We met at my favorite cheap happy hour bar with the bartender who looks like Jennifer Garner.  I’d never seen a girl blush that much as when I told her that.  Anyway, I waited.  She eventually came in and she settled down and asked me “So, what happened.”  I dived into what I knew of what happened and the why’s and the what not’s…and the whosey’s and the what not’s.  I admitted my own mistakes.  I admitted what I thought hers were.  I poked fun at the situation.  You have to laugh to keep from crying, right?  She patiently listened and didn’t judge.  After beer number three I had thought the story had been told to its rightful conclusion and as honestly as I could.  As you do in a break up that you tell your friends about, you just shrug your shoulders and move on.  So it’s what we did.  And uptown we went for a little pre-game James Blunt.

As she was not drinking, I had to slow my pace so I only had one beer with dinner in an effort to clear the head a little before the show.  I mean, I had two options, get shit faced drunk in order to sit through the show or sober up enough to get though the show.  I chose door number two.  After telling her about the scars over my left eye (seven years I’ve known her, never has she noticed those), which are both embarrassing and hysterical (both the scars and the stories).  I paid the piper and it was off to…to…to listen to James Blunt for 90+ minutes.

We sat down long enough to hear the opening girl, Christina Perri close out her set.  I had no idea who the hell she was, so my friend explained her story and she was cute, extremely engaging and frankly, quite good.  I was suddenly feeling optimistic about the show, even if the subject matter of her songs was not quite what I wanted.  Witness “Jar Of Hearts“. But she was great.  She even took time to thank Atlantic Records (who knew they still existed) and the ten remaining employees of the famed label that Ahmet built, shouted their approval.

Next up was the main attraction.  The lights went down, smoke slowly made its way to the stage and the band members slowly came out.  I was not alone in thinking that the last two members who came onto the were James Blunt.  They came out, waved and got the audience clapping.  I leaned over and asked which one he was.  She said he wasn’t on stage yet.  And from the balcony, where we were sitting, we heard the orchestra section get really loud and then James Blunt leaped onto the stage from the audience and the show was off.  Well played Blunt, well played.  I eat that shit up and to do it from the get go?  Well done.

Apparently, James Blunt has had his heart broken too because God almighty, he sings about it.  A lot.  Fortunately, he does it really really well.  I leaned over after the third song and said, “Really?  I mean, one sad bastard concert a week is enough, don’t cha think?”  She laughed.  I can say nothing bad about the songs I heard.  I didn’t know ANY of them and I fucking loved EVERY one of them.  Even if they were all about having you heart pushed through a meat grinder by a woman (OK, they weren’t ALL about that, he actually never mentioned a meat grinder).  After the fourth song, he spoke up and said he’s gonna be playing a lot of sad songs but he asked (asked?, well done again Mr. Blunt, well done) us to stand up on the more rocking numbers.  And then after the next song, he tried to get the orchestra section to do the wave.  Not the usual wave, he wanted them to do the wave with just girls taking off their tops.  Quite funny actually.  Nice to see there are still a few pervy pop stars out there, I just never woulda pictured it to be him.

So, we are there enjoying it.  I am really digging this guys energy.  He’s all over the stage, giving up the spotlight to his guitar player during the solo’s.  He’s acknowledging everyone on the stage and trying like hell to do it with his audience.  He is slightly goofy, but dammit if he doesn’t work the crowd.  He is one engaging mother(shut your mouth) hey man, I’m just talking ’bout James Blunt.  Suddenly the ninth song starts and my friend looks down.  I lean over and ask what’s up.  She said, “I don’t think you’re gonna like this song.”  The piano intro had just started and I didn’t know what she meant cuz up to that point I had been enjoying myself.

Well, she was right.  I didn’t like the song, I loved it.  “Goodbye My Lover” is one of the most beautifully written break up songs since Jeff Buckley’s “The Last Goodbye“.  By the time I tuned into the lyrics about 45 seconds in, I knew what my friend meant when I heard:
It may be over but it won’t stop there,
I am here for you if you’d only care.
You touched my heart you touched my soul.
You changed my life and all my goals.
And love is blind and that I knew when,
My heart was blinded by you.

WHOA, really?  I started to get a little welled up, I can admit that.  But when the chorus kicked in, zoinks:
Goodbye my lover.
Goodbye my friend.
You have been the one.
You have been the one for me.

And I’ll be damned but the little limey nailed it here:
I am a dreamer and when I wake,
You can’t break my spirit – it’s my dreams you take.
And as you move on, remember me,
Remember us and all we used to be
I’ve seen you cry, I’ve seen you smile.
I’ve watched you sleeping for a while.
I’d be the father of your child.
I’d spend a lifetime with you.
I know your fears and you know mine.
We’ve had our doubts but now we’re fine,
And I love you, I swear that’s true.
I cannot live without you.

Good GOD man, how much more of this could I take?  I almost walked out.  It was too much.  It hit home for me and it…hit…hard.  But strangely I found myself glued to the seat.  It hurt like a mother(shut your mouth) hey man, I’m just talking ’bout James Blunt, but I stuck to it.  Christ, I HAD to, I was now emotionally invested in this show, in a JAMES BLUNTS CONCERT:
Goodbye my lover.
Goodbye my friend.
You have been the one.
You have been the one for me.

And I still hold your hand in mine.
In mine when I’m asleep.
And I will bare my soul in time,
When I’m kneeling at your feet.
Goodbye my lover.
Goodbye my friend.
You have been the one.
You have been the one for me.

Note to self, avoid the woman who did this to him.  Hell, given those lyrics, I wonder if it wasn’t my ex.  If you have ever been in love and I mean LOVE and it ends, you know these lyrics.  The love that gives you breath.  The love that moves your feat.  The love that gives you soul.  The love that you swear you just can’t loose…and then you loose it?  You know this pain.  You know this ache.  And at the heart of every great song, regardless of genre, is what?  If you answered truth, reward yourself with some ice cream.  I dunno, that song tonight shook me to the core.  Sure, it played to my current state of mind, I won’t deny that.  Thankfully, he knew enough to give the audience a slight reprieve before he stuck another song knife in the heart of the broken-hearted.  This time the song was equally as brutally titled “If Time Is All I Have”.  I leaned over to my friend and said “Christ, really?” and we laughed.  A simple enough song but again written from the same place:
If time is all I have
I’ll waste it all on you

Each day I’ll turn it back
It’s what the broken-hearted do
I’m tired of talking to an empty space
Of silences keeping me awake

When you marry
And you look around
I’ll be somewhere in that crowd
Torn up, that it isn’t me

When you’re older
The memories fade
But I know I’ll still feel the same
For as long as I live

The son of a bitch had me.  The tiny little brit had me hooked.  I had been enjoying the show up until then and now I was loving it.  The songs stung me, but in the best possible way.

We had been sitting next to a three young boys and their mother/guardian/nanny (this is NYC it coulda been any or all of those) and these boys were digging the show.  I mean really liking it.  They knew the lyrics, they called out the songs they wanted to hear.  They were fans.  And I suddenly smiled.  I had to because they were too damn young to know what these songs meant.  They were hearing them for what they are, fucking good songs.  I was hearing them for what they meant to me.  I couldn’t help but find myself appreciating Mr. Blunt even more.  He had found a way to connect with young kids (boys no less, not squeaky girls) AND middle aged people.  I can’t think of any artist today that can do that.  Hats off to you sir, you have somehow found a way.

The light show was another added bonus.  Simple and moody and spot on.  And yes, he played THE SONG.  He even seemed to enjoy singing it although I am not sure how that is even possible.  But then I suppose I have heard it way more than he has ever had to play it.  And even when he played that song, I listened to it for the first time, I still don’t like it, but I listened to it.  I enjoyed it.  I don’t care to ever hear it again, but I did enjoy it.

The bottom line to all this hub-bub is that James Blunt is one motherfucker of a songwriter and performer and he is at the top of his game.  I can’t say that I love his genre of music.  I can’t say that I love the way he sings.  I can say I love the way he writes lyrics and I love the way he performs his songs.  And true to his word, he had everyone at the Beacon Theater standing by the end of his set.  He came out for his encore and drove one more dagger in with “Into The Dark”:
Love is madness that’s quick to burn
And lying in the embers is where we are
And if my promise is unreturned
Before the day is over I will depart

If I could choose I’d have you stay
But I gave my heart to you and it’s yours to break
Before my fears tear us apart
Won’t you follow me into the dark

Love is blindness I cannot see
Underneath our roots are tangled and buried deep
When the leaves have fallen from the trees
Do we grow together entirely

He then dove into the last two songs (and the crowd during a guitar solo) with passion and kept everyone on their feet.  I will be damned if this guy didn’t win us all over.  Backed by a flawless band, the genius that James Blunt is was allowed to shine.  And brightly he did shine.  I even came home and downloaded these three songs referenced above.  I have never never EVER done that when getting home from a live show.  I even PAID for them, which is an equally  rare occurence.  Do the studio versions capture what I saw tonight?  No, sadly they do not.  That in no way diminishes the songs and their power, it just means James Blunt has not worked with the right producer who can somehow capture what I witnessed tonight in a recording studio.  Here’s to hoping he does.  And don’t judge the guy by that song only.  He really is much much more than that song.

Goodbye My Lover” video

If Time Is All I Have” video

Into The Dark” video

The Triangle Song” video